After running Michel Platini and Co close in the semi-final of UEFA EURO 1984, Portugal had high expectations heading into the qualifying campaign for the 1986 FIFA World Cup Mexico™. However, that form was to desert them and, after a home defeat to Sweden and another slip-up away to Czechoslovakia, the Selecção das Quinas' qualification hopes were hanging by a thread by the time their final game, away to mighty West Germany, came around.
16 October 1985, Neckarstadion, Stuttgart
West Germany 0-1 Portugal
Goalscorer: Carlos Manuel
West Germany: Harald Schumacher, Ditmar Jakobs (Heinz Gründel), Thomas Berthold, Karlheinz Förster, Andreas Brehme, Karl Allgöwer, Matthias Herget, Norbert Meier, Peter Briegel, Pierre Littbarski (Thomas Allofs), Karlheinz Rummenigge
Portugal: Bento, João Pinto, Frederico, Venâncio, Inácio, Carlos Manuel, Veloso, António Sousa, Jaime Pacheco, Fernando Gomes (José Rafael) and Manuel Fernandes
There was an understandable air of trepidation in Portugal as the team prepared for the trip to Stuttgart for their final Group 2 qualifier. Not only were opponents West Germany the reigning world runners-up, they had not lost on home soil for a full 36 years. To complicate matters further, the Lusitanians had to win their game and hope Sweden lost to Czechoslovakia in Prague the same evening to secure a berth at Mexico 1986. Mission impossible? "At least let me dream," pleaded Portugal coach Jose Torres before the game. And dream he did.
On a chilly October night there were some 55,000 fans at the Neckarstadion (now the Gottlieb Daimler Stadion) to witness what became known as the 'Miracle of Stuttgart'. The match was still scoreless after 54 minutes when the visitors won back possession inside their own half and fed the ball to Carlos Manuel out of the left. The pacy No 6 took off on a mazy run down the flank before cutting inside near the edge of the penalty area, from where he curled home an exquisite right-foot shot past a stunned Harald Schumacher.
From then on, it was backs to the wall as Portugal showed great tenacity to keep their goal intact until full time. Shortly afterwards, news filtered through of Sweden's defeat in Prague, sending the Selecção das Quinas to the FIFA World Cup finals for only the second time in their history, 20 years after Eusebio and Co took third-place at England 1966.
Understandably, the man who hogged the headlines was the scorer of that wonderful goal, Benfica's Carlos Manuel. Known thereafter as the 'Hero of Stuttgart', the tireless midfielder may have netted sparingly for the Selecção (8 in 42 games), but they tended to be hugely important. Manuel played a pivotal role in getting his side to EURO 1984, grabbing the winners against Poland and USSR during the qualifiers, and then, of course, there was the goal he scored to sink England at the finals of Mexico 1986. The player enjoyed considerably success during his nine seasons with the Lisbon giants, and though his explosive temperament and rebellious streak caused him more than a few off-field problems down the years, his achievements on the pitch remain his lasting legacy.
"We had to beat West Germany, who hadn't lost at home for 36 years. That strike of mine not only allowed us to topple a veritable giant, it also earned us a place at the World Cup in Mexico. That's why it was such an important goal, and one that will be talked about for at least 100 years. Nor have I forgotten about an equally important goal I got against Poland, which qualified us for the 1984 European Championship in France. Furthermore, I also got the winning goal against Bobby Robson's England at the World Cup finals in Mexico." Carlos Manuel, the 'Hero of Stuttgart'
What happened next
Both Portugal and West Germany made it through to the finals of Mexico 1986, but their respective fortunes at a tournament illuminated by the brilliance of Diego Maradona were very different. While the Germans once again made to the final, this time losing to the inspired Albiceleste, the Lusitanians failed to make it out of Group F, after following their win over England (1-0) with defeats to Poland (0-1) and Morocco (1-3).