This Is Why You Should’ve Never Man-Marked Diego Maradona

Argentina’s opening match of the 1986 FIFA World Cup in Mexico was against a South Korean side that was participating in the tournament for the first time since 1954. Argentina’s 1982 World Cup campaign, after having won the 1978 edition on home turf, had been a disaster. 

It had been Maradona’s first World Cup and defeats against Italy and Brazil had offered a glimpse of how to disrupt the Argentinian star: aggressively man-mark and foul the Argentine No. 10.


Diego Maradona vs. South Korea

South Korea tried to intimidate Maradona. Photo: @VintageFooty | Twitter

South Korea, having seen the effectiveness of this strategy, deployed the very same tactic to open the 1986 tournament. While the previous Argentinian World Cup squad had been loaded with talent, 1986 saw Maradona made the captain of the team and given free rein in the offensive third.

For South Korea, this made man-marking a player who was free to do whatever he wished exceedingly difficult. According to Goal.com, Maradona touched the ball no less than 88 times while completing 93 percent of his 40 passes. 

Diego Maradona vs. South Korea

Maradona was unplayable. Photo: @GoalUK | Twitter

Everyone knows about Maradona’s unreal dribbling abilities, and South Korea committed 11 fouls to stop his forward progress, but it’s his ability to come deep to collect the ball and spray gorgeous passes around the field that makes him the ultimate attacker.

If there's one player in the world that can replicate this feat, it's Lionel Messi. For all the comparisons between their goal-scoring and dribbling, it's really their range of passing that is most eerily similar.

Witnessing Wayne Rooney attempting to make this sort of impact for England at Euro 2016 shows just how difficult it can be to offer both forms of attack. If South Korean defenders attempted to close the space around Maradona, he simply shifted into that legendary next gear and accelerated past them.

If the defenders backed off, Maradona created goalscoring chances for his teammates. 

The 1986 World Cup was a demonstration of Diego Maradona at his brilliant best. He was awarded the tournament’s Golden Ball as its best player, and he scored five goals en route to Argentina’s final triumph over West Germany.

Follow me on Twitter: @ConmanFleming

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