Sunday 8th June 1986
Estadio Nemesio Diez, Toluca, 20,000
IRAQ (0) 1 (Radhi 59)
BELGIUM (2) 2 (Scifo 16, Claesen 21 pen)
IRAQ: Hammoudi; Allawi, Shaker, Hashim, Oraibi; Shihab, Haris Mohammed, Gorgis; Saddam (Rahim Hameed), Radhi
BELGIUM: Pfaff; Gerets, Demol (Grun), De Wolf, F van der Elst; Vercauteren, Vandereycken, Scifo (Clijsters), Desmet; Claesen, Ceulemans
Euro ’80 had seen Belgium surprise everyone by reaching the Final. Two years later they beat world champions, Argentina in the opening game of Spain ’82. They were largely disappointing in Euro ’84. The feeling was this generation needed to do something in Mexico ’86 to be truly appreciated. Once again their opening match was against the hosts, but this time they were beaten by Mexico. Now up against Iraq they were expected to score plenty and get their campaign back on track. Manager Guy Thys made two changes from the starting line-up in the Azteca, keeping the eleven which ended that game.
Iraq had far from disgraced themselves in their debut appearance at a World Cup against Paraguay. Which was all the more remarkable given the poor preparation they had endured coming into the competition. Manager, Evaristo, made just one change but it was a huge one. Skipper Hussein Saeed, who’d played over 100 times for his country and captained them all through their successful qualifying campaign, was dropped and sent back home. Not for any transgression but he came into the tournament with an injury and Evaristo decided he wasn’t going to risk him for the rest of the competition. He was replaced by Karim Saddam.
Behind the scenes the Iraqi squad was perpetually scared. Saddam Hussein’s son, Uday was in charge of the national football team and he ruled by fear. Players were regularly physically beaten, and if they weren’t being beaten they were threatened with beatings.
It was Belgium who took the lead just after the opening quarter of an hour. Ceulemans, strong and hard to shake off, won the ball in midfield & immediately played it out to the right wing where Enzo Scifo was in plenty of space. He was just outside the area and fired a shot into the far corner. 1-0.
Scifo was involved in their second just five minutes later. He picked up the ball to the right of midfield and with plenty of time found Anderlecht teammate, Franky Vercauteren on the opposite flank. He had acres of space to run into the area, and as he knocked the ball past Khalil Allawi he was brought down. Perhaps its fairer to say the Belgian rather threw himself at the Iraqi, but either way the ref pointed to the spot.
Nico Claesen stepped up and easily beat the keeper in the same side Scifo had. 2-0.
Iraq were a fairly physical outfit, and their heavy tackling lead to them going down to ten men. The rather wonderfully named, Basil Gorgis, received a second yellow card early in the second half. It didn’t seem to bother them as Ahmed Radhi took advantage of some slack defending to beat Pfaff into the same corner Scifo and Claesen had chosen. It was their first goal at a World Cup and very well taken. 2-1.
Most of Iraq’s attacking threat came down their right. So much so, with minutes remaining Haris Mohammed ran clear. But as happened a few times, he went for the shot from a tight angle when a ball into the area would’ve been the better option.
Belgium won reasonably comfortably in the end, and now put pressure on Mexico and Paraguay. With Mexico expected to beat Iraq in their final game, Paraguay and Belgium knew a draw would suit them both.
GROUP B as it stood
Estadio La Corregidora, Querétaro, 30,000
WEST GERMANY (1) 2 (Völler 23, Allofs 49)
SCOTLAND (1) 1 (Strachan 18)
WEST GERMANY: Schumacher; Berthold, Augenthaler, KH Förster, Eder, Briegel (Jakobs); Littbarski (Rummenigge), Matthäus, Magath; Völler, Allofs
SCOTLAND: Leighton; Narey, Gough, Miller, Malpas; Strachan, Bannon (Cooper), Aitken, Souness, Nicol (McAvennie); Archibald
The ‘Group of Death’ moved into the second round of matches. Scotland manager, Alex Ferguson made three changes from the side which lost to Denmark in their opening match. Alex McLeish was left out with a stomach bug and David Narey, who scored that brilliant goal against Brazil in 1982, came into partner Willie Miller in the middle of defence. Dundee United’s Eamonn Bannon came in to bolster a midfield which was increased by one. Steve Archibald was employed as the lone striker, with the two up front from the Denmark match (Nicholas and Sturrock) both injured.
West German boss, Franz Beckenbauer made just one change for his side. Pierre Littbarski came in for Andy Brehme, having replaced him from the bench against Uruguay.
At this stage it had been 27 years since the Scots last beat the West Germans and they needed a good start. But it was Jim Leighton who was called into action first. Just minutes into the game the Germans put a good passing move together with Littbarski heavily involved. Briegel crossed it in to the far post where Allofs got up above Malpas and Leighton made a good save down at his post. It went out for a corner which Allofs took. Berthold got his head to it first and it hit the post. Scotland were rocking.
Scotland’s first real attack caused problems, though. Bannon with the overlap on the right and his cross had Schumacher flapping as he pushed it away. Miller, with the keeper out of position and one man on the line, shot over.
Then Strachan and Bannon on the right combined again and eventually found Souness. He turned inside, bounced off a German challenge and fired a left-foot shot which Schumacher had to tip over. The Scots were piling on the pressure and soon got their reward. Nicol’s cross from the left was headed away, but only to Gough. He found Aitken who waited for Strachan to make the run into the box. He played him in and the little Manchester United midfielder put it past Schumacher to give Scotland the lead. 1-0.
We then had a moment of comedy as Strachan ran towards the Scots fans but realised he couldn’t get over the advertising hoarding. He then placed his foot on the top of it, as if to emphasise his lack of height. Scotland looked like they were enjoying themselves.
The Germans came back within four minutes. Good work in midfield from Magath, and Littbarski found Allofs with a lovely ball between two Scots defenders. He squared it for Völler to turn it in from about three yards. 1-1.
Nicol shot just wide and then Souness shot just over as Scotland pushed to restore their advantage. Bannon then had a free-kick from about 35 yards which forced Schumacher to make a good save. But it wasn’t all Scotland as Leighton was called into action on a couple of occasions. One of them was when Völler was put through on goal but scuffed his shot straight at the keeper.
Still level at the break, the Germans looked the more dangerous in the second half. Völler headed just wide from a corner. But the danger wasn’t over as the Germans came again. Völler, in the area, turned Narey and the ball ran clear. Allofs was the first to react and he fired it in, left-footed. 1-2.
It was a blow for Scotland. But West Germany had been the more adventurous after the break. They looked like they would increase their lead too as both strikers had further chances. But a combination of poor finishing and good goalkeeping kept them out.
McAvennie and Cooper were sent on as Scotland looked a little more attacking. McAvennie had a chance after a Strachan corner wasn’t cleared. He had two shots but they were both charged down. It looked like the game, and the tournament, was slipping away from them.
Davie Cooper did what Davie Cooper was best at, down the left wing and got to the bye-line. His cross found Gough free in the area, but his header went narrowly over. It was desperate stuff. But try as they might, they just couldn’t find the equaliser and West Germany ended with a win. Scotland now needed a Denmark win over Uruguay to keep any hope they might have of going through.
Estadio Neza 86, Nezahualcoyotl, 26,500
DENMARK (2) 6 (Elkjaer 11, 67, 80, Lerby 41, Laudrup 52, J Olsen 88)
URUGUAY (1) 1 (Francescoli 45 pen)
DENMARK: Rasmussen; Bertelsen (Mølby), M Olsen, Nielsen, Andersen, Busk; Arnesen, Laudrup (J Olsen), Lerby; Berggreen, Elkjaer
URUGUAY: Álvez; Gutiérrez, Acevedo, Diogo, Batista; Francescoli, Santin (Zalazar), Saralegui, Bossio; Alzamendi (Ramos), da Silva
Uruguay could consider themselves unlucky in their first match against the Germans. They scored early, perhaps too early. Towards the end the Germans put them under pressure and maybe deserved something from the game through that. But a draw it was and now they moved onto Denmark. They made one change with skipper, Jorge Barrios missing out. Mario Saralegui, who was playing his football in Spain with Elche, replaced him.
For Denmark, winning their opening game in a group that was expected to be tight, gave them a real advantage. With Scotland losing to West Germany earlier in the day, a draw would even do them in this one. Sepp Piontek named an unchanged side.
Denmark continued their attacking flair from their opening game. It took just 11 minutes for them to go in front. Michael Laudrup skipped past several challenges and laid it off for Elkjaer, on the left of the area. He hit a firm shot which gave Álvez no chance. Elkjaer scored the goal which beat the Scots, and now he had another. 1-0.
Uruguay were known for their physicality and we soon saw evidence of this when Miguel Bossio was booked for hacking down Frank Arnesen. It was a needless challenge as the Dane was inside his own half and seemed to present little danger. What made the challenge even harder to understand was that Bossio had already been booked just six minutes earlier, and consequently he was off.
25 minutes in and the Danes had the ball in the net for a second time. They swept the ball from left to right and when Arnesen played it into the box from the right, Elkjaer turned it in. But the linesman had his flag up and it was ruled out.
But with just four minutes of the first half remaining they did double their lead. Elkjaer was found on the right this time. His turn of pace gave him the space to cross the ball. Batista and Álvez left it for each other and Lerby tucked it away from close range. The pace of the Danes was causing the Uruguayans all sorts of problems and they were good value for their 2-0 lead.
Then right at the end of the half, Francescoli had the ball on the left of the area. He was allowed to turn and as he pushed it past Busk he ran into the Danish defender. It was difficult to see where the defender was supposed to go, but Francescoli went to ground and the ref pointed to the spot.
The Uruguayan talisman picked himself up and sent Rasmussen the wrong way. 2-1. It was an important strike which gave the South Americans hope for the second half. Little did they know at the time, that was as good as it got for them.
The second half was a masterclass from the Danes. It began just seven minutes after the restart. Lerby found Laudrup about 25 yards out at right-angle to the goal. He drifted past one challenge, dropped his shoulder and then with a burst of pace took him past Diogo and the keeper. From a tight angle he passed the ball into the net. It was a stunning goal with a hint of Jimmy Greaves or George Best about it. 3-1.
Uruguay hit back with a couple of long-range free-kicks from Ramos and Batista. Both went close but ultimately wide of the target.
Liverpool’s Jan Molby replaced Bertelsen and he was soon involved in the Dane’s fourth. Of course it was Laudrup who produced the bit of magic. That turn of speed again took him beyond the defence. Álvez blocked the shot but the momentum of the ball went over him and Elkjaer was able to bundle it over the line. 4-1.
He almost got his hat-trick soon after when he headed just wide from Arnesen’s cross from the left. But with ten minutes to go Elkjaer did complete his hat-trick. It came from a counter-attack that was clinical in its pace and directness.
A shot from Diogo was charged down in the area and the ball came out to Arnesen. He played it short to Laudrup who just knew Elkjaer had the speed to beat the defence. He slid the ball along the ground beyond the defence and Elkjaer, who’d been on the halfway line, was away and clear.
He skipped past Álvez and slid the ball in for his third. It was a magnificent performance from Elkjaer and Denmark. 5-1.
Jesper Olsen then came on for Laudrup. Within minutes, Elkjaer was clear down the left as the Danes marauded forward once again. He played it square for Olsen who, rather apologetically rolled it in for the sixth goal. They’d been utterly dominant. The speed of their attack was devastating. This was the best performance from any side in the competition so far.
Denmark ran out 6-1 winners. It was the result the Scots wanted as they would have the chance to against a demoralised Uruguayan team. For the neutral, the prospect of Denmark taking on West Germany was very exciting indeed.
GROUP E as it stood
That’s all the second round of matches in the group stage completed. In previous World Cups FIFA had made the mistake of letting the final matches in each group kick-off at different times. This wasn’t a problem until the Germans and Austrians cynically abused it to the detriment of Algeria in 1982. If you don’t know what I’m referring to, have a read up on the “Disgrace of Gijon”.
For this tournament onwards all the final group matches kicked off at the same time. This added to the excitement, although was a bit of a nightmare for the broadcasters. But what also added to the excitement was the fact a 24-nation tournament needed four extra places from the group stage other than first and second. Consequently, right up to the final match all four teams in each group were still in with a chance of reaching the knockout stages. This was still when two points were awarded for a win, so every team knew two points may indeed be enough to see them through. As we entered the final group matches, this was how the groups stood.
Remaining matches: South Korea v Italy and Argentina v Bulgaria.
Remaining matches: Paraguay v Belgium and Mexico v Iraq.
Remaining matches: Hungary v France and USSR v Canada.
Remaining matches: Northern Ireland v Brazil and Spain v Algeria.
Remaining matches: Denmark v West Germany and Scotland v Uruguay.
Remaining matches: England v Poland and Portugal v Morocco.
And this was how the third-placed teams ranked. Obviously, a team in fourth were still in with a chance of getting into third, or higher.