Hannes Halldorsson used mind games to save Lionel Messi's penalty

Calvin Saunders
June 17, 2018

Penalties - missed and converted - and interventions by the Video Assistant Referee provided some of the main storylines on day three in Russian Federation.

Iceland may be the smallest country to ever qualify for the World Cup, but they proved they can play with the best in the world with a opening draw against Argentina that included a crucial missed penalty kick by Lionel Messi.

As it was, though, Hannes Thor Halldorsson saved Messi's kick, and so Argentina began Russian Federation 2018 with a 1-1 draw against a nation making its World Cup debut. That kick at final whistle told the whole story as Messi left the field dejected. Ronaldo the previous night had scored a penalty; Messi missed his. The Argentine maestro is otherworldly in every facet of his game but somehow manages to be bang average at spot kicks.

"He'll score four tonight, Messi", Neville said.

While Hallgrimsson got his approach spot on, the same can not be said for his Argentina counterpart Jorge Sampaoli, whose pre-match assertion that everything would be centred around Lionel Messi seemed to upset the balance of his side.

Argentina head coach Jorge Sampaoli has admitted that he needs to come up with different team strategies following Saturday's meek 1-1 draw with Iceland at the World Cup.

"I did some homework because I knew this was a situation that could come up".

"We wanted the three points because they would make us calm but we have to keep going. We deserve to be here". Argentina controlled the ball, with Lucas Biglia and Javier Mascherano dictating the pace of the game. It was Aguero's alertness, seizing on a mishit Marcos Rojo shot, pivoting and lashing a shot past Halldorsson, that brought the first goal.

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Does he cite Iceland's defensive play? Yes.

"There's a certain amount of frustration right now", said Sampaoli.

"We tried to work better and create more opportunities, but what can you do?"

The problems, rather, were at the other end of the pitch. A curling effort from the edge of the box just sailed wide of the post and you began to feel it'd be one of those days for Argentina.

In truth, it was not one of Aguero's most influential games, but the chance he took was fashioned out of nothing and he will need to produce more moments of quality like that if Argentina are to have a hope of lifting the trophy for the first time in 32 years.

Australian defender Trent Sainsbury was Herculean in the heart of his side's defence as they fought off wave after wave of French forays before eventually cracking.

Messi was gifted the chance to put Argentina in front for the second time in Moscow.

"If someone is surprised (by that) then, they don't know much about Iceland football". But that couldn't conjure a breakthrough either.

Other reports by MaliBehiribAe

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