World Cup’s tiniest nation keeps Messi at bay

On paper, few matches in World Cup history will have been more of a mismatch than Argentina against Iceland.

The two-time champions, producers of some of the best players to ever grace the game, against the debutantes and smallest nation to ever qualify for the tournament.

For context, the population of the Buenos Aires province, Argentina’s capital, is 45 times bigger than that of Iceland’s entire population.

Not that you’d have noticed — any notion that the tiny island nation would be overawed by the occasion and their opponents was quickly dispelled, as they went toe-to-toe with Argentina from the first whistle.
Moments after Nicolás Tagliafico’s stooping header flashed inches wide of the post, one long ball over the top — in an instant exposing Argentina’s frailties — set Alfred Finnbogason free, but the forward couldn’t keep his volley down.
Argentina were then almost the masters of their own downfall, gifting Iceland the ball inside their own box in an attempt to play out from the back.

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The ball eventually fell to Birkir Bjarnason, scorer of Iceland’s first ever goal in a major tournament two years ago in France, but the midfielder somehow skewed the ball wide with the goal gaping.
It wasn’t long before Lionel Messi came to the fore, using his customary shuffle inside and left-foot shot to test Hannes Thor Halldorsson in the Iceland goal.

But it was Sergio Aguero, previously without a World Cup goal in his eight appearances, who breathed life into Argentina’s campaign.

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