Argentina v Iceland Match Report WC 2018: Group D clash – June 16, 2018
Argentina v Iceland Result: ARGENTINA 1, ICELAND 1
Iceland seem to have made “doing the impossible” a habit. The smallest nation ever to take part in a World Cup did the unthinkable when they held Lionel Messi's Argentina to a 1-1 draw at the Otkrytie Arena, Moscow.
The Albiceleste went ahead when Sergio Aguero (in for Juventus striker Gonzalo Higuain) piroted expertly on his heels and smashed one into the top corner of the Iceland net to give the Argentines the lead in the 19th minute. But the South Americans had only 4 minutes to savour their lead. Alfreo Finnbogason found a Hordur Magnusson shot deflected off Argentine goalie Willy Caballero fall in his path which he happily slammed into the net. 1-1 to Iceland and their first World Cup goal! The Viking war cry “Hoooh” and claps reverberated all around the arena to mark the historic moment.
The Icelanders could have gone ahead earlier when central midfielder Birkir Bjarnason missed a grand opportunity to score from yards when he shot wide of an open goal within minutes of play.
Once the equalizer came, it was the Argentines who were all over the Icelanders. Led by the talismanic Messi the South Americans made 27 attempts on the opposition goal, 10 of them coming from the great man himself. But the Nordic defenders managed to choke off anything that came their way.
Someway into the second-half Maximiliano Meza was fouled by left-back Magnusson inside the box and Argentina were awarded a welcome penalty. As expected, Messi took it, but alas, goalkeeper Hannes Halldorsson read the Argentine's shot correctly, dove low to the right and punched it away.
This is one of the nine saves Halldorsson made during the game and it was anybody's guess as to who the Man of the Match was after such a show.
The Icelanders hung on resolutely to waves of Argentine attacks and ensured that the scores were at level when the final whistle came. The Albiceleste had 78 per cent of the ball possession, 27 attempts on the goal and 7 shots on target but to no avail. Another disappointing day for Messi in the World Cup.
It will be an uncomfortable fortnight ahead for coach Jorge Sampaoli's men as they run into 2 very difficult opponents in the form of Croatia and Nigeria. With just a point garnered from the Iceland game, they somehow need to pull off wins in the remaining two.
Iceland, on the other hand, will be approaching their coming outings against the same teams with their tails up and probably getting a sniff of the next round already.