Messi flops as Iceland draw with Argentina

Shaun Botteril

Lionel Messi missed a penalty as Argentina were held to a 1-1 draw by a plucky Iceland side in Group D.

Argentina will launch another attempt at the World Cup with a date against Iceland in their Group D opener on Saturday - Here are the confirmed line up for both sides.

In the 64th minute, a delicate Messi chip was destined for Maxi Meza but Birkir Saevarsson brought Meza down.

However, the Barcelona forward saw his effort smartly saved by Iceland goalkeeper Hannes Halldorsson, which culminated in a share of the spoils come the final whistle in Moscow.

Argentina went on to stamp their authority on the game, dominating time on the ball and eventually going ahead thanks to Sergio Aguero, who struck home his first World Cup goal with a classy pirouette inside his penalty area. However, Iceland showed exactly the same commitment and self-belief as when they stunned the world with their run to the quarterfinals of the European Championship two years ago and hit back four minutes later through Alfred Finnbogason. The FIFA ambassador was puffing a large cigar despite smoking being banned in all World Cup venues.

Messi was denied by Hannes Thor Halldorsson when he took a second-half spot-kick - and he recorded 11 shots in the game without beating Iceland's goalkeeper. They were happy to concede possession, sit back and block off Messi and the runners off the ball. "So we are a nightmare to play against and we can beat anybody when we have our day".

Then Iceland's defence kicked in, keeping nearly the entire team behind the ball and swarming the Argentina attackers, especially Lionel Messi.

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While Hallgrimsson got his approach spot on, the same can not be said for his Argentina counterpart Jorge Sampaoli, whose pre-match assertion that everything would be centred around Lionel Messi seemed to upset the balance of his side.

"He's a player who is very skilled so I don't think he's under pressure, he shouldn't be under pressure, he is a player who makes people very happy with his game". They would have opened a little more and we could have found more spaces.

"There are two games left, Croatia vs Nigeria is yet to be played, this has just begun and it's long", Messi reflected.

Coach Heimir Hallgrimsson promised that more is to come. Ronaldo the previous night had scored a penalty; Messi missed his.

Iceland's next opponents are Nigeria in Volgograd on Friday.

The five-time Ballon d'Or victor has even hinted he could retire from global football after the tournament, saying last week that "it will depend on how far we go".

Iceland captain Aron Gunnarsson said the weight of expectation going into the match was squarely on Argentina, leaving his team comparatively stress-free.

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