The ‘Hand of God’ 1986

The phrase ‘Hand of God’ was coined after Argentinian captain Diego Maradona described his first goal against England in the quarter-final of the 1986 World Cup as being scored ‘a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God.’

Early in the second half of the match, in the Azteca Stadium, Mexico City, with the scores level at 0-0, England midfielder Steve Hodge sliced a high, looping ball in the direction of his own penalty and what followed became one of the most iconic, and controversial, incidents in football history. As the ball dropped from the heavens, Maradona jumped alongside England goalkeeper Peter Shilton who, at 6′, stood 7″ taller than his dimunitive opponent. However, as Shilton reached forward with his right glove, Maradona raised his left fist, close to his head, and dexterously, but illegally, nudged the ball over the goalkeeper and into the empty net.

Maradona raced away towards the corner flag, pausing briefly to check if the match officials had noticed his infringement. Tunisian referee Ali Bin Nasser allowed the goal but, in the face of protests from the English players, looked in the direction of Bulgarian linesman Bogdan Dochev as he ran back towards the centre circle. Dochev – who later admitted that he had seen Maradona punch the ball over Shilton – gave no indication of handball and the goal stood.

To add insult to injury, just minutes later, Maradona carried the ball from inside half, outpacing English midfielder Peter Reid – who later described his vain pursuit of the Argentinian No. 10 as ‘like a kid chasing his Dad in the garden’ – and beating three defenders before slotting home past Shilton for his second goal. In 2002, the goal was voted ‘FIFA World Cup Goal of the Century’. Argentina won the match 2-1 and went on to win the FIFA World Cup Trophy, beating West Germany 3-2 in the final.

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‘The Shot Heard ’round the World’ 1951

Not to be confused with the shot struck by legendary golfer Gene Sarazen at the Masters Tournament in 1935, ‘The Shot Heard ’round the World’, as far as baseball is concerned, refers to a decisive home run hit by New York Giants’ outfielder Robert ‘Bobby’ Thomson at the Polo Grounds, New York City on October 3, 1951.

The New York Giants and their arch rivals, the Brooklyn Dodgers, finished the regular Major League Baseball season in 1951 with identical win-loss records, forcing a best-of-three playoff series to determine the winner of the National League Pennant. The Giants won the first game and the Dodgers the second, so the series came down to the crucial third encounter.

The game had the distinction of being the first to be televised nationally in the United States and Thomson, popularly known as ‘The Staten Island Scot’, came to the plate in the bottom of the ninth, and final, innings with the Dodgers leading 4-2. With two runners on base, Thomson faced Dodgers relief pitcher Ralph Branca and, taking advantage of the notoriously short distance to the left-field wall, hit a long fly ball into the seats in the lower deck. His three-run homer prompted commentator Russell ‘Russ’ Hodges to make the famous call, ‘The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!’, and has since achieved legendary status.

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