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Today in history... 'Hand of God' sends England home

12:00am | & News

With England through to the knockout stage of The Euros in France, it's an opportune time to look back to an infamous moment in football history which happened 30 years ago today.

It was the quarter finals of the 1986 Fifa World Cup, in Mexico, and England were drawn against Argentina. Just four years after the end of the Falklands War, it was always going to be a tense game, but it would feature an incident which still rankles with die-hard England fans to this day.

The first goal of the match, scored six minutes into the second half by 25-year-old Argentina captain Diego Maradona, would become known as the "Hand of God Goal". While it appeared from some angles that Maradona had headed the ball past England keeper Peter Shilton, it was clear to those close by and on TV coverage that he punched it in with his left hand. 

Despite the fierce protestations of England players and management, the Tunisian referee claimed he did not see the infringement and allowed the goal. At the post-game press conference Maradona, who clearly knew the truth, commented that the goal was scored "a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God", giving the goal the name by which it is still widely known.

In contrast, Maradona's next goal, which came just four minutes later, was a supreme example of footballing skill, voted in 2002 as the "Goal of the Century". It was a 60-yard 10-second dash which saw Maradona dribble past five England players with consummate ease before a feint left keeper Shilton on his backside and unable to do anything as the ball was slotted into the back of the net.

Despite its evident skill, England had been caught off guard, still reeling from the clear handball goal just minutes earlier. Late in the game England striker Gary Lineker scored what would have been an equaliser if Maradona's handball had been spotted. The outcome could then have been very different, but it wasn't to be. Argentina won 2-1 and went on to win the 1986 World Cup, while England were on their way home, all thanks to the "Hand of God".

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