Having arguably the greatest player of this generation and possibly the greatest of all time doesn’t necessarily translate into victory on soccer’s biggest stage. Lionel Messi and Argentina were held to a 1-1 tie with World Cup newcomers Iceland in both teams’ first match of their 2018 World Cup campaigns. The 2014 World Cup runner-ups were looking to improve from their results and raise the trophy, but Iceland had their own ideas. 

From the opening whistle, the game started as expected. Argentina held possession while spreading the field looking for openings and Iceland sat back defensively, double teaming Messi at very turn. There were some early chances from both teams but neither could find the back of the net. In the 19th minute, Sergio Aguero was able to open up the scoring with a great individual effort. He collected the ball in the box from a Marcos Rojo long distance shot, and with his back to the goal created some space to unleash a left footed shot into the upper left corner that Icelandic goalie Hans Halldorsson dove for but couldn’t save.

But the jubilation for Argentina and their fans was short lived as 4 minutes later in the 23rd minute, Iceland was able to tie the game with a rebound goal from Alfeo Finnbogason. Argentina goalie Willy Caballero parried a cross from his left back into the middle of the box where Finnbogason was able to one time the ball from 7 yards out into the goal reinvigorating his team and fans.

The match continued with heavy pressure and most of the possession for Argentina, putting Iceland back on their heels. It paid off, with Argentina winning a penalty kick in the 64th minute from a sloppy foul off of a cross into the box. Messi stepped up to put his team back on top but Halldorsson had other ideas. Messi placed the left footed shot to his left but Halldorsson guessed correctly, diving to his right and pushing the ball wide preserving the tie.

With all 10 Icelandic field players on defense until the final whistle, they were happy to preserve the tie and the 1 point in their first ever World while Argentinahave to regroup if they expect to keep moving forward. Argentina next faces Croatia (6/21) then Nigeria (6/26) while Iceland meets Nigeria (6/22) and then Croatia (6/26). The game’s MVP was Icelandic goalie Hans Halldorsson with 6 saves.

 

Photo Credit: Skysports

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