Maradona became Maradona as he led Argentina to victory in the 1986 World Cup final by assisting the winning goal in the last minutes after a German comeback. The game yielded six yellow cards which was the most handed out in a World Cup final — a record which was not surpassed until 2010. Germany’s Guido Buchwald’s 1990 mark on Maradona coined him the nickname ‘Diego’ Buchwald as he helped bring Germany to win the title that year. The 2014 World Cup broke the record by being the third face-off between two teams in a final, with Germany being victorious in extra time after yet another nail biter. The matches between the two football superpowers are always a thrill to watch for the neutrals, and a heart throbbing, anxiety-inducing, emotional ride for fans.
The two national teams have played a total of 23 matches against each other, seven of which during a World Cup going all the way back to 1958 in the first group stage, where West Germany won 3-1. Perhaps one key difference between the two teams is that Argentina was always known for having its golden protege – whether it was Mario Kempes, Maradona or Messi to follow. They are footballers who are iconic even to non-football fans, and are the face of Argentine football. Germany on the other hand, while it has its stars, never built their team around just one player. German football is rather known for its strategy, discipline and cohesiveness.
The world drooled over Maradona in the 1986 World Cup in Mexico City, but it was a combination of German football legends Franz Beckenbauer as the coach and Lothar Mattäus as a midfielder and sweeper, along with Karl-Heinz Rummenigge as the captain, Thomas Berthold, Rudi Völler, Andreas Brehme, and goalie Herald or ‘Toni’ Schumacher, who all helped carry the team. It is difficult to talk about Germany’s performance that day without mentioning those players collectively. Argentina was ahead by two goals with only about 15 minutes remaining, when Rummenigge scored his first of the tournament. Berthold then nodded a header from Brehme’s corner kick into Völler’s path to tie up the game. Being so excited about their comeback, Germany forgot their tournament-long tactics of prime defense for a few minutes, and Maradona assisted Jorge Burruchaga’s goal against Schumacher in the final six minutes to bring Argentina to victory. “Wait for us in four years,” said Beckenbauer; as the world waited, Germany kept their promise.