Lionel Messi messes up penalty as Argentina frustrated by resolute Iceland
MOSCOW — Three quick thoughts in Argentina 1-1 Iceland in Group D at the World Cup on Saturday.
1. Iceland gain valuable point as Messi disappoints
Iceland have made a habit of pulling off shock results in recent years, and while they didn’t come away with a victory in this case, the draw amounts to another impressive effort, one that could prove valuable indeed as the rest of the group shakes out.
There was always going to be a strong impulse to see if Lionel Messi could match the hat trick heroics of Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo from Friday night. But this was bound to be a very different type of match given Iceland’s penchant for sitting back and waiting for opportunities to counter.
So it proved. Neither Messi nor his teammates impressed. Messi, in fact, had an absolutely miserable afternoon. That said, huge credit is due to Iceland for sticking to their game plan, staying compact in defence and doing plenty to frustrate their opponents. The goalkeeping of Hannes Thor Halldorsson proved immense throughout, with his penalty save from Messi the best of a series of impressive stops.
Argentina started out showing a considerable amount of patience, combined with sudden changes in tempo. But the favorites received a massive scare in the 10th minute. A sloppy pass from Marcos Rojo created a melee in the Argentine box. The ball eventually fell to Birkir Bjarnason, only for him to put his shot wide with goal gaping.
Argentina were soon back controlling the game and went ahead in the 19th minute. Rojo played a ball into Sergio Aguero, who evaded the attentions of Ragnar Sigurdsson on the turn and buried his shot past Halldorsson.
The expectation at that point was that Argentina would build on their lead, but Iceland were soon level. Argentina failed to clear their lines, and after one attack, the ball eventually fell to Gylfi Sigurdsson. His shot went through the legs of Rojo and was saved by Willy Caballero, but Alfred Finnbogason was first to pounce on the rebound and the score was level.
The goal gave Iceland considerable belief, and they soon settled into the match a bit more. Sigurdsson created a chance for himself just before halftime, but Caballero was there to save the attempt, and this time Argentina were able to clear.
Minutes into the second half, Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli had seen enough and brought on the more attack-minded Ever Banega for Lucas Biglia. The switch didn’t do all that much to change the game given Argentina’s previous level of domination, but they soon had a glorious chance to go ahead in the 64th minute, when Maxi Meza was felled in the box by Hordur Magnusson. Messi stepped up to take the spot kick, but the placement was at the perfect height to allow Halldorsson to make a diving save to his right.
Argentina later had another penalty shout in the 77th minute, when substitute Cristian Pavon appeared to be hauled down by Birkir Saevarsson, but referee Szymon Marciniak declined to sanction the Iceland defender.