1980s the ego has landed
|Diego Maradona holds aloft the trophy after he almost single-handedly earned Argentina their second World Cup title, with a 3-2 defeat of West Germany, in the 1986 final in Mexico|
Considered one of the finest practitioners of the game, Diego Armando Maradona personifies world soccer of the 80s. While debates regarding his greatness vis-a-vis Pele’s will forever divide football lovers, there is no denying the fact that Argentina’s dominance of the game was solely because of this man.
The decade, however, started with Italy triumphing in the 1982 edition after steamrollering West Germany 3-1 in the final. The Italians’ long wait — 44 years — was thus over and they had drawn level with Brazil after claiming their third world title. Italy’s Paolo Rossi won both the Golden Boot for the tournament’s top goalscorer and the Golden Ball for the best player (handed out for the very first time) while the 40-year-old captain-goalkeeper Dino Zoff became the oldest-ever player to lift the World Cup.
The format of the competition had changed from 1978: for the first time 24 teams qualified and were divided into six groups of four each. Also, the semi-final between West Germany and France was the first ever in a World Cup to be decided via a penalty shootout. Following a 3-3 draw after 120 minutes of football, the Germans beat the French 5-4 in the tiebreaker to advance to the final.
Four years later, it was Maradona who stamped his class on Mexico ’86. He captained Argentina to their second World Cup after beating West Germany in the final.
Locked 2-2 in the final, the momentum seemed to be with West Germany. But with seven minutes remaining, a brilliant pass from Maradona gave Jorge Burruchaga the chance to score the winner for Argentina. Eight years after their home triumph, Argentina had regained the world title.
Maradona was the Golden Ball winner as the best player of the tournament while England’s Gary Lineker, with six goals, won the Golden Boot.
Italia ’90 saw a repeat of the last edition’s final with Argentina and West Germany clashing for the crown in Rome.
The final, which is often dubbed as one of the drabbest in the World Cup, saw Andreas Brehme convert from the spot to give the West Germans a 1-0 win and the crown. In the 65th minute, the game produced a World Cup first when Argentina’s Pedro Monzon was sent off for a foul on Juergen Klinsmann, becoming the first player ever to be sent off in a World Cup final.
FOOT OF GOD
With a compact physique and the ability to withstand physical battles, no single player, unless you include Pele, has captured the world’s imagination as Maradona did. His strong legs and low centre of gravity gave him an advantage in sprints.
In 1986, 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 controversial, as Maradona punched the ball into the goal past England goalkeeper Peter Shilton.
The referee did not see the foul and the goal was ruled valid. After the game, Maradona claimed the goal was scored “a bit with the head of Maradona, bit with the hand of God”. It later became 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.
West Germany were surely the team of the decade by virtue of making the finals in all three editions — 1982, 1986, 1990. Underdogs all through, their efforts bore fruit on their third attempt.
Franz Beckenbauer took over as coach in ’84 and was instrumental in taking the team to the finals in ’86 and ’90.
With the triumph in 1990, Beckenbauer, who won the title as captain in 1974, thus became the second person (after Mario Zagallo) to have won the World Cup both as player and coach, and the first to win it both as captain and coach.