Argentina and Iceland played out their first-ever encounter at the Otkrytie Stadium in their Group D opener at the 2018 World Cup and it would end up in an entertaining 1-1 draw.

Things got underway with quite a bit of zip as Iceland surprisingly responded to Argentina's opening forays in the early going.


Lionel Messi's eighth minute free-kick left hearts in mouths as Nicolas Tagliafico got a glancing header that flashed the ball across the face of the goal, but the Icelandic contingent nearly opened the scoring just a minute later, capitalising on a goalkeeping mess by Willy Caballero to get Birkir Bjarnason a shot in the box that ultimately spewed wide.

As expected, though, the South American side would take the lead through Manchester City's Sergio Aguero, who nearly put a bigger hole in the back of the net with a powerful shot in the 20th minute. The striker, who hadn't played in two and a half months, latched onto Marcos Rojo's questionable attempt at a shot with his back to goal, wriggled away from his marker and smashed home with his left foot to give La Albiceleste the lead.

The goal marked Aguero's very first on the World Cup stage, but Argentina's joy was short-lived as Alfred Finnbogason struck four minutes later to bring Iceland level after Caballero parried Gylfi Sigurdsson's cross in his direction. The Augsburg forward wasted no time sweeping the ball into the back of the net to hand Strakarnir Okkar yet another memorable moment, following their Euro 16 exploits, as well as their maiden goal in their first World Cup.

Jorge Sampaoli's men had dominated possession from the first whistle, yet Iceland managed to keep them on their toes, looking keen to score with every sniff.

A very exciting first half would end with the sides heading into the tunnel tied 1-1. But Heimir Hallgrimsson should have been the happier of the two managers as his side's refusal to lie down must have left him encouraged.


Both teams emerged from halftime unchanged and the Argentinians began the second half with a seemingly different approach, employing a slow and deliberate attack as they looked to take their time and find gaps in the defence.

Iceland's back line held up very well, though, and their marking of Messi was indeed impressive - up until the 63rd minute when he hit an aerial ball to Aguero in the box. The City man found himself bundled over by Magnusson, winning a penalty, which Messi would step up to take.

Hannes Halldorsson, the Iceland keeper, proved heroic, however, diving to his right to make a telling save that kept scores level.

Sampaoli's men cranked it up beading into the 80th and had another shout for a penalty as substitute Cristian Pavon - sent on in place of Angel di Maria - went down in the Iceland box, but the ref was having none of it and didn't even consider VAR.

Messi, desperate to atone for his spot-kick failure, rifled a shot from just atop the edge of the box, presumably aiming for the top-left corner, but the ball zinged just wide.

The Argentina boss took Maximiliano Meza off to bring Gonzalo Higuain on with six minutes left to go. Iceland, meanwhile, were kept back in their own area as the South Americans rained long shots goalwards.

They held on valiantly, though, heading into the prescribed five stoppage time minutes with absolute conviction. 

Messi would be handed the final opportunity after a foul was won from around 30 yards from goal. His free-kick was hit straight into the Iceland wall, with the referee bringing the match to an end seconds after as the Thunderclap underdogs secured an important draw.

Argentina v Iceland: Group D - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia

Starting Lineups

Argentina: Caballero, Tagliafico, Mascherano, Marcos Rojo, Otamendi, Salvio, Biglia, Di Maria, Meza, Messi, Aguero.

Iceland: Halldorsson, Sevarsson, R. Sigurdsson, Arnason, Magnusson, J. Gudmundsson, Bjarnason, G. Sigurdsson, Gunnarsson, Hallfredsson, Finnbogason.