Diego Maradona's remarkable all-round World Cup record is one which may never be matched.

The Argentina legend died at the age of 60 on Wednesday, prompting tributes from across the football world.

Reflections of his career will see so many of Maradona's magical moments highlighted, though perhaps most memorable are his 1986 exploits in Mexico, a tournament which gave Argentina their most recent World Cup success.

Opta statistics help to illustrate Maradona's remarkable performances on football’s biggest stage and highlight how difficult his legacy at the tournament will be for a modern player to match. 

Maradona appeared in four successive World Cups for Argentina between the ages of 21 and 33, playing his first in 1982 before going on to represent his country in 1986, 1990 and 1994.

He ended his Argentina career having made 91 appearances and it was clear he thrived on the big stage - nearly one in four of those caps occurred during World Cups, where he enjoyed a win record in excess of 50 per cent.

He holds the record for the most number of appearances in the competition by an Argentine player (21), just ahead of Javier Mascherano (20) and Lionel Messi (19).

Maradona is one of just three players to captain his country in two different men's World Cup finals, having done so in 1990 as well as the 1986 tournament, where he stole the show.

The only other two players to achieve the feat are Karl-Heinz Rummenigge (1982 and 1986) and Dunga, who did so in successive tournaments after Maradona in 1994 and 1998.

The exploits of Maradona in 1986 will be hard to top. He had 10 goal involvements (five goals and five assists) in seven games and no player has done that since at a single edition of a World Cup.

No other player at the tournament in Mexico managed more than six goal involvements, highlighting his level of superiority.

Only Gabriel Batistuta (10) has scored more World Cup goals for Argentina than Maradona, who ended his international career with a total of eight.

Maradona is also one of only three Argentina players to have scored in three separate World Cups (1982, 1986 and 1994), alongside Messi (2006, 2014 and 2018) and Batistuta (1994, 1998, and 2002).

As well as eight goals, Maradona had eight assists in his 21 appearances over the four tournaments he played in. Across all World Cups staged since 1966, no other player has accumulated as many.

Maradona won 152 free kicks across his four World Cups, the most in tournament history.

That is more than twice as many fouls won by any other player, with Brazil's Jairzinho ranking second with 64.

On average he won more than seven fouls per game in his World Cup career, or one every 12 minutes and 46 seconds. 

He was the most fouled player across three consecutive competitions from 1982 to 1990, with this total from 1986 (54) remaining the highest single figure from one World Cup. 

Amazingly, his individual totals from 1990 (50) and 1982 (36 from just five games) also rank individually as second and third all time.

As well as being the most fouled player, Maradona has also provoked more cards than any other player at World Cups since yellow and red cards were first introduced in 1970. 

Fouls on him resulted in 12 cards being dished out, ahead of Arjen Robben (11) for the most in tournament history.

Though as well as forcing his opponents to pick up bookings, Maradona was also prone to being cautioned himself – he is the only player to be booked in two separate World Cup finals (1986 and 1990).

In the 1986 tournament, he played a part in an astonishing 56 per cent of his team's 101 shots. He had 30 of them himself, and played the final pass on 27 other occasions.

The only game where he failed to score or assist at least one goal was in the round of 16 match against Uruguay, but even then he still managed to hit the woodwork from a stunning direct free-kick.

He led the assist rankings with five at Mexico 86 and with five goals he was the second highest scorer behind Gary Lineker, who netted six.

Maradona remains the only player since 1966 to have to have scored and assisted as many as five goals in a single World Cup, a record that looks particularly tough to beat.

Famed for his dribbling prowess, no player has beaten an opponent more times in a single World Cup than Maradona did in 1986. 

The attacker successfully took the ball around an opponent 53 times, averaging eight per game. Four came in just one single move, the goal of the century against England in the quarter-finals.

He travelled 51 metres with the ball in 10 seconds to net one of only four World Cup goals since 1966 where a player travelled as far before scoring.

Jarizinho had 47 successful take-ons in 1970, while the closest anyone has come to breaking that Maradona record since his retirement was when Messi had 46 in 2014 and Eden Hazard 40 in 2018.

The stats from that match with England sum up Maradona's overall impact in Mexico. He attempted the most shots of any player on the pitch (seven), the most shots on target (three), most chances created (five) and most completed dribbles (12), as well as winning seven fouls. 

Until 2018, Maradona also held the record for the most dribbles (105) in World Cup matches, a number was fittingly eclipsed by his compatriot Messi (110).

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin says Diego Maradona "set football alight and thrilled fans young and old" and confirmed his death would be marked with a minute's silence prior to all Champions League and Europa League games this week.

The Argentina great, who played for Barcelona, Napoli and Sevilla as well as Argentinos Juniors, Boca Juniors and Newell's Old Boys in his homeland, died aged 60 after reportedly suffering a heart attack on Wednesday.

Ceferin said: "I am deeply saddened to hear of the death of Diego Maradona, one of world football’s greatest and most iconic figures.

"I was in touch recently to wish him well, and this news comes as a considerable shock to me.

"Diego Maradona achieved greatness as a wonderful player with a genius and charisma of his own. He was a hero in his native Argentina, with whom he enjoyed World Cup glory, and became an eternal idol for the supporters of Napoli, who will never forget the successes he brought to the club during his memorable spell in Italy.

"He will go down in history as someone who set football alight and thrilled fans young and old with his brilliance and skill. I have instructed UEFA to hold a minute’s silence in memory of Diego at this week’s matches."

Diego Maradona was saluted by Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo as an "eternal" wonder of the football world after his death at the age of 60.

Messi, a modern-day Argentinian superstar who followed in the footsteps of his idol by starring for Barcelona and the national team, posted a picture of himself with a beaming smile alongside Maradona.

He wrote: "A very sad day for all Argentines and for football. He leaves us but does not leave, because Diego is eternal.

"I keep all the beautiful moments I experienced with him and I wanted to take the opportunity to send my condolences to all his family and friends. RIP."

Pele hopes he will one day "play ball together in the sky" with "great friend" Diego Maradona after the Argentina legend died at the age of 60.

Maradona's passing was confirmed by the Argentine Football Association (AFA), with tributes soon flooding in for a much-loved sporting figure.

The Argentina and Napoli great had undergone a routine operation for a subdural haematoma after being admitted to hospital due to concerns over anaemia and dehydration.

But on Wednesday, two weeks after being discharged, the AFA announced Maradona had died, with Brazil icon Pele quickly taking to Twitter to show his respect for man who is widely regarded as the greatest rival to his own claim as the best of all time.

"What sad news," Pele wrote. "I lost a great friend and the world lost a legend.

"There is still much to be said, but for now, may God give strength to family members.

"One day, I hope we can play ball together in the sky."

No cause of death was stated, but it has been reported he suffered a heart attack.

Maradona, the captain and inspiration behind Argentina's World Cup success in 1986 before going on to coach his country, had been hospitalised just days after turning 60.

He appeared in a fragile state when he briefly made an appearance as his Gimnasia y Esgrima La Plata side played a match on the evening of his birthday last month.

The mercurial Maradona won 91 caps for his country between 1977 and 1994, scoring 34 goals at international level.

He started his career with Argentinos Juniors before joining Boca Juniors and went on to play for Barcelona, Napoli, Sevilla and Newell's Old Boys before returning to Boca in 1995.

Wherever you stand on football's GOAT debate, you can't deny the legacy of Diego Maradona.

Some would place him behind Lionel Messi as Argentina's greatest ever footballer, and short of Pele in the sport's pantheon of the mighty; others would say Maradona eclipses them all. It's a debate that has raged for decades, and one that is not likely to be settled for some time.

But nobody can argue that Maradona – who died on Wednesday at the age of 60 – produced a string of performances to rival anything the World Cup has ever witnessed in Mexico in 1986.

From the group stage to the final with West Germany, via the 'Goal of the Century' and a brazen moment of cheating, Maradona was so far above his contemporaries that the sheer idea of anyone else winning the Golden Ball was laughable.

Argentina beat South Korea, drew with Italy and defeated Bulgaria in their group, then saw off Uruguay, England and Belgium in the knockouts before a 3-2 final defeat of West Germany. 

As Opta data shows, Maradona was the beating heart of the Albiceleste's second World Cup triumph.

TAKE MY BREATH AWAY

Gary Lineker was the only player to score more goals (six) at the 1986 World Cup than Maradona (five). That's about the only category where he did not come out on top.

He added five assists to those five goals in his seven appearances, giving him the most goal involvements (10) of any player, ahead of the USSR's Igor Belanov (eight), and Lineker, Careca and Preben Elkjaer Larsen (six).

It stands to reason that Maradona also created more goalscoring chances (27) than any other player. Next on the list was France's Alain Giresse (24), then Klaus Allofs (23), Michel Platini (19) and Careca (17).

WHEN THE GOING GETS TOUGH

Everyone, most famously West Germany, tried to man-mark Maradona out of the equation. None succeeded.

He completed 53 dribbles across the tournament, a tally that puts the rest of the competition to shame. The next highest number was recorded by USSR's Ivan Yaremchuk, who managed 16.

Of course, that kind of dazzling play will always attract a more prosaic approach from the opposition. Maradona was fouled 53 times, more than double the number of anyone else (Enzo Francescoli was next on 27 fouls won).

EDGE OF HEAVEN

Maradona's all-round impact on proceedings could only come from a player given freedom to drop deeper and seize the ball from lesser men. It's incredible, then, that he managed 44 touches in the opposition box, eight more than the next-highest on the list, Brazil's Careca. Lineker, winner of the Golden Boot, had 31 such touches.

Lineker and England have, of course, never forgotten Maradona's impact on their 2-1 quarter-final defeat in Mexico City. It was the scene of his greatest goal – a mazy, miraculous waltz through the heart of the opposition that ended with the bamboozling of goalkeeper Peter Shilton – and his crowning moment of infamy, when 'The Hand of God' punched Argentina into the lead.

Perhaps that wasn't such a one-off, though. Since 1966, no player has committed as many handballs at the World Cup as Maradona (seven) – and they're just the ones the referees spotted.

Football legend Diego Maradona has died after suffering cardiac arrest, multiple media entities are reporting.

The Argentinian who led his country to the 1986 World Cup title in Mexico, died two weeks after being released from hospital after undergoing brain surgery.

Considered one of the greatest ever to play the game during his illustrious but oftentimes scandal-ridden career, Maradona played for Newell's Old Boys, Sevilla, Napoli, Barcelona, Boca Juniors and Argentinos Juniors scoring more than 250 goals in a career spanning more than two decades.

He represented Argentina at the 1982, 1986, 1990 and 1994 World Cups and scored 34 goals in 91 appearances for the national team. At the 1986 World Cup, he controversially scored with the "Hand of God" in Argentina's 2-1 win over England. His second goal in that match is widely regarded as one of the best goals ever scored in a World Cup.

Maradona was the coach of Argentinian club Gimnasia y Esgrima at the time of his death. He was 60 years old.

Reece Hodge felt he "let the country down" after missing a late penalty in Australia's 15-15 draw with Argentina in the Tri Nations. 

The Wallabies fly-half had the match on his boot as he lined up the 78th-minute kick that would almost certainly have been a match-winner. 

He sent the ball wide of the right upright, however, and despite kicking five from five chances before that, it was the sixth that weighed heavy. 

"I feel like I’ve let the country down," Hodge said on Fox Sports. "It’s a pretty tough one to take at the moment. 

"Obviously we were up 15-6 and had our chances to seal that game. I guess inaccuracy and poor game management from our game managers let us down. 

"Especially in that first half we created a lot of opportunities, it's just inaccuracy in the last passes and movements that let us down. 

"It was 9-6 at half-time, but with the weight of possession we had it should have been 15 or 20 and it's a credit to the way that Argentina defended also."

Australia captain Michael Hooper suggested his team lost their discipline and paid a heavy price. 

In a gruelling match, five penalties apiece from Hodge and Nicolas Sanchez produced the scoring, with Australia having two first-half tries chalked off by the television match official. 

Armed with a 15-6 lead by the hour mark, Australia looked set to see the job through at the McDonald Jones Stadium in Newcastle, only to cough up the chances that allowed Sanchez to boot Argentina back onto level terms. 

Hooper said: "We tried to play with a lot of territory - I think we won that - we were just unable to convert there in the second half, and probably ill-discipline. Sanchez made us hurt. 

"We felt good, we were playing our shape. They turned the ball over a couple of times, we had some loose passes, some knock-ons there, so we need to be more accurate." 

Hooper explained it would take a while for Australia to get their heads around the match. 

"The mind is still going 100 miles per hour so we'll debrief and catch our breath and look at it properly," Hooper said. 

Asked if the early intention had been to get the ball wide, Hooper said: "You can't just go straight to edge. 

"We tried to punch it through them, they did well to slow the ball up, they hold you up high, slow you up, then they get men in a defensive line. 

"We put some smart kicks in behind but were unable to crack it tonight." 

Argentina skipper Pablo Matera felt his team got their reward for sticking to their defensive strengths, recovering well from having Julian Montoya sin-binned early in the second half. 

A week on from their jaw-dropping victory over New Zealand, the Pumas could not quite hit those heights but showed they are a force to be reckoned with once again. 

"We trust in ourselves. We trust in our system," Matera said. 

"We were nine points behind but we still did our system because we trust it. It was not our best performance but a good effort from all the team." 

He said the game was "really physical, really brutal", adding: "Australia play a great game, they put us under a lot of pressure. 

"We defended really well. We didn't have a lot of chances to score tries but we were very disciplined."

Reece Hodge missed a glorious late chance to kick Australia to victory as the Wallabies were held 15-15 by Argentina in a tense Tri Nations tussle.

In a battle between teams who had both beaten the All Blacks in the previous fortnight, Australia had two first-half tries disallowed and were left to rely on the precision from the tee of their star fly-half.

In front of a socially distanced crowd at McDonald Jones Stadium, Hodge was 100 per cent from his first five penalties and looked like getting the better of opposite number Nicolas Sanchez.

Sanchez had missed one early in the second half but booted the Pumas back from 15-6 down to level terms, only for Argentina to give up a 78th-minute penalty chance to Australia after a ruck infringement.

Hodge, from around 40 metres, sent his kick high into the Newcastle night sky but wide of the uprights.

After the high of defeating New Zealand for the first time, Argentina will look to buck the trend again and claim a win against Australia in the Tri Nations on Saturday.

Argentina claimed a 25-15 win over the All Blacks at Bankwest Stadium last weekend, with fly-half Nicolas Sanchez scoring all of the Pumas' points as Ian Foster's team were condemned to back-to-back losses for the first time since 2011.

The Wallabies handed New Zealand the first of those defeats, however, when they triumphed 24-22 in Brisbane on November 7.

They will have their eyes on top spot when the teams meet at McDonald Jones Stadium in Newcastle on Saturday.

HISTORY

Australia have won 17 of their past 19 Tests against Argentina, including their last two on the bounce, and 14 of the previous 15 on home soil.

The Pumas won away against the Wallabies as recently as September 2018, though, and will be hoping to record a third straight victory for the first time in five years.

Australia lost their only previous Test at McDonald Jones Stadium – a 9-6 defeat to Scotland in June 2012 – and will hope to stop Argentina recording successive triumphs against tier one opponents for the first time since June 2016.

FORM

Australia are averaging eight clean breaks per game in this year's Tri Nations, which is the most of any team and twice the amount Argentina managed in their first outing of the tournament.

The Pumas took good care of the ball against the All Blacks, though. They conceded four turnovers in the match, fewer than half the amount any other team has had in a single game in the competition.

ONES TO WATCH

Sanchez is in good form with two tries and 40 points across his two most recent Test outings, but he has only dotted down once in his 13 previous appearances against the Wallabies.

Michael Hooper will hope to help keep the Argentina star on the back foot. The Australia captain has gained 4.4 metres per carry in the competition, the most of any forward with at least 10 attempts.

Taniela Tupou and Scott Sio have come into the Wallabies' starting side for Saturday's Tri Nations clash against Argentina.

Sio replaced the injured James Slipper as one of three changes to the starting team for the encounter in Newcastle.

Tupou and Ned Hanigan are also in, replacing Allan Alaalatoa and Lachlan Swinton respectively.

Australia are coming off a win over the All Blacks earlier this month, while Argentina stunned New Zealand last week.

"After being left out in our last Test we got the reaction we expected from Scott, his preparation this week has been excellent and his experience will be invaluable against Argentina," Wallabies head coach Dave Rennie said.

"As a group, we know respect is earned daily and understand the importance of backing up our last performance with another quality effort on Saturday night.

"The tournament is evenly poised and our fate is in our own hands. We saw how much passion Argentina play with in their performance last weekend and we're excited by the challenge in Newcastle."

New Zealand top the table but will be replaced by the winner of the clash between Argentina and Australia, who sit second and third respectively.

The Wallabies have won 17 of their past 19 Tests against Argentina, whose last success came in September 2018.

But the Pumas are eyeing back-to-back wins against fellow Tier 1 opposition for the first time since beating Italy and France in June 2016.

Unsurprisingly after their win over the All Blacks, Argentina's starting team is unchanged, while Santiago Socino, Facundo Isa and Emiliano Boffelli have replaced Facundo Bosch, Tomas Lezana and Lucio Cinti on the bench.

Australia: Tom Banks, Tom Wright, Jordan Petaia, Hunter Paisami, Marika Koroibete, Recce Hodge, Nic White; Scott Sio, Brandon Paenga-Amosa, Taniela Tupou, Rob Simmons, Matt Philip, Ned Hanigan, Michael Hooper, Harry Wilson.
Replacements: Folau Fainga'a, Angus Bell, Allan Alaalatoa, Rob Valetini, Liam Wright, Jake Gordon, Noah Lolesio, Filipo Daugunu.

Argentina: Santiago Carreras, Bautista Delguy, Matias Orlando, Santiago Chocobares, Juan Imhoff, Nicolas Sanchez, Tomas Cubelli; Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, Julian Montoya, Francisco Gomez Kodela, Guido Petti, Matias Alemanno, Pablo Matera, Marcos Kremer, Rodrigo Bruni.
Replacements: Santiago Socino, Mayco Vivas, Santiago Medrano, Santiago Grondona, Facundo Isa, Gonzalo Bertranou, Emiliano Boffelli, Santiago Cordero.

Lionel Messi praised Argentina's performance against Peru and believes they are only getting stronger.

Nicolas Gonzalez and Lautaro Martinez scored first-half goals in Lima on Tuesday, lifting Lionel Scaloni's men to a third win in four World Cup 2022 qualifiers.

Argentina extended their unbeaten run to 11 games, while they have won their past three away qualifiers – something they had not achieved since 2000.

Messi was pleased with Argentina's display, which came five days after their draw at home to Paraguay.

"Happy with the victory, we needed it after the game we played the other day," the star said, via Argentina's Twitter account.

"From the beginning we had a great match, the goals came and we created many, many chances."

Messi added: "The second half the other day was already very good and I think we continued on the same line, even raising the level a bit.

"I think this is the way we have to follow. Little by little we are becoming stronger as a group."

Messi made his 142nd Argentina appearance against Peru, joining Brazil great Cafu for the equal fifth most by a South American man.

The six-time Ballon d'Or winner wants to continue contributing for Argentina, who won in Peru for the first time since 2004.

"Whenever I come here I try to do my best and I feel qualified to fight for this shirt," Messi said.

"I feel good to continue working and adding games."

Nicolas Gonzalez continued his rapid rise and Lautaro Martinez was on target as Argentina maintained their unbeaten start to CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying with a 2-0 win over Peru.

Argentina's perfect record was ended in a draw against Paraguay last time out, however the Albiceleste stayed undefeated on the road to Qatar 2022 thanks to Gonzalez and Martinez in Lima on Tuesday.

Gonzalez, who scored in the Paraguay stalemate, opened the scoring with his second international goal in five appearances in the 17th minute before Martinez doubled Argentina's lead 11 minutes later.

With the result, Argentina remain second and two points behind CONMEBOL leaders Brazil through four matchdays.

Peru started on the front foot at the Estadio Nacional, where Christian Cueva appealed for a penalty inside the ninth minute but it was waived away by the referee, despite a pitch-side review – Argentina goalkeeper Franco Armani was adjudged not to have made contact.

Pedro Gallese did not have much to do, but he was forced to collect the ball from his net after Gonzalez capped a fine team goal – Giovani Lo Celso creating space in a sublime movement before laying off a pass with the outside of his boot as the former finished powerfully across the Peru goalkeeper.

Lionel Messi almost helped double Argentina's lead when he played a throughball for Nicolas Tagliafico, who was denied by a last-ditch block in the 24th minute.

Argentina, though, did get their second goal four minutes later after Martinez broke the offside trap, running onto Leandro Paredes' pass down the middle and rounding Gallese in a swift attacking move.

While Peru ended the half strongly, they had nothing to show for it, though they continued to build some momentum in the second half.

Lucas Ocampos almost scored a goal with his first touch, but Gallese made a fine save approaching the hour-mark, after Messi's exquisite pass almost released Martinez.

Messi tried desperately to get on the scoresheet, but he had his penalty appeals waived away and his goal-bound effort was deflected for a corner, while substitute Angel Di Maria was thwarted by Gallese.

 

What does it mean? Argentina roll on

Argentina are yet to taste defeat in four World Cup 2022 qualifiers. Not since last year's Copa America in July have Lionel Scaloni's side lost – a run of 11 international fixtures. It was also Argentina's first victory away to Peru since September 2004, having drawn three times previously.

Lo Celso shines in Lima

After impressing off the bench against Paraguay, Lo Celso was at it again from the outset on Tuesday. He helped set the tone with a wonderful assist – his quick feet, vision, composure and passing on display.

Subdued Messi wasteful

Messi was far from his best against Peru, but it did not matter as the likes of Lo Celso and Paredes stepped up. The six-time Ballon d'Or winner was not without his chances, though Argentina's all-time leading goalscorer uncharacteristically saw two golden opportunities go begging in the second half. Messi has now gone three international matches without scoring.

What's next?

Argentina will be back in action in March next year, the South American powerhouse facing rivals Uruguay and Brazil, while Peru will take on Bolivia and Venezuela.

Lionel Scaloni was happy with what he saw from Lionel Messi as Argentina prepare to face Peru in World Cup qualifying on Tuesday.

Amid concerns over an ankle injury, Messi played in Argentina's 1-1 draw with Paraguay on Thursday, having a goal ruled out in the second half.

Argentina coach Scaloni said he was pleased with Messi, who is set to make his 142nd international appearance – to go equal with Brazil great Cafu for the fifth most by a South American.

"On a performance level, Leo played a good game," he told a news conference.

"We were unlucky that they didn't validate the goal because it had been a great play."

Scaloni added: "I saw him well and he has no problem, that's the important thing."

Argentina will seek to extend their unbeaten run in qualifiers against Peru to 16 matches, but Scaloni also wanted to send his well wishes to Javier Mascherano.

Mascherano, the former Barcelona and Liverpool star who has the most caps in Argentina's history, announced his retirement on Sunday.

"I want to emphasise the retirement of Javier Mascherano and his new life that begins from now on. I send him a big hug," Scaloni said.

"He was an emblem of Argentine football and I wish him to do his best and that whatever he decides to do now, he does it with the same passion with which he used to play."

Meanwhile, Peru coach Ricardo Gareca – whose side have collected just one point from their opening three qualifiers – acknowledged the challenge awaiting his team.

"We pay attention to the strength of the rivals and logically it is a challenge to try to counteract the strengths of the teams that we face," he said.

"Argentina not only has Messi, but they have many good players in all their lines and we will have to play a great game to neutralise them."

Former Barcelona, Liverpool and Argentina star Javier Mascherano has announced his retirement. 

Mascherano, 36, revealed his decision on Sunday, calling it quits after 17 years as a professional. 

A 147-time Argentina international – the most in the country's history – Mascherano returned to his homeland by signing with Estudiantes de La Plata in January. 

After 11 appearances in all competitions for the Argentine side, including Sunday's 1-0 loss to Argentinos Juniors, Mascherano said it was time to hang up his boots. 

"I want to announce that today I am retiring from football professionally," he said. 

"I want to thank this club that gave me the opportunity to finish my career in Argentina." 

Mascherano added: "I have lived my profession 100 per cent, I gave the maximum I could. 

"Today, I find that for some time it's hard for me and I don't want to disrespect Estudiantes, who trusted me to return to Argentina, or my colleagues, or this profession."

After beginning his career with River Plate, Mascherano played for Corinthians and West Ham before joining Liverpool in 2007. 

A fearless defensive midfielder who turned into a centre-back, Mascherano enjoyed most of his success at Camp Nou, winning five LaLiga titles and the Champions League twice among numerous other trophies after joining Barca in 2010. 

He helped Argentina reach the 2014 World Cup final, which they lost to Germany in extra time, while finishing with four Copa America runner-up medals and two Olympic golds. 

After two years with Hebei China Fortune, Mascherano headed back to Argentina with Estudiantes, where he finished his career.

Nicolas Sanchez said inspiring a historic victory over New Zealand was extra special as the fly-half thought his Argentina career was over after the Rugby World Cup.

The Pumas had failed to beat the All Blacks in 29 Tests before securing a magnificent 25-15 Tri Nations victory in Sydney on Saturday.

Sanchez scored all of the Pumas' points at Bankwest Stadium, booting six penalties between the posts and touching down for a first-half try.

Argentina had not played since the Rugby World Cup last October due to the coronavirus crisis and 32-year-old Sanchez revealed he did not think he would play for his country again following the tournament in Japan.

The number 10, who is the second-highest points-scorer against the All Blacks behind Matt Burke, said: "It was a very hard year. After the World Cup we all had something very strong inside, but the pandemic helped us transform.

"These last four weeks of preparation were spectacular and today it was spectacular. We knew that with our defence they could not advance. We proposed this, we came to win and we are happy.

"Adversity always makes teams stronger. Now in our heads we only have the idea of ​​continuing to grow. When the World Cup ended I thought my career at the Pumas was over, I didn't think I was going to be able to wear the jersey again. and much less being here."

Emotional Pumas head coach Mario Ledesma was full of praise for his side after they carried out the game plan to perfection.

"These guys are in love with what they do and it was reflected on the pitch," said Ledesma.

"When we sat in the stands, before the game started, it didn't seem real to me to be experiencing something like this. After everything that happened, waiting for a game again was crazy.

"But with the pandemic there are things that are difficult to do. There was a lot of intangibles that came together and that was reflected here. We never beat them and we came to win here.

"We talked about being very disciplined, where we wanted to play, at what pace, and that happened. The players took what we had talked about to the letter. And there are many things that are happening between them, with the appearance of new leaders, new ways of doing things.

"Many people prepared this. And it's nice to see the fruits, because I would have said the same thing if we had lost, but this validates a bit what has been done since the beginning of the year.

"There is a cohesion that is being generated that is very beautiful. We all wanted that to be seen on the field and it happened. In Argentine rugby an immense work is done. I want to thank all those who support us, in some way we play for them also."

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