Lionel Messi failed to emulate Cristiano Ronaldo’s heroics (against Spain) as he, and Argentina, were held to a 1-1 draw by World Cup rookies, Iceland. The Barcelona talisman was strategically contained by the Icelandic defence and even had a penalty saved. Iceland won the hearts of many after their performances at EURO 2016 and raised World Cup excitement for some after winning their qualifying group. Making their first ever appearance, they are the smallest nation to play in the World Cup finals; a record previously held by Trinidad & Tobago. Similar to the expectations of Trinidad & Tobago’s opening fixture against Sweden in 2006, Iceland were expected to be slaughtered by 2014’s World Cup finalists. But just like their Caribbean counterparts, they went against the odds to earn their first ever World Cup point.
The game seemed like it would be a walk in the park for Argentina after Sergio Aguero scored his first World Cup goal on the turn with a smashing left-footed finish in the 19th minute. For the stat freaks out there, Aguero (wearing #19) scored in the 19th minute, and the last Argentine #19 to score at a World Cup was Lionel Messi in 2006 in the same dark-themed kit on this day (June 16th). After the goal, though, the Abiceleste struggled to find space in a deep-lying Icelandic defence. Their joy was short-lived when Alfred Finnbogason made history by scoring his country’s first-ever World Cup goal just four minutes later. The stadium erupted, and so did the FIFA Fan Fest. The Vikings had made their mark on the global stage.
Sergio Aguero opens the scoring for Argentina.
Alfred Finnbogason scores Iceland’s first ever FIFA World Cup goal.
STAT: Aguero and Messi scored wearing #19 exactly 12 years apart.
All eyes were on Lionel Messi to take charge of the game, just like Ronaldo did for Portugal yesterday. But with some tight defending and stern tackles, Iceland limited the superstar to mostly sideways and backward passes. In the 64th minute, Messi had the opportunity to make his mark on Russia 2018 when he stepped up to take a penalty after Meza was fouled inside the box by Magnusson, but he was denied by the hands of Hannes Halldorsson as he palmed Messi’s penalty clear. Messi continued to struggle to impact the game, firing shots wide, having his shots blocked, and Argentina as a team looked like they ran out of ideas on how to break Iceland down. However, when Messi framed up to take a free-kick, many thought that they were going to see a repeat of Ronaldo’s against Spain yesterday. But, to conclude a frustrating first game, he slammed it into the wall. The game finished one apiece and Iceland were ecstatic as they registered their first ever World Cup point.
Halldorsson saves Messi’s penalty.
The Iceland coach, Heimir Hallgrimsson, said “This is a great success for Iceland. I firmly believe that Argentina will go far in this World Cup, so it’s a fantastic result for us. We could not give them too much space, knowing the talent they have. But although they had some good opportunities, so did we. We wanted to use the space behind them more than we did – but it’s difficult when you don’t have the ball!”
While Argentina’s boss, Jorge Sampaoli, stated that ““Messi was in a very uncomfortable situation because Iceland played very defensively. He couldn’t find the space he needs. But we still believe in ourselves and we know that we have all the tools to succeed.”
Unsurprisingly, Halldorsson was awarded the Budweiser Man of the Match after making 7 saves. He’ll be vital in Iceland’s campaign, without a doubt. I really can’t wait to see more of him in the tournament. Argentina, however, will have to recover from this upset and turn their focus to Croatia on Thursday.
Well, this would definitely spark the Ronaldo-Messi comparison. Many are asking to keep the duel away from the World Cup, but could we really help it? Especially after the events from the past two days. I’m pretty sure we’re going to see a lot more that will fuel the fictional rivalry, and pundits and analysts worldwide should have a lot to talk about concerning these two superstars.
Personally, I’ve never been a fan of the comparison. I just like to see them both play, especially at international level. They are both unique in their own ways and should both be equally appreciated. After all, we’re not going to have them around much longer. It may just be their last World Cup. I hope they both do well in this campaign.
In the other games of the day, France edged Australia 2-1 in a technology-filled fixture as VAR was used in a game-changing decision for the first time in World Cup history when Antoine Griezmann was belatedly awarded a penalty, and Paul Pogba benefited from goal-line technology to score France’s second. Denmark also scraped a victory against Peru as they won 1-0, thanks to a lone Youseff Poulsen goal; and Croatia eased past Nigeria in the second Group C fixture.
Image Credit: FIFA™
WORLD CUP 2018 MATCHDAY 3 RESULTS:
France 2-1 Australia
(Greizmann [P] 58′, Pogba 81′ / Jedinak [P] 62′)
Argentina 1-1 Iceland
(Aguero 19′ / Finnbogason 23′)
Peru 0-1 Denmark
(Y. Poulsen 59′)
Croatia 2-0 Nigeria
(Etebo [OG] 32′, Modric [P] 71′)
GROUP C & D AFTER MATCHDAY 3
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