Monday, February 27, 2012

27 February 1977 - Maradona Goes International

On 27 February 1977, Argentina beat Hungary 5-1 in a friendly that marked the international debut of 16-year old Diego Maradona.

At the time, Hungary had been the more successful team, with two World Cup finals (1938 and 1954), three Olympic gold medals (1952, 1964, 1968) and one silver medal (1972). But they were in decline, failing to qualify for the 1974 World Cup, the 1976 Olympics, or the 1976 European Championship. Argentina, meanwhile, had reached the Olympic final in 1928 and the World Cup final in 1930, but had since done little on the global stage (they did have 12 Copa América trophies, however).

For the friendly, they met at the Bombanera in Buenos Aires, where approximately 60,000 people turned out to watch. By half time, the hosts were up 4-0 with a hat-trick from Daniel Bertoni (11', 18') and a goal from Leopoldo Luque (37'). Luque added another just after the break (47') to extend the lead to 5-0 before Hungary substitute Zombori Sándor pulled one back in the 61st minute.

One minute later, Argentina made a couple of substitutions of their own, taking Ricardo Villa off for Jorge Benítez and replacing Luque with young Argentinos Juniors midfielder Diego Maradona. It was Maradona's first appearance for Argentina and he would go on to become the country's greatest player, earning a total of 91 caps and leading them them to World Cup glory in 1986.


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