Iceland is showing that Euro 2016 was no fluke. On Saturday at the World Cup, Iceland held Lionel Messi and Argentina to just a goal, drawing the South Americans 1-1 in its debut game to open up Group D. Messi was knocking on the door throughout the entire match, but he missed a penalty kick in the second half. His teammates relied on him too much and Iceland goalkeeper Hannes Halldorsson impressed with seven saves. Argentina dominated the ball with 78 percent of the possession and outshot Iceland 27-8, but the ball just wouldn’t hit the back of the net for both sides during the final hour.
The South Americans started the match with positive vibes in the attack and woeful vibes at the back. And 13 minutes in, the breakthrough came via the left foot of Manchester City star Sergio Aguero:
But that lead was short-lived as Iceland responded four minutes later as Alfred Finnbogason finished a rebound from close. Then, with 25 minutes to go, Maxi Meza was taken down in the box and a penalty kick was given. Messi stepped up, but Halldorsson made a massive save to keep the draw:
Both teams now have a point in the group, but it feels like a win for Iceland. They held on, fought hard defensively and did enough to deserve a draw. Argentina, meanwhile, will feel like it deserved more as the pressure mounts on Jorge Sampaoli after just 90 minutes.
The 30-year-old Barcelona star’s second-half spot-kick was easily stopped by opposition keeper Hannes Halldorsson with the score at 1-1.
Messi was looking to match the impact his old rival Cristiano Ronaldo has made so far with a sensational hat-trick against Spain on Friday night.
“It would have changed the script. It was the advantage,” he said.
“Obviously it hurts me to have missed the penalty. They would have opened a little more and we could have found more spaces. “We have the bitterness of not being able to take the three points that we deserved. To start with winning is always important, now we have to think about Croatia.
“We will try to pass this quickly. “
Messi said Iceland’s tactic’s made it hard for his side claiming “they did not want to play” but admitted that Heimir Hallgrimsson’s team “closed well”.
The Argentina skipper has now missed four of the last seven penalties that he has taken for club and country combined. He continued to try for a way through against Iceland with 11 attempted shots, the most he’s ever tried in a World Cup game, but was left frustrated.
Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli dismissed his star player’s penalty set-back as a “statistic” and praised his attitude in a difficult game.
“To evaluate and characterise Lionel Messi’s work is difficult because it was an uncomfortable match for him,” – Sampaoli
“Iceland played very defensively, blocking all spaces but we did everything we could to win. Leo is very committed to Argentina. “We always come to win so that’s why there is a certain amount of frustration.”
Argentina face Croatia next on Thursday at the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium (19:00 BST).