Argentina and Iceland squared off in the opening match of Group D. The final result of the match was truly a shocker as somehow Iceland managed to hold off Argentina and battle them to a 1-1 draw. This is the first time Argentina has failed to win their World Cup opening game since they lost to Cameroon in 1990 as the defending champions. For Iceland, this is certainly a hard-fought victory. However, for Argentina, it’s a heartbreaking loss.
Five things from this match:
1. Argentina was not ready: Argentina is clearly favored to win this group, but they are clearly NOT the team they were four years ago. They came into this match unfocused with no useful tactics and no motivation. In other words, Argentina came into this match unprepared.
It’s almost like Argentina felt like they did not need a game plan for Iceland. The results of this match prove once again that there is no such thing as an easy game. The biggest miscue is Argentina’s failure to play as a cohesive unit and take care of business against a team that does not have nearly as much talent and experience as them.
2. Argentina looked lost: Argentina dominated ball possession, but they just could not get anything going. They had a total of 26 shots and was only able to convert one goal. Argentina was able to get some penetration going, but then they would get lost and the momentum would just disappear. Argentina clearly was frustrated the entire game. Even Lionel Messi was failing to take advantage of scoring chances.
3. Argentina underestimated Iceland: Argentina managed to take the lead in the 19th minute courtesy of midfielder Sergio Aguero. However, it took Iceland less than five minutes to score a goal of their own courtesy of Alfred Finnbogason, forcing Argentina back into square one.
After scoring, Argentina was running around the field with ball possession and then Iceland’s brilliant and well-organized defense began to put pressure, allowing Iceland to launch a counterattack. Iceland’s defense was too much for Argentina’s attack to handle and it was able to counter any attack scenario attempted by Argentina. In other words, Iceland was ready for anything and Argentina was unaware of it.
4. Iceland was motivated: Iceland came into this game ready to play. Unlike Argentina, they were focused. They did a good job of not allowing mistakes to affect their team chemistry and mentality. Iceland’s defensive tactics frustrated Argentina’s attack, which raised hopes, as well as motivation. One of Iceland’s objectives was to be able to counter all of Argentina’s moves and wear them out, and it worked.
5. Messi cracked under pressure: In the 63rd minute, Argentina was awarded a penalty. Messi was to attempt to convert, but his penalty kick was blocked by the Icelandic goalkeeper. Messi later said he feels responsible for Argentina’s failure. While despite the fact that Messi’s penalty kick could have been decisive, it should not have come to it.
Argentina should not have been in that predicament, but they allowed themselves to do so. Argentina’s inability to not get the job done as a team put massive pressure on Messi’s shoulders and it came to the point where the pressure was simply too much for him and he cracked under intense weight.
Argentina’s next match is against Croatia next Thursday. Croatia defeated Nigeria 2-0 in their opening match and it is safe to say Croatia’s motivated, focused, and they’re currently devising defense and attack tactics. Argentina should do the same as the time for fun and games are over.
Iceland is taking on Nigeria next Friday. Iceland is looking to keep their momentum alive as well as their motivation. They need to make some adjustments in their attack and defensive tactics and study Nigeria very carefully as they did Argentina. Nigeria may have lost but it’s not over for them yet.