World football’s greatest underdogs scripted another remarkable chapter in their burgeoning history, this time on the grandest stage of them all.

The team that have become football’s perennial underdogs have done it again. The little Nordic nation of Iceland managed to restrain the footballing giants, Argentina in their first game of the 2018 FUFA World Cup. It was almost taken for granted that the Argentine side led by the mercurial Lionel Messi would make short work of the plucky Icelanders, but the Vikings had other ideas.

Argentina took control of the game by scoring first through Sergio Aguero, but fell conceded just four minutes later when Alfreo Finnbogason latched onto a loose ball to prod home from close range. Although, the South Americans did see most of the ball, ending the game with 78% of the possession, most of it came in harmless areas, with the team being bullied off the ball in the final third.

Watch: Argentina 1-1 Iceland highlights

The defensive pairing of Kari Arnason and Ragnar Sigurdsson performed admirably as they isolated Messi forcing him to drop deep to receive the ball and then crowded him out when he tried to run forward with it. This proved to be a tactical puzzle for the Argentinians, as the presence of Messi in the middle of the park meant that the likes of Lucas Biglia and Javier Mascherano, both players responsible for the transition from defence to attack, were in effect prevented from doing their job.     

The lack of penetration through the middle was compounded by the fact that the0 Icelandic full-backs had nullified the width provided by Angel Di Maria and Maximiliano Meza for Argentina. The Europeans were able to manage the pace of the game and stop any incisive passes from finding their targets. Moreover, the rare lapses in concentration by the Vikings were not exploited by the South Americans.

Argentina lost the midfield battle by failing to get to second balls and come out on top against the far more musculr Icelandic players. Argentina, like many South American teams are famed for their ability to play with the ball on the ground, making them very technical players. By playing long balls into midfield, the Icelandic midfielders won the aerial duels to take the Argentinian flair out of the game.


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In the second half, Iceland’s star man, Gylfi Sigurdsson began to find pockets of space from which to dictate the play. However, Argentina soon regained control and found themselves on the receiving end of a very favourable penalty decision when Meza was taken down in the box. However, Messi’s penalty nightmares came back to haunt him as he missed the fourth of his last seven penalties for club and country.   

Questions about the Argentinian attack are rising with Gonzalo Higuain suffering yet another poor outing in the national jersey, an event that has become far too common for a player of his calibre. Messi was reduced to taking speculative shots from outside the box, that hardly troubled Hannes Halldorsson in the Icelandic goal.

Iceland aren’t a team filled with big names or with players with immense technical ability, but what they are is a team that is greater than the sum of its parts. Each player knew his role and executed it to perfection. They identified Argentina’s weak-links and pounced on them. The stadium was rocking and Vikings were doing what they do best, killing a giant. The team and its fans stayed as one with their signature thunderclap echoing around the arena.

It remains to be seen if Iceland can indeed progress from the group, but if they put in performances with the grit and determination that they showed Vs Argentina, then the sky is the limit for the smallest country to evr make it to a World Cup.