Mexico 1986

1986 FIFA World Cup

The 1986 FIFA World Cup, the 13th staging of the FIFA World Cup, was held in Mexico from May 31 to June 29. It was won by Argentina (second title after 1978), who beat West Germany 3-2 in the final at Mexico City's Estadio Azteca.

Host selection

Colombia was originally chosen as hosts by FIFA in June 1974. However, the Colombian authorities declared in November 1982 that they could not afford to host the World Cup under the terms that FIFA demanded. Mexico was selected on May 20, 1983 as the replacement hosts, beating the bids of Canada, and the United States (who eventually hosted the 1994 World Cup), and became the first nation to host two World Cups. This second World Cup in Mexico came only 16 years after the first one in 1970. A severe earthquake in September 1985, eight months before the tournament, cast doubt over Mexico's ability to organize the event; however, the stadiums were not affected and it was decided to go ahead with the preparations.

As 1986 had been declared the International Year of Peace by the United Nations, the advertising boards of all the stadia displayed the emblems of FIFA and the United Nations along with the legend "Football for Peace - Peace Year".

For the design of the logo an unofficial motto was adopted: " El Mundo Unido por Un Balón" (The world united by a ball)


Three teams qualified for the World Cup for the first time: Canada, Denmark and Iraq. Canada clinched its spot after winning the final match against Honduras 2-1 in St. John's, Newfoundland, with the Hondurans wearing tuques and gloves on the field due to the cold weather. Iraq played all matches on neutral ground due to the Iran-Iraq war.


First Round

The format of the competition changed from 1982: 24 teams qualified, divided into six groups of four (A through F). The top two teams and the four best third place finishers from the six groups advanced to the knockout round of 16 teams.

The first round of the finals began in Group A, where Italy were held 1-1 by a dour but spirited Bulgaria side. Meanwhile, Argentina had little trouble beating South Korea 3-1, with Diego Maradona in awesome form. Italy and Argentina drew 1-1 in a bad tempered affair, which saw Maradona and Alessandro Altobelli scoring. South Korea and Bulgaria also drew 1-1 in a Mexican downpour. The final set of matches saw Argentina beating Bulgaria 2-0, and Italy narrowly defeating South Korea 3-2 in an exciting match.

Group B was straightforward for the hosts, Mexico as they beat a defensive Belgium side 2-1, and despite being held 1-1 by Paraguay, they won the group after a further win over minnows Iraq, 1-0. Paraguay and Belgium also progressed after both beating Iraq and drawing with each other. Group C was an interesting contest as it pitted a strong Soviet Union side against the reigning European Champions France. They drew with each other in a fine match 1-1, which was notable for a fantastic goal by Vasili Rats. France has made hard work of beating Canada 1-0, but progressed in 2nd place after beating a demoralised and ageing Hungary, 3-0. Hungary had earlier lost 6-0 against the Soviet Union.

Group D saw Brazil start sluggishly against Spain, winning 1-0, although Spain had a legitimate goal disallowed. Northern Ireland began their campaign with a draw against Algeria. Northern Ireland were then beaten narrowly by Spain before being simply outclassed by Brazil 3-0 in their final match. This match saw a great goal from Josimar on his debut and was also the final time Pat Jennings would play for Northern Ireland. Spain qualified along with Brazil after defeating Algeria 3-0.

Denmark, stormed through Group E, highly dubbed the group of death with a 100 per cent record. They beat Scotland 1-0 in their first game, then hammered Uruguay 6-1, with Preben Elkjær Larsen hitting a hat-trick. But Denmark's most impressive result were when they beat one of the favourites to win the tournament, West Germany, 2-0 thanks to a Jesper Olsen penalty and a goal from John Eriksen. After losing to Denmark, Scotland took the lead against West Germany thanks to a Gordon Strachan goal, but the West Germans fought back to win 2-1. And after a violent 0-0 draw against Uruguay, the Scots were eliminated from the tournament. West Germany went through to the second round with the strength of a win and a 1-1 draw with Uruguay, who also qualified on just two draws.

Morocco topped Group F after holding both Poland and England to goalless draws, and then playing some marvellous football to beat Portugal, 3-1. By doing so, they became the first African team to reach the second round, and obviously the first to win a group. England looked to be in trouble after losing 1-0 to Portugal and then drew with the Moroccans. But in their last first-round game, a first-half Gary Lineker hat-trick helped them beat Poland 3-0. Poland had previously beaten Portugal, and in the end the Portuguese were the only team from Group F to be eliminated in the first round.

Second Round and Quarterfinals

The match of the second round was the seven-goal thriller between Belgium and the Soviet Union, in which the Soviets' Igor Belanov scored a hat-trick and still ended up on the losing side. The game was tied at 2-2 after 90 minutes, and in extra time Stephane Demol and Nico Claesen put Belgium 4-2 up. Belanov scored from the penalty spot with nine minutes remaining, but neither he nor any of his team-mates could find a fourth goal for the Soviet Union. Two of Europe's great football nations met in Mexico City, where France, the European Champions, ended Italy's reign as World Champions with a 2-0 victory thanks to goals from Michel Platini and Yannick Stopyra. In the rematch of the 1930 World Cup final, Argentina just edged out South American champions Uruguay in Puebla thanks to a 42nd minute strike from Pedro Pasculli. The all-South American affair was notable for a Diego Maradona's disallowed goal.

Perhaps the most surprising scoreline of the second round came from Queretaro, where Denmark, who were billed as dark horses for the tournament, were eliminated although there was nothing gracious about their exit as they went from a 1-0 lead to a 5-1 battering against Spain; key player Frank Arnesen was suspended for the game after being sent off against West Germany in their last group match, for taking a swipe at German playmaker Lothar Matthaeus. The Danes scored first, with a Jesper Olsen penalty, but they were then taken apart by a devastating performance from Butragueño of Spain, who scored four of his team's five goals. The other maulings of the second round came from England and Brazil. England progressed to the quarter-finals fairly comfortably when they saw off Paraguay 3-0 while Brazil brushed aside Poland 4-0. West Germany had a much harder time getting past Morocco, for whom goalkeeper Ezaki Zaki had an outstanding game in goal. Morocco held out until the 87th minute, when Lothar Matthaeus finally managed to score the only goal of the game. Mexico kept the home supporters happy with a 2-0 win over Bulgaria.

The most memorable quarter-final match saw France face the other three-time world champion, Brazil in Guadalajara. Brazil were well on top in the early stages, and Careca put them one up after 18 minutes. But then, five minutes before half-time, France drew level when Michel Platini converted a cross from Dominique Rocheteau. Brazil had a great chance to regain the lead in the second half when Branco was fouled by French 'keeper Joel Bats in the penalty area. Zico got up to take the kick, but Bats made amends for his foul by saving Zico's penalty.

The match went to extra time, and France had the better of the extra half-hour. But no more goals were scored, and so it was time for a penalty shoot-out. Surprisingly, Socrates failed with the first kick for Brazil. The next six penalties were all converted, and then Platini fired over the bar. Brazil were back on level terms - but not for long. Julio Cesar struck the post with his penalty, and Luiz Fernandez then scored to put France through 4-3 on penalties.

Two other quarter-finals were also decided on penalties. Jan Ceulemans put Belgium ahead against Spain in the 35th minute, but Spanish substitute Senor equalised with five minutes to go. No more goals were scored in extra time, and Belgium won the shoot-out 5-4. West Germany and Mexico drew 0-0 after extra time, and the West Germans eliminated the hosts 4-1 on penalties.

The quarter-final between Argentina, the last South American representative left, and England was unforgettable because of the two totally different goals scored by Diego Maradona: the first was scored illegally, as he punched the ball into the goal past England goalkeeper Peter Shilton. The referee did not see the foul and the goal was given as valid. After the game, Maradona claimed the goal was scored "A bit with the head of Maradona and another bit with the hand of God"; it was known as the "The Hand of God" goal. For his second goal, voted "Goal of the Century" in 2002 on the FIFA website, Maradona dribbled half the length of the field past five English players before scoring. In Argentina, the game was not just seen as revenge for the Falklands War but mostly for what they still see as the unfair game in the 1966 FIFA World Cup.

Semifinals, third-place match, and final

In the semi-finals, Andreas Brehme put West Germany 1-0 ahead against France in the ninth minute, but the outcome of a tense game remained in doubt until two minutes from time when Rudi Völler made it 2-0, and West Germany were in the final for the second World Cup in succession. In the other semi-final, Maradona struck twice in the second half as Argentina beat Belgium 2-0. Belgium went on to lose the third-place match to France 2-4.

Jose Brown put Argentina one up midway through the first half of the final, and when Jorge Valdano scored a second for the South Americans in the 55th minute, Argentina looked to be strolling to victory. But then West Germany staged a spirited comeback. Karl-Heinz Rummenigge pulled one back in the 74th minute, and six minutes later Rudi Völler hit the equaliser. The momentum now seemed to be with West Germany - but with seven minutes remaining, a brilliant pass from Maradona gave Jose Burruchaga the chance to score the winner for Argentina. Eight years on from their home triumph, Argentina regained the world title for the second time, and 30 million people in Argentina celebrated in the streets after the final victory. Maradona was the Golden Ball winner as the best player of the tournament, while Gary Lineker of England won the Golden Boot as the leading scorer of the World Cup with six goals.


The official mascot of this World Cup was Pique, a jalapeño pepper, characteristic of Mexican cuisine, with a moustache, a sombrero, and Mexican football team colours. Its name comes from picante, Spanish for spicy peppers and sauces.


Eleven cities hosted the tournament. Seeded teams are in bold.

City Stadium Capacity Matches Teams hosted in the first round
Mexico Estadio Azteca 114,600 Opening match, Group B,
QF, SF, Final
Mexico Estadio Olimpico Universitario 72,000 Group A, R2 , ,
Guadalajara Estadio Jalisco 66,000 Group D, R2, QF, SF
Puebla Estadio Cuauhtémoc 46,000 Group A, R2, QF,
Third-place match
Monterrey Estadio Universitario 44,000 Group F, R2, QF *, *,
Queretaro Estadio La Corregidora 40,785 Group E, R2
Monterrey Estadio Tecnológico 38,000 Group F
León Estadio Nou Camp 35,000 Group C, R2
Nezahualcoyotl Estadio Neza 86 35,000 Group E , ,
Irapuato Estadio Sergio León Chavez 32,000 Group C , ,
Guadalajara Estadio Tres de Marzo 30,000 Group D *, , *
Toluca Estadio Nemesio Díez 30,000 Group B , ,

  • Poland and Portugal played in Guadalajara while Spain and Algeria played in Monterrey.

Match officials




North and Central America


South America


For a list of all squads that appeared in the final tournament, see 1986 FIFA World Cup squads.


First round

All times local (CST/UTC-6)

Group A

Team Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts
3 2 1 0 6 2 +4 5
3 1 2 0 5 4 +1 4
3 0 2 1 2 4 -2 2
3 0 1 2 4 7 -3 1

Group B

Team Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts
3 2 1 0 4 2 +2 5
3 1 2 0 4 3 +1 4
3 1 1 1 5 5 0 3
3 0 0 3 1 4 -3 0

Group C

Team Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts
3 2 1 0 9 1 +8 5
3 2 1 0 5 1 +4 5
3 1 0 2 2 9 -7 2
3 0 0 3 0 5 -5 0

Group D

Team Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts
3 3 0 0 5 0 +5 6
3 2 0 1 5 2 +3 4
3 0 1 2 2 6 -4 1
3 0 1 2 1 5 -4 1

Group E

Team Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts
3 3 0 0 9 1 +8 6
3 1 1 1 3 4 -1 3
3 0 2 1 2 7 -5 2
3 0 1 2 1 3 -2 1

Group F

Team Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts
3 1 2 0 3 1 +2 4
3 1 1 1 3 1 +2 3
3 1 1 1 1 3 -2 3
3 1 0 2 2 4 -2 2

Third place qualifiers for round of 16

Team Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts
3 1 1 1 5 5 0 3
3 1 1 1 1 3 -2 3
3 0 2 1 2 4 -2 2
3 0 2 1 2 7 -5 2
3 1 0 2 2 9 -7 2
3 0 1 2 2 6 -4 1

Bulgaria and Uruguay became the first nations to qualify for the knockout stage without winning a game in the first round. (Netherlands and the Republic of Ireland repeated the feat in 1990, and Chile in 1998.) In 1982 Italy advanced from the first group phase to the second group phase on the strength of just three draws and went on to win the tournament.

Knockout stage

Round of 16



Third place match




Golden Shoe winner Golden Ball winner FIFA Fair Play Trophy
Gary Lineker Diego Maradona


6 goals

1 goal


  • During the Group E game between Uruguay and Scotland, José Batista of Uruguay was sent off after less than one minute of play, a World Cup record that still stands.
  • During the match between Brazil and Spain, the Spanish team had a shot that was later proved by television slow motion replays to have bounced behind the goal line after hitting the crossbar. No goal was awarded, as none of the match officials could be sure that the ball had crossed the line, and Brazil won the match 1-0.
  • The Portuguese team, making their first appearance in 20 years, went on strike (in the Saltillo Affair) during the competition. Players refused to train between their first and the second games (against England and Poland) and were eliminated after a loss to Morocco in the final group match.
  • It was the last FIFA World Cup where teams from the same continent were not fully separated from each other in the draw for the first round. Under new FIFA rules after this competition, each World Cup group would have either two or three European teams. In 1986, Group 2 only had one European team (Belgium).


External links

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