World Cup 2018, Argentina vs Iceland - Post Match analysis
The first Group D encounter between Argentina and Iceland played at Spartak stadium, Moscow had all the drama as debutants Iceland held La Albiceleste to a 1-1 draw. Argentina took the lead in the 19th minute through a Sergio Aguero goal but just 4 minutes later Iceland canceled it out as Alfreð Finnbogason scored his nation's maiden World Cup goal.
Argentina enjoyed majority of possession throughout the game but were unable to break Iceland's strong defensive lineup. Iceland made several counter attacks and threatened the South Americans at times.
It wasn't the best of starts for Argentine talisman Lionel Messi as he failed to score a penalty won by Aguero in the second half. Argentina had a total of 7 shots on target but just couldn't capitalize on them.
Iceland's Strong defensive lineup
Iceland came into this match with a very defensive mindset as in the entire 90 minutes they had a possession of 22% and just 2 shots on target. The Icelandic defense was strong in blocking the shots and clearing the ball out of danger. Barcelona star Messi was being heavily covered by 2-3 Icelandic defenders at all times and wasn't able to find any spaces to showcase his magic.
The debutants had a defensive formation of 4-4-1-1 and were concentrated into their own half the entire game. Such a tight defensive formation paid off for them as Argentina were unable to do anything worthwhile in the final third.
Iceland technically played with no midfield as they kept on clearing the ball from their half into Argentina's defensive third, occasionally finding Gylfi Sigurdsson and Finnbogason. The Icelandic defenders were very disciplined as they kept on containing Argentina's frequent attacks without committing any significant errors.
The defense also showed aerial strength as several Argentine long crosses into the box were successfully cleared out. The attacks kept coming but Iceland's determination to take something from their opening World Cup game was too strong to be broken by the Argentine offense.
Messi's Penalty woes continue
Lionel Messi had a disappointing start to what could be his final World Cup campaign as he missed from the spot and failed to give his side the lead in second half. After his career rival Cristiano Ronaldo inspired his side to a 3-3 draw against Spain with a hat-trick yesterday, similar fireworks were expected of Messi but sadly he failed to deliver for his team this afternoon in Moscow.
In the 63rd minute of the game, Argentine striker Sergio Aguero was pushed by Iceland defender Magnusson in the box while chasing a long ball by Messi. The referee immediately pointed to the spot and Argentina had the chance to restore their lead.
Messi took a weak shot which was easily saved by Iceland goalkeeper Halldorsson and the rebound was successfully cleared by the Icelandic defense, it seemed as if the ghosts of Copa America Centenario 2016 were back.
In the remaining time, Messi kept on initiating attacks but was unable to take all 3 points for his side.
Group D scenario
The other game of Group D between Croatia and Nigeria ended in a 2-0 victory for the Croatians which means Argentina have to win their remaining two fixtures in order to make it to the knock-out stage.
Argentina now plays their second match against Croatia on Thursday at Nizhny Novgorod Stadium while Iceland will face Nigeria on Friday at Volgograd arena and it will be interesting to see how La albiceleste pick themselves up after such a disappointing start.