86: The dirtiest game and the seven-goal thriller in Mexico

The World Cup's fastest red card sent Fergie into a glorious rant (for a change)...

Dirtiest game

Scotland 0-0 Uruguay, Group E

Jose Batista was at the peak of his career when he played at Mexico 86. The left-back, then 24, had set up one goal and scored another, from a free-kick, in the win over Chile that qualified Uruguay for the tournament. But the third game in Group E changed his career forever, and ensured that Uruguay's tough reputation would not be changing anytime soon.

Uruguay had gone into the tournament with that reputation: even their 1950 World Cup side was known as 'garra charrua'™, generously translated as 'Uruguayan-Indian tenacity'™, and a warm-up match against Mexico had been far from friendly.

Uruguay coach Jorge Omar Borras had called Group E 'The Group of Death'. By the time his side met Scotland in the final Group E match in Nezahualcoyotl, Uruguay had drawn 1-1 with West Germany and lost 6-1 to Denmark.

They had had four players booked and one, Miguel Bossio, shown a red card (after 19 minutes of the Denmark capitulation). Scotland, though, had lost both their matches and were already out, while Uruguay needed a draw to reach the next round.

Their task was made harder within a minute of the match starting, when referee Joel Quiniou sent off Batista for a late challenge from behind on Gordon Strachan. "They were trying to intimidate the opposition and it'™s great for world football if all referees use the red card so quickly," said Bobby Charlton, commentating at the time.

The tackle itself was the first of the game and Batista was stunned to see the colour of the card. "I think the referee over-reacted, for sure," he told FourFourTwo. "I tackled Strachan, but it wasn't that hard. I've seen many harder tackles go unpunished since then, I can tell you. I wasn'™t a violent player: in more than 20 years, I only got sent off four times. I never spoke to Strachan after the game – and as for Quiniou, he said something to me as he brandished the card, but I didn't understand what it was."

Steve Nicol got booked against the "farcical" Uruguayans

Despite the one-man advantage, Scotland couldn't break down their resolute opponents: their best chance fell to Steve Nicol, whose shot from seven yards was well saved by Fernando Alvez, while half-chances went to the wrong players, defenders Richard Gough and Roy Aitken. In fact it was Uruguay who had the best opportunity to score, as Wilmar Cabrera'™s point-blank header was punched to safety by Jim Leighton.

There was more drama to come after the game, when Borras claimed his team were victims of a refereeing conspiracy and even called Quiniou "a murderer". Scotland coach Alex Ferguson, on the other hand, was furious at the South Americans'™ tactics. "It's a shambles, a complete shambles," he said after the game.

"I mean, it'™s not just a part of football, it's the whole bloody attitude of the nation. You can see that attitude there. They have no respect for other people's dignity. It's a disgrace what they did. Their behaviour turns the game into a complete farce. But there you are, we're out of the World Cup. I can't even say good luck to Uruguay because I don't think they deserve it."

Batista still holds the record for the fastest red card ever shown at the World Cup, a fact often mentioned by his players at Deportivo Espanol, the Argentine team he coaches. "I did feel better after the game as at least we qualified," he added. "I don'™t think Ferguson'™s comments made any difference to our reputation, and it was clear he was just angry his side had been knocked out. But I have no doubt that we were a better team than Scotland."

Uruguay only lasted one more game in Mexico, a 1-0 loss to neighbours and eventual winners Argentina in the first knockout round. There were seven yellow cards in that game, but not a red one.

Best game

USSR 3-4 Belgium (aet) - Second round

Pity Igor Belanov: only three times in World Cup history has a player scored a hat-trick and ended up losing. It'™ll be scant consolation that he was involved in one of the finest international games ever –“ a 4-3 extra-time loss to Belgium that eliminated his superb USSR side.

The Soviets –“ including seven Dynamo Kiev players –“ had impressed with their buccaneering football in the groups, thrashing Hungary 6-0 and matching European champions France 1-1. The injury-hit Belgians, contrastingly, had lost to the hosts, drawn with Paraguay and struggled to a 2-1 win over Iraq, limping through as a third-placed team.

The game began to form: USSR had the upper hand with their crisp passing, and Belanov opened the scoring with a cracking long-ranger. Belgium struggled to keep further attacks at bay, and would have been happy with 1-0 at half-time.

Belanov bangs a belter against Belgium

The second period was epic. Belgian icon Enzo Scifo hit an equaliser, but 20 minutes later Belanov struck again, slipping the ball under keeper Jean-Marie Pfaff. On 77 minutes Jan Ceulemans beat the offside trap and fired home another leveller. Both sides almost grabbed late winners, but to the delight of the watching millions, the game went to extra-time.

Twelve minutes in, Belgium went ahead for the first time, with Stephane de Mol heading home Eric Gerets'™ cross. The underdogs sniffed victory on 110 minutes, as Nico Claesen struck a sweet volley past Dassaiev. But just a minute later Belanov hit back, converting a penalty. It was a nerve-shredding final few minutes, but Belgium stood firm to win.

Dirtiest Game written by Ben Lyttleton, Best Game by Nick Moore.


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