Mexico’s Azteca Stadium ‘is set to host the first game of the 2026 World Cup’ – 30 years on from Diego Maradona’s iconic ‘Hand of God’ goal for Argentina vs. England

  • Mexico is expected to raise the curtain for the 2026 World Cup tournament
  • The iconic Azteca Stadium will apparently host the first World Cup game 
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The 2026 World Cup is expected to begin at the majestic Azteca Stadium in Mexico.

According to The Times, FIFA has decided that the iconic stadium will raise the curtain for the tournament that will be played across Mexico, Canada and the United States.

The stadium, which holds over 80,000 spectators, is already engraved into World Cup folklore due to Argentina legend Diego Maradona scoring his infamous ‘Hand of God’ goal against England in the 1986 tournament.

Maradona leapt up to try and get the ball before England’s goalkeeper Peter Shilton and used his arm to divert the ball beyond him and into the net. Despite it seeming obvious that Maradona had handballed, the referees missed it and the goal stood.

Speaking after the game, Maradona said his goal was scored by ‘the hand of God’ and the nickname has stuck ever since.

Mexico’s Azteca Stadium is set to host the opening game of the 2026 World Cup 

In 1986, the stadium was where Diego Maradona scored his iconic 'Hand of God' goal

In 1986, the stadium was where Diego Maradona scored his iconic ‘Hand of God’ goal 

It gave Argentina a 1-0 lead and they went on to win 2-1 – Maradona’s second goal was a sensational solo strike where he took the ball from his own half all the way to the England goal, where he took the ball around Shilton and scored.

Argentina won that tournament with Maradona the star of the competition and in 2026, Argentina will enter the tournament as defending champion.

But that does not necessarily mean that they will play the first game. Since 2006, the host nation has kick-started the tournament instead of the trophy holder.

That would mean Mexico play the first game in 2026, but there would be nothing stopping FIFA altering the rules so that Argentina played first instead. 

It is not yet known where the World Cup final will be held but it is expected to be in the United States at either the MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, near New York, or the AT&T Stadium in Dallas. The date is set for July 19.

Mexico has three host cities for the tournament in Mexico City, Guadalajara and Monterrey.

Canada has two – Toronto and Vancouver – while there are 11 in the United States: Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Miami, New York/New Jersey, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Seattle. 

The tournament will also host 48 teams – 16 more than usual.