World Cup 2018: Iceland ties mighty Argentina; Lionel Messi misses penalty kick

By Rob Lancaster 16 June 2018 179
World Cup 2018: Iceland ties mighty Argentina; Lionel Messi misses penalty kick

Hannes Thor Halldorsson was the hero Saturday for Iceland as the goalkeeper's save on a penalty kick from Lionel Messi secured his side a 1-1 draw against Argentina.

With Diego Maradona watching on from the stands, Messi failed to convert from the spot in the second half of an eventful Group D opener at Otkrytie Arena in Moscow.

Argentina's Sergio Aguero had put the beaten finalists from four years ago ahead in the 19th minute, scoring with a rising left-footed drive.

Yet Iceland, playing in its first World Cup, refused to melt on the main stage. Alfred Finnbogason capitalized on a weak punch by Argentine goalkeeper Willy Caballero to score his country's first goal in the tournament just four minutes later.

Iceland was indebted to Halldorsson for picking up a point, though, as he kept out Messi's penalty kick shortly after the hour mark.

Argentina will get a chance to refire against Croatia on Thursday in Nizhny. Iceland next plays Friday against Nigeria in Volgograd.

After Cristiano Ronaldo's stunning display for Portugal against Spain in Sochi less than 24 hours earlier, all eyes were on rival Messi in the Russian capital.

The Argentina captain was twice denied by Halldorsson from distance in the first half, but Aguero did find a way to beat the Iceland goalkeeper.

The Manchester City forward seized on teammate Marcos Rojo's wayward shot, controlling the off-target effort inside the penalty area before sending a fierce shot into the net.

Argentina's opener arrived after a glaring miss at the other end, the late-arriving Birkir Bjarnason carelessly pushing a side-footed effort wide of the target when the ball had broken kindly into his path.

However, Iceland was undeterred. Finnbogason was on hand to make history for his country, knocking home a rebound after Caballero had carelessly parried a low cross straight to the Augsburg forward.

With its lead gone in a hurry, Argentina set about trying to find a second goal against determined opponents.

Argentina was gifted the chance to go ahead again when Hordur Magnusson's clumsy push on Maximiliano Meza in the penalty area was spotted by referee Szymon Marciniak without the aid of technology.

Yet Halldorsson guessed correctly, diving to his right to frustrate Messi, meaning the Barcelona star has now missed four of his last seven attempts from the spot for club and country.

The keeper also produced a late save to keep out an attempt from substitute Cristian Pavon as Iceland – which also drew 1-1 with eventual winners Portugal in its Euro 2016 opener – held on to clinch another famous result in its soccer history.

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Rob Lancaster

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