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Michael Ballack
Midfield - Germany
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BORN:  OCT. 30, 1960
COUNTRY: Argentina
WORLD CUP APPEARANCES:  21 matches in 4 tournaments ('82, '86, '90, '94)
CLUBS: Argentinos, Boca Juniors Barcelona, Napoli, Seville, Boca Juniors

INTRODUCTION:One of the greatest and  also the most controversial player in the World Cup


1982 World Cup - Spain
As a 17-year-old, Maradona narrowly missed the 1978 World Cup squad because coach Menotti thought he was too young.  In 1982, the skilful player was already regarded as the world's best player and the greatest since Pele.  The opposing team's recognition of his abilities earned Maradona fouls time and again, most notably by the Belgian defenders in the opening game.  Heavily punished by rough tackles and fouls, Maradona lost his effectiveness as he dropped deeper.
A 21-year-old Maradona against the entire Belgian defence in the opening match in the 1982 World Cup.
In the second game, Maradona gave a brilliant performance, scoring twice past the Hungary. Against Italy in the quarter-final, he was closely marked by Claudio Gentile, the notorious defender, and thus failed to assert his normal influence.  Argentina lost the game 2-1 and must beat Brazil in the next match to stand any chance of qualifying for the final.

With Kempes and Ardiles off-form and Brazil's midfield playing brilliantly, Argentina failed to take the game to their great South American rival.  Moreover, Maradona retaliated to the rough treatment handed to him throughout the match.  He kick Batista at the stud and the referee sent him off and ended Argentina's hope of retaining its crown.

1986 World Cup - Mexico
Four years later, Maradona took over the captaincy from Passarella and single-handedly won the World Cup in Mexico.  Maradona was at his awesome best, combining breathtaking skills, physical power and tactical brilliance.  In the quarter-final against England, he scored with the infamous "Hand of God" that deceived referee.  But then he followed with one of the greatest goals seen anywhere, dribbling past 5 English defenders and goalkeeper Shilton to score.

Maradona scoring the greatest goal ever seen in the World Cup. 
In the semi-final against the hapless Belgians, he again decided the match all on his own.  He scored another two breathtaking goals, outpacing the tough Belgian defence with his explosive pace and outwitting their renowned goalkeeper Pfaff.  In the final against West Germany, Maradona was heavily marked by the German defence.  However, he still managed to created the winning goal, playing a perfect through pass for Burruchaga to score.
Maradona dominated the World Cup in 1986 even more than Pele did in 1970 
1990 World Cup - Italy
Before, the tournament started, Maradona sustained an injury in the Italian championship and it limited his performance in the 1990 World Cup.  As defending champions, Argentina was defeated, sensationally, by little-known Cameroon.  Against Romania, Maradona's hand struck again, this time, he punched out a Romania shot.  And this time again, incredibly, the referee didn't see it.  In the first game of the second round, Argentina was comprehensively outplayed by an inspired Brazil.  The Brazilian goal didn't come.  And then late in the match, Maradona weaved his magic and produced a stunning through-pass to set up Caniggia for the winning goal.  He missed a penalty in the shoot-out victory against 10-man Yugoslavia in the quarter-finals.  But it didn't matter when Argentine goalkeeper Goycochea produced some world-class antics in the shoot-out.  

Maradona and Argentina had an unhappy tournament in 1990
In the semifinals against hot-favourites Italy, Maradona again aroused controversy.  Playing the game in Naples, the hometown of his Napoli, he made a provocative request to the southern Italians for the support against the Italian national team.  When Argentina eliminated the host nation, Argentina and Maradona, in particular, became highly unpopular in Italy.  This incident proved to be his downfall in the Italy Serie A later.  West Germany fail to unlock a tight South American defence and won the game only by a controversial penalty decision.  A tearful Maradona cried in front of million fans when he received the loser's medal from FIFA president.
1994 World Cup - USA

Maradona celebrating his goal against Greece in Argentina's first match at the 1994 World Cup
Maradona made a career comeback following his failed dope test in 1991 and played in his fourth World Cup.  The 33-year-old inspired Argentina to victories in the two first-round matches, scoring a magnificent goal against Greece.  However, after the Nigeria game, he failed another dope test and was banned from playing again in that tournament.  The World Cup game against Nigeria proved to be the last international appearance by the all-time great.
1st round:  2nd match v. Hungary (2)
1st round: 2nd match v. Italy
Quarter-final v. England (2)
Semi-final v. Belgium (2)
1st round: 1st match v. Greece

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