Football World Cup 1986 » Winner – Teams – Statistics – History

The 1986 World Cup was the thirteenth such tournament to be played and the second to be hosted in Mexico, the first having been the classic tournament of 1970.

Colombia had originally been selected to host the competition but had had to relinquish the honour due to economic worries, and so the event was handed over to Mexico instead.

As well as being remembered for Argentina's victory, 1986 was the tournament that saw the rise of the audience participation act known as, 'The Mexican Wave.' The competition’s total attendance was 2,394,031, giving an average attendance of 46,039 per game.

Participating Teams of the 1986 World Cup Finals

Twenty four teams qualified for the tournament. They are shown in their appointed groups below:

*The Oceanic Zone (OFC) produced no qualifiers.

Winner of the World Cup 1986

The tournament was won by Argentina, led by the inimitable Diego Maradona. It was the nation’s second triumph in three tournaments, following their victory in the 1978 competition on home soil.

Although the team started the competition solidly, by the later stages, their progression to the final had, to many observers, developed almost a sense of inevitability and they claimed the trophy in Mexico City by defeating the Franz Beckenbauer managed West Germany 3-2 in the vast Estadio Azteca, before a crowd of 114,600. This is still the largest attendance ever for a World Cup final.

The new tournament had managed to capture the public imagination and the victorious Uruguay team were instant national heroes, rewarded with a house and a plot of land for their efforts.

Argentina Argentina
West Germany (-1989) West Germany (-1989)
29 June 1986

The Story of 1986 FIFA World Cup

Football World Cup 1986

If the story of the 1986 World Cup was the tale of anything, it was that of Diego Maradona. By the time of the 1982 World Cup in Spain, he’d already been hailed as the best player on Earth but that competition had ended in frustration and recrimination, for him, with him sent off after retaliating in the face of intense provocation from Brazil.

In 1986, however, there was to be no such frustration. At the peak of his powers, the man they called, ‘The Little Bull,’ dominated the competition, driving his team ever onwards.

Perhaps his most eye-catching moments were a superb goal against Belgium that followed a dribble through the heart of their defence, and his quarter-final wonder goal against England, in which he gained the ball near the halfway line and proceeded to sprint and skip his way past five England players before registering what was later voted the Goal of the Century. In that same match, he produced the infamous, ‘Hand of God,’ goal, in which he punched the ball over the head of the onrushing England goalkeeper Peter Shilton to plunge the game into a controversy that seems destined never to be forgotten nor forgiven in his opponents’ homeland.

By his standards, he had a much quieter final, willing to play the part of dutiful team member, in order to steer his team to victory.

West Germany had thrilled few people in the tournament, finishing second in their initial group, and needing penalties to get past Mexico in the quarter-finals, after beating Morocco by just one goal in their first knockout game but they’d shown the knack of always getting the result they needed when they needed it and it was only in the eighty fourth minute of the final that Argentina’s third goal finally assured the South Americans of victory.

Elsewhere, others also had something to celebrate. Three teams had qualified for a World Cup for the first time in their history; Canada, Denmark and Iraq.

Despite never having qualified before, the Danes were highly fancied and their hugely talented side had been dubbed, ‘The new Holland,’ but, after an excellent start to the tournament, including a victory over West Germany, they were ultimately crushed 5-1 by Spain.

England started the competition disastrously, failing to win either of their first two matches and seeing captain Bryan Robson exit the field through injury, and Ray Wilkins sent off for petulance. These setbacks turned out to be a blessing in disguise and forced changes that allowed the team to get the most out of their front pairing of Gary Lineker and Peter Beardsley. Despite the dominance of Maradona in the tournament, Lineker finished the competition as its top scorer, with six goals. England were ultimately eliminated by Argentina, at the quarter-final stage.

Belgium and France made the semi-finals, and Spain, Brazil and Mexico all acquitted themselves decently by reaching the last eight.

There was worse news for Hungary, Canada, Iraq and Northern Ireland – although they wouldn’t necessarily have known it at the time. For all of them, 1986 was to be the last time – to date – that they qualified for a World Cup.