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

Gylffi Sigurdsson

"The first match is always hard".

Wilfredo Caballero, Nahuel Guzman and Franco Armani of Argentina warm up prior to their group D match with Iceland.

If there is one flaw in Lionel Messi's genius, it might be his failure to score penalty kicks in big games. - Alfred Finnbogason's goal was Iceland's first shot on target in the competition.

VAR has been used to varying degrees of success in Serie A and the German Bundesliga, while Federation Internationale de Football Association used the system at the Confederations Cup in Russia a year ago. A curling effort from the edge of the box just sailed wide of the post and you began to feel it'd be one of those days for Argentina.

The small Nordic island nation's team created several first-half chances despite having only 22 percent possession, and pushed back Argentina's waves of second- half attacks. And when presented with a penalty opportunity of his own, he contrived to put it at the ideal height for goalkeeper Hannes Halldorsson to parry away. I had watched a lot of penalties from Messi and I had a good feeling he would go this way'.

Awarded a penalty with the help of VAR, Messi stepped up to take it and it was expected that the Argentina captain will score and put his team ahead.

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But all week Iceland have been telling people their Euro 2016 win over England was not a miracle, their group-topping qualification was not a shock.

Argentina starting XI: Willy Caballero, Eduardo Salvio, Nicolas Otamendi, Marcos Rojo, Nicolas Tagliafico, Lucas Biglia, Javier Mascherano, Maximiliano Meza, Lionel Messi, Angel di Maria, Sergio Aguero.

Add Messi's saved attempt against Iceland today at the World Cup to misses for Argentina in shootouts for the Copa America title, and for Barcelona in a Champions League semifinal match that was later lost.

It's worth noting that nearly two years ago to the day, Iceland took on another world-class striker at Euro 2016 who ended up with a similar stat line to Messi's: 10 shots, one on target, no goals.

"Evaluating Leo's performance is very hard because they played nearly the whole game in their own half", he said.

Argentina fans booed and whistled when the giant stadium screen showed Halldorsson was named man of the match.

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Halldorsson, 34, plays for tiny Danish side Randers and is a part-time film director who oversaw the video for Iceland's 2012 Eurovision Song Contest, but this time he starred.

Group D's other game between Nigeria and Croatia is to be played later on Saturday.

The miss was met with another surge of Argentinian pressure, but they struggled to break down their opponents, who were increasingly happy to play for the draw.

Heimir Hallgrimsson's men managed only just over two passes a minute with 190 in total, only 125 (66 percent) of them finding their target.

"For me, as a goalkeeper from little Iceland and at the first game at a World Cup, to face the best player in the world at a penalty is", - he gave a long pause - "a big moment".

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