History was made in Moscow as Iceland graced the World Cup for their very first time, and they did not disappoint earning a dramatic point against World Cup 2014 finalists Argentina. Lionel Messi took the headlines as he failed to guide his country to victory, missing a second half penalty, leaving both sides with a share on the points in Group D.
The game began with the Argentinians in the driving seat, experiencing a lot of possession in the opening exchanges as the Icelandic players were happy to sit back and make it hard for Messi and co to break them down.
The first effort of note came from an unlikely source, as the left-back Tagliafico headed a Messi free-kick just wide of the far post.
As the Argentines boasted position with captain Messi dropping deep to play the creative role, the Icelandic forward Alfred Finnbogason was pressing high, causing the Argentinian defence problems.
He nearly took advantage of this as the Argentine defence lost possession which found Finnbogason through on goal, only for the number 11 to blaze the ball over the bar from a tough angle.
This chance gave the Icelandic players confidence as they nearly took the lead soon after when another Argentine defensive mistake led to Birkir Bjarnason shooting wide, after a couple of efforts were blocked by the defence. Really a chance Bjarnason should have scored.
It didn’t take long for the game to find its first goal, as it fell to Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero who scored his first in the World Cup.
Argentina worked the ball very well in the Icelandic half before the ball eventually fell through a heap of Icelandic defenders to the City forward, who from 12 yards out, made no mistake by rocketing a left-footed strike into the top corner of the goal, leaving the Icelandic number 1 Halldorsson rooted to the spot.
With Argentina boss Jorge Sampaoli expecting his side to kick on after Aguero’s strike, it was Iceland who gave the instant reply, scoring their first goal in the World Cup Finals, thanks to Augsburg striker Finnbogason who took advantage of a parried shot, scoring from six yards out, sending the travelling fans into a frenzy.
— Knattspyrnusambandið (@footballiceland) June 16, 2018
Following the goals by the Icelandic’s, the game returned to the Argentinians possession football which saw very few chances before the end of the half.
A straight forward catch for Halldorsson from a Nicolás Otamendi header and an injury time effort from Everton’s Gylfi Sigurdsson who’s volley went wide from 20 yards out brought an entertaining first half to a close.
Both teams remained unchanged coming into the second half, as the Argentines looked to take control of possession once again.
Otamendi once again found himself free at a corner to header over after an Angel Di Maria corner which gave Argentina the first chance of the second half.
A good passing move by the Icelandic’s saw a chance come to nothing as no-one was there to meet a Bjarnason cross.
As the game continued, tensions were beginning to rise as both teams were looking for the referees aid, as the Iceland players believed they deserved a penalty for a handball from an Argentine defender, whilst Aguero believed he had a case down the other end when he stumbled in the box.
Upon the hour mark, Icelandic hearts stopped as a tangle between Aguero and defender Magnusson saw a penalty awarded to the Argentines. Up steps arguably the Worlds best, Lionel Messi, who then saw his penalty saved by the Halldorsson who got down low to his right to save a good strike.
Heading into the final ten minutes, Iceland’s resolute defending was being pressured as Higuain and Pavon were introduced as long with Messi who wanted to atone for his earlier error.
He nearly did when he received the ball just outside the box, on his favoured left foot, just to see his shot go narrowly wide of the post.
In the final moments of the game, Argentina threw all they could at the Icelandic backline which were resolute throughout their World Cup opener.
A late free-kick for captain Messi was struck straight at the wall, leaving the referee nothing to do but blow the full time whistle, leaving the Icelandic faithful in jubilation on a historical day for the European country.
— #WorldCup 🏆 (@TheSporTalk) June 16, 2018
Argentina next feature on Thursday against Croatia with a 7pm kick off, while Iceland play Nigeria on Friday at 4pm.
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