Argentina vs Iceland : Messi subdued by muscular Icelandic defence


Hannes Halldorsson made six saves including a Lionel Messi penalty as Iceland held Argentina to a 1-1 draw in Moscow on Saturday in both sides' World Cup openers.

It means Messi set a new Argentina record for the highest tally of shots without scoring in a FIFA World Cup match since Opta began recording full data in 1966.

Australia lost 6-0 the last time they met France in 2013 but the Socceroos' Dutch coach Bert van Marwijk said self-belief was the key to securing an upset.

Messi has struggled from the spot in recent months, missing five of his past 10 attempts for Barcelona and Argentina.

He briefly retired from worldwide football after the 2016 Copa America and has hinted he will do so permanently if the campaign in Russian Federation ends in failure.

The head of the Palestinian soccer federation, Jibril Rajoub, said that Israel's insistence on holding the match in Jerusalem turned it into a "political tool", and urged Arab and Muslim sports fans to burn photos and T-shirts of star player Lionel Messi if the game went ahead.

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On paper, the South Americans should have little trouble disposing of Iceland, an island nation of 330,000 that is the smallest country to ever reach the finals.

Iceland played its debut on soccer's biggest stage like it belonged alongside the 2014 runners-up. I think we have a clear identity. "It could have given us the lead and that could have changed the match", Messi said.

However, the 58-year-old Argentine, who has been linked with Chelsea, is not like most managers, though, and he shocked the Spartak Stadium's packed media room yesterday by picking up a piece of paper and rattling off the 11 names to face Iceland today (2pm, live on RTÉ2). Playing in their very first tournament, Iceland are not expected to worry Argentina that much, but they are capable of an upset as shown by their defeat of England in Euro 2016. The idea is the same, we have to win the next two games.

As time wore on, Messi wore the look of a beaten man as attack after attack was broken down by Iceland.

Subsequent friendlies have given cause for concern - there was a 4-2 loss to Nigeria in November and a 6-1 humiliation by Spain in March, although Messi did not play in either match.

Two years on, "Les Bleus" arrive in Russian Federation with high hopes of young players such as Kylian Mbappe and Ousmane Dembele and buttressed by more experienced stars such as Manchester United's Paul Pogba and Antoine Griezmann, who announced this week he is staying at Atletico Madrid.