World Cup Greats: Recalling Diego Maradona's Argentina in 1986

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World Cup Greats: Recalling Diego Maradona's Argentina in 1986
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The 1986 World Cup, held in Mexico, featured 12 venues, 24 teams, 52 games and 132 goals, but to this day it is best remembered for the deeds of one diminutive man.

Argentina defeated West Germany 3-2 in the final on June 29 in the Azteca Stadium to lift the World Cup trophy, having been inspired by the miraculous feats of their 25-year-old captain, Diego Armando Maradona.

Aside from Maradona, Argentina's squad contained a smattering of top-class players, such as Real Madrid forward Jorge Valdano and the talented attacking midfielder Jorge Burruchaga. However, the team was criticized in the lead up to the tournament for being too defensive.

The Albicelestes' only World Cup triumph to that point had come eight years earlier on home soil.

That team was coached by the charismatic Cesar Luis Menotti, who valued beautiful football above all else and encouraged fluid, attacking play.

The 1986 edition of Argentina, however, was managed by Carlos Bilardo, a much more pragmatic, defense-minded tactician. 

Many Argentines were highly critical of his style and pessimistic about the team's chances in Mexico, especially after Bilardo axed talismanic captain Daniel Passarella and put Maradona in charge.

In an interview with Carlos Jurado for Marca in 2006, Bilardo said there were plenty of naysayers in Argentina before the tournament:

I remember that there were many articles criticizing Diego before the World Cup. Because I made him captain in place of Passarella and that he shouldn't even be in the squad after what happened in Spain in '82, let alone the starting side. That Maradona was a failure for the national team.

They said to me, 'Bochini is better than Maradona', and I didn't respond.

Diego himself said to me, 'we're on our own.' And look what happened then.

Maradona and Bilardo would soon silence the critics with extreme prejudice.

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