The action at Moscow’s Spartak Stadium got off to a thrilling start with the match between FIFA World Cup™ veterans Argentina and debutants Iceland. Despite stamping their authority on the game’s opening stages, La Albiceleste struggled to find space against a deep-lying Icelandic defence. The breakthrough came in the 19th minute when Sergio Aguero fired the ball home on the turn to give Argentina a 1-0 lead. The South Americans’ joy was short-lived, however, as Alfred Finnbogason made history by scoring his country’s first-ever World Cup goal just four minutes later.
Lionel Messi had the biggest opportunity to take the lead in the second half, but his penalty was saved by Iceland goalkeeper Hannes Halldorsson. Although Argentina continued to press for a goal, they were repeatedly denied by the Nordic side’s staunch defensive efforts.
While Argentina proved unable to find a win in their opening match, showed some defensive weaknesses and even missed a penalty, this match also provided plenty of encouragement. The team that took to the pitch were spirited with a clear game plan, despite failing to unlock an extremely compact Iceland defence.
Iceland’s plan worked to perfection. The tournament newcomers know the kind of football they need to play to achieve their objectives. They have to be compact and unrelenting. The Icelandic players will not get results by playing Argentina’s brand of attacking football. Ahead of the game, Hallgrimsson urged his players not to give Messi any space, and they did this extremely effectively under captain Aron Gunnarsson’s leadership.
Hannes Halldorsson palmed Lionel Messi’s penalty clear in the 64th minute to secure his team an impressive 1-1 draw against favourites Argentina.
The last Argentina player to wear the No19 shirt at a World Cup before Aguero was Messi on his tournament debut against Serbia and Montenegro in 2006.
What’s next? Argentina - Croatia – Group D, 21 June, Nizhny Novgorod Nigeria - Iceland – Group D, 22 June, Volgograd