Sports

Iceland hold Argentina to 1-1 draw as Messi misses penalty

Kathmandu

Jun 16, 2018-Tiny Iceland made a stunning first-ever World Cup appearance on Saturday when they held 2014 runners-up Argentina to a 1-1 draw in a dramatic match where Lionel Messi blew his chance to win it when he had a penalty saved by Hannes Por Halldorsson.

Sergio Aguero had given the twice world champions the lead after 19 minutes of the Group D match. However, Iceland showed exactly the same commitment and self-belief as when they stunned the soccer world with their run to the quarter-finals of the European Championship two years ago and hit back four minutes later through Alfred Finnbogason.

Argentina, playing in all-black and roared on by the vast majority of the crowd in the Spartak Stadium, eventually took command and delivered wave after wave of attacks in the second half but they actually created few clear chances either side of the poorly-struck 64th-minute penalty by Messi, who had a remarkable 11 shots during the match.

Iceland, by far the smallest country by population to appear at the World Cup, famously beat England in the last 16 of Euro 2016 and again inspired by their “thunderclapping” fans ran tirelessly and fought for everything to write another glowing chapter in their short but glorious major tournament story.

“I hope it is going to prove important to us to reach our goal to qualify,” Halldorsson said of the penalty save.

“I did my homework, I looked at a lot of penalties by Messi, and I also looked at how I had been behaving in previous penalties, so I tried to get into their mindset, how they would be thinking about me.

“I think the Argentinians felt a bit frustrated that they weren’t getting through and it was important we equalized so quickly. I guess our game plan worked almost perfectly.”

Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli said: “We need to find more variety of options going forward. It’s a very competitive group.

“The circumstances around the missed penalty and that led to Leo’s mistake, that’s just another statistic, it’s part of the past... football is like that. We need to be strong as a group, believe in ourselves and know we have all the tools to beat anybody.

Published: 16-06-2018 20:52

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