Finger of god: Diego Maradona’s ‘meltdown’ as Argentina beat Nigeria at the World Cup
Former Argentine great is ‘fine’ after seeing a doctor during the group D encounter
This time it was the finger, not the hand, that stunned the football world as Diego Maradona suffered what The Sun described as “a meltdown” during Argentina’s tense 2-1 World Cup win over Nigeria in St Petersburg.
The victory ensured the South Americans’ passage into the last 16, and a showdown with France on Saturday, but it appeared to be all too much for the pint-sized genius.
At the 1986 World Cup it was Maradona’s “Hand of God” that eliminated England from the tournament but when Marcos Rojo scored the winner for Argentina five minutes from time, the 57-year-old was “caught on TV lunging forwards from his executive box seat and giving opposing fans below ‘the finger’ with both hands”.
Gary Lineker, who played in the 1986 encounter, said later on the BBC that Maradona had let himself down by his reaction and “there’s a danger of him becoming a laughing stock, I’m afraid, in many ways”.
Minutes after Maradona’s wild celebrations he appeared to collapse and he had to be helped from his seat to the hospitality suite at St Petersburg’s Zenit Arena.
Medical staff checked his pulse and reports claim that he was taken to hospital in the city for precautionary checks where, according to the Sun, a “preliminary diagnosis later confirmed he had high blood pressure and a heart murmur”.
That didn’t stop him boarding a private jet for a flight to Moscow in the early hours, a suitably bizarre end to a bizarre evening.
Maradona later said he was “fine” after seeing the doctor, the BBC reports. He posted on social media: “I want to tell everyone that I am fine. I was checked by a doctor and he recommended me to go home before the second half, but I wanted to stay because we were risking it all. How could I leave?”
Despite the drama of Argentina’s 2-1 win, which saw Nigeria level from the penalty spot in the second half after Lionel Messi had scored his first goal of the tournament on 14 minutes, Maradona appeared to doze off several times during the match.