Impressive Iceland hold Messi’s Argentina

Iceland produced a superb defensive performance as they held Lionel Messi’s Argentina to a 1-1 draw in Group D, with Hannes Por Halldorsson producing a masterclass in goal.

Argentina 1 Iceland 1
Aguero (19′) gets Argentina going
Finnbogason (23′) quickly restores parity
Halldorsson saves Messi penalty
Sigurdsson kept out by Caballero

Match Summary

Jorge Sampaoli’s side enjoyed the majority of possession in the first stanza and took a 1-0 lead through a sharp finish from Sergio Aguero in the 19th minute.

However, Alfred Finnbogason swiftly leveled matters before Lionel Messi saw a penalty saved by Halldorsson, who was in heroic form and ensured it stayed 1-1 at full-time.

Match Report

As expected it was Argentina who came out strongly in the opening stages as Iceland dropped back in numbers and held their shape.

In the eighth minute the South Americans were close to taking the advantage as the lively Messi nearly turned provider. From a free-kick centrally on the right-hand side, the Barcelona ace swung in a low cross that a stooping Nicolas Tagliafico flicked towards goal, but it evaded everyone and whistled just wide of the far post.

However, Our Boys were showing threat on the counter and a minute later missed the best chance of the opening 15 minutes. The Argentines tried to play out from the back and Willy Caballero was forced to toe-poke the ball clear under pressure. When tit was played back into the area, Birkir Bjarnason missed an absolute sitter with the goal at his mercy.

Messi was operating in the true playmaker role, with Heimir Hallgrímsson’s men making every effort to crowd him out whenever he found space near the final third. Yet, in the 17th minute he isolated his marker, skipped inside and saw his strike punched away by Halldorsson.

La Albiceleste break the deadlock just two minutes later through a brilliant finish by Aguero. Marcos Rojo drove forward into space on the edge of the area before firing in a miscued shot which fell to the feet of Aguero. The Manchester City star spun on a sixpence before hitting a world-class strike into the top corner with his left boot.

Nonetheless, the game came to life four minutes later as the Nordic nation showed remarkable guts to hit back. Following a mad scramble in the penalty area, the ball dropped to Gylfi Sigurdsson, who struck a low driven effort that fell to a grateful Finnbogason and he lashed home the rebound from close range.

Just before the break, there were two notable moments at either end. In the 44th minute Eduardo Salvio broke in the box down the right inside channel before seeing his low cross deflected out by the hand of Ragnar Sigurdsson. Nothing came of it though, after an instant VAR review.

On the stroke of half-time, Argentina were indebted to Caballero, who kept out Sigurdsson’s low drive with a one-handed stop.

After the interval, the chances largely dried up despite the South Americans laying siege to the Iceland goal. The pressure nearly paid dividends in the 62nd minute.

Messi played a superb curling ball into the area and Hordur Magnusson was correctly adjudged to have brought down Maximiliano Meza. Sensationally, Halldorsson then saved the forward’s penalty to his right-hand side.

In the closing stages the pace become more intense without many opportunities being created. After the 80th minute, a surging attack from the Argentines saw Messi curl an effort just wide with his left foot.

Soon thereafter Halldorsson produced a magnificent sprawling save to his left to deny a cross-shot from substitute Cristian Pavon. Javier Mascherano was also denied by the keeper before Messi hit a free-kick into the wall at the death.

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