20 Memorable Moments From The 1986 World Cup In Mexico
In case you haven’t heard, Mexico is going to be one of the trifecta of countries that has punched its ticket to host the 2026 World Cup across Canada, Mexico and the U.S. But before you start making your eight-year plan to save up for your tickets, let’s go back to when the beautiful game last graced Mexico—in 1986.
1. Mexico gave the World Cup a home after Colombia backed out.
Colombia was originally named the host of the 1986 FIFA World Cup but less than four years before, the country told FIFA it could not afford to meet the bill. Mexico stepped up to the pitch and came in clutch with a winning bid against Canada and the United States.
2. They already knew what it would take.
It was the first time a country would have the honor of welcoming countries from all over the world for the World Cup twice.
3. Disaster threatened the World Cup.
CREDIT: YouTube/Paho TV
Just eight months before soccer fans from all over the world were supposed to descend on Mexico for the World Cup, an 8.0-magnitude earthquake struck Mexico City. Mexico squashed any doubts that it could continue hosting and brought a colorful and cultural-rich opening ceremony from the Estadio Azteca in Mexico City on May 31, 1986.
4. Mexico was the third Spanish-speaking country to host in a row.
Mexico was the third consecutive Spanish-speaking country to host a World Cup, opening its doors after Argentina in 1978 and Spain in 1982.
5. Pique the ‘hot’ mascot was everything.
Pique the chile pepper is > than Pique Shakira’s bae. This little hot pepper was the official mascot of the 1986 FIFA World Cup. Pique donned a mustache, a Colimote sombrero and was interchangeable for “spicy.” That’s the nickname given to a penalty kick. But the little pepper was also docked for contributing to ethnic stereotypes.
6. Then 1986 World Cup was centered on peace and love.
Coincidentally, 1986 was also named the International Year of Peace by the United Nations. Billboards around the soccer stadiums displayed both the logos of FIFA and the U.N. with the slogan, “Football for Peace – Peace Year”.
7. The military was on display.
CREDIT: YouTube/SBM 23
Mexico has a strong reverence for its military presence and honored its armed forces by having officers walk alongside the flags of each participating country during the Opening Ceremony.
8. Every Mexican state was represented through traditional clothing.
CREDIT: YouTube/SBM 23
To showcase the beauty of its 31 states and federal district, the Opening Ceremony featured participants in each state’s traditional costumes. Viewers at the Estadio Azteca got to see traditional clothing from huipils to Veracruz’s jarocho dress.
9. Of course the piñata got a lot of love.
CREDIT: YouTube/SBM 23
When the ‘86 World Cup’s Opening Ceremony commenced, flags and streamers adorned the stadium, along with the symbol of every Mexican birthday: a piñata. One BBC anchor broadcasting the ceremony said “they look a little bit like octopuses.” *Insert your favorite laughing GIF here* jajaja
10. The dreaded death group was intense.
In the World Cups since, there always seems to be a group where fans are chewing their nails during the first round of group matches. Nobody knows who will make it out because it’s a tough group. The ‘86 World Cup’s ‘Group of Death’ included Denmark, Scotland, Uruguay, and West Germany. The group that had games including a 10-man Uruguay team against Scotland, with the Scots eventually going home in the first round.
11. The Danish team was not playing games.
The Danes came out strong from their group and Danish striker Preben Elkjær was its secret weapon. Denmark anihilated Uruguay during the 10-man match. Some Twitter users think Elkjær was the top player when it came to the first round.
12. Denmark’s Michael Laudrup kept fans on the edge of their seats.
CREDIT: YouTube/Soccer 1:1
Michael Laudrup was a star player for the Danish team, and some see his goal against Uruguay as one of the best of the whole tournament. One commentator even exclaimed “this boy’s a genius!” when Laudrup weaved past the defender, goalie and eventually kicked the ball into the net.
13. One Socttish player’s celebration was a major laugh.
CREDIT: YouTube/Gvnni Gvnno
One memorable moment for the Scots before they went home was right after Gordon Strachan made a surprise goal against West Germany. He tried to jump the advertising board but couldn’t quite clear it while celebrating.
14. Mexico made it to the knockout the round.
Credit: MexicoHQ86 / YouTube
The host country was able to make it to the knockout round undefeated after the group matches, earning ending scores of (2-1-0). Up to that point, it was the second time El Tri was able to make it out of the group stage and into the knockout round.
15. Josimar’s goal against Northern Ireland was a major highlight of the tournament.
Josimar Higino Pereira, more commonly known as Josimar, played as a right-back for Brazil’s national team and made a thunderbolt goal against Northern Ireland that is still seen as one of Brazil’s best goals up to this day. He not only scored that way once, but twice.
16. Mexico *allegedly* invented the wave.
TV spectators around the world and fans in the stadium could see what later became a phenomenon at every World Cup since. The wave or “la ola” was popularized thanks to the rowdy fans at Mexico ‘86 World Cup. Let’s give a big up-and-down because they brought this to the masses!
17. “Ole!” was used sooooo much during the tournament.
Credit: FIFATV / YouTube
Speaking of great energy during the games, fans kept up the tradition of chanting “ole” each time the ball was passed from player to player.
18. All World Cup fans know about the controversial “hand of God.”
Ohhhh the ‘Hand of God’ goal. It was counted as a legitimate goal despite what looks like a clear handball. This goal was made in the quarter-final between Argentina and England, advancing Argentina to its next chapter in the tournament.
19. The final was one of the most alive moments of World Cup history.
With the wave, piñatas and more leading up to the final, the crowd was electric for the World Cup final between Argentina and West Germany. A cloud of confetti rained down on the over 114,000 spectators who were lucky enough to score a ticket to the showdown at Estadio Azteca.
20. Maradona cradling the trophy is still so exciting.
Twenty five-year-old Maradona was understandably ecstatic when Argentina brought home the FIFA World Cup trophy, beating out West Germany with a score of 3-2 in the final match. Although the three goals were scored by other teammates, this photo of Maradona is perhaps one of the most classic photographs in FIFA World Cup history.