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Lionel Messi misses penalty as Iceland earn first World Cup point  | Coastweek

MOSCOW Russia (Xinhua) -- Nicolas Tagliafico (bottom) of Argentina competes for the ball during a group D match between Argentina and Iceland at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Moscow, Russia, June 16, 2018. XINHUA PHOTO - WANG YUGUO

Lionel Messi misses penalty as Iceland earn first World Cup point

By Sportswriter Michael Place MOSCOW (Xinhua) -- Argentina’s Lionel Messi missed a second-half penalty as Iceland claimed their first ever World Cup point in a 1-1 draw here on Saturday.

Messi had a weak 64th-minute shot easily saved by Iceland goalkeeper Hannes Halldorrson after Sergio Aguero of Argentina and Alfred Finnbogason of Iceland struck first half goals at the Spartak Stadium.

It was an encouraging display for Heimir Hallgrimsson’s men, who showed surprising attacking intent early before weathering an Argentina onslaught in the second half.

Argentina, meanwhile, will be rueing a raft of missed opportunities, especially in the final half hour.

Their next match against Croatia on June 21 is suddenly a must-win affair as the two-time champions seek to avoid an early tournament exit.

Albicelste coach Jorge Sampaoli began the match with Aguero just in front of Messi in attack, leaving Gonzalo Higuain on the bench.

The South Americans threatened in the opening minutes with two Messi free-kicks that floated perilously into the penalty area.

But Iceland soon settled and Birkir Bjarnason should have done better when he flayed a shot wide from 12 yards after a counter-attack.

As expected, Messi was heavily marked by Iceland’s defence and the Barcelona forward was often forced deep to get involved.

He twice had long-range efforts punched clear by Halldorrson.

Argentina took the lead when Aguero deftly controlled a bullet pass from Marcos Rojo before turning and unleashing a wicked left-footed shot that barely allowed Halldorrson to react as it cannoned into the top left corner.

The equalizer came four minutes later after Gylfi Sigurdsson’s rasping effort forced a lunging save from Caballero.

The rebound fell to Finnbogason, who hammered in from close range.

Despite Argentina’s control of possession, Iceland looked more likely to score.

Sigurdsson twice had chances to give his side the lead just before halftime: first with a 15-yard strike that again tested Caballero and then by flashing a volley narrowly wide.

Sevilla midfielder Ever Banega replaced Lucas Biglia in the 54th minute and the change made an immediate impact as Iceland were pushed deeper.

Messi also became more influential.

It was his inviting cross into the area that led a disorientated Hordur Magnusson to clatter into Maximiliano Meza.

Polish referee Szymon Marciniak pointed to the spot and the scene seemed set for another Messi rescue story for his country.

But the five-time Ballon d’Or winner appeared to hesitate before prodding a tame spot-kick that was parried away by Halldorsson.

Messi had further chances to score as Argentina pressed relentlessly in the final minutes.

The No. 10 sent a free-kick over the bar and lashed long range attempts with either foot just wide of the target.
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EARLIER REPORTS:

Coach Heimir Hallgrimsson: great success for Iceland

MOSCOW Russia (Xinhua) -- Iceland coach Heimir Hallgrimsson spoke highly of his team’s 1-1 draw with Argentina here on Saturday in Iceland’s first-ever World Cup match.

"This is a great success for Iceland," Hallgrimsson said at the post-match press conference, adding that they got one point and one goal in their first appearance in the World Cup.

"It was a big game and it is very difficult to defend a team like Argentina for 90 minutes," he noted, adding:

"But we did it brilliantly, so it’s a fantastic result for us."

"During the match, we could not give them too much space, knowing the talent they have.

"But although they had some good opportunities, so did we.

"We wanted to use the space behind them more than we did - but it’s difficult when you don’t have the ball," he said.

Commenting on Argentina’s performance, Hallgrimsson said:

"I firmly believe that Argentina will go far in this World Cup."
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Aguero and Finnbogason strike as Argentina and Iceland draw level

MOSCOW Russia (Xinhua) -- Sergio Aguero and Alfred Finnbogason scored first half goals as Argentina and Iceland went into halftime 1-1 in their World Cup Group D clash at Spartak Stadium on Saturday.

Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli began the match with Sergio Aguero just in front Lionel Messi in attack, leaving Gonzalo Higuain on the bench.

The Albieleste threatened in the opening minutes with two Messi free-kicks that floated perilously into the penalty area.

But Iceland soon settled and Birkir Bjarnason should have done better when he flayed a shot wide from 12 yards after a counter-attack.

As expected, Messi was heavily marked by Iceland’s defence and the Barcelona forward was often forced deep to get involved.

He twice had long-range efforts punched clear by Iceland keeper Hannes Halldorrson.

Argentina took the lead in the 19th minute when Aguero deftly controlled a bullet pass from Marcos Rojo before turning and unleashing a wicked left-footed shot that barely allowed Halldorrson to react as it cannoned into the top left corner.

The equalizer came four minutes later after Gylfi Sigurdsson’s shot forced a lunging save from Caballero and fell into the path of Finnbogason, who hammered in the rebound.

Despite Argentina’s control of possession, Iceland looked most likely to score.

Sigurdsson twice had chances to give his side the lead just before halftime: first with a 15-yard strike that drew another fine save from Caballero and then by flashing a volley narrowly wide.

Two-time champions Argentina are participating in their 17th World Cup while Iceland are taking part for the first time.

With a population of less than 350,000, the Nordic nation is the smallest ever to qualify for football’s biggest tournament.
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Iceland goalkeeper benefits from homework on Mess

MOSCOW Russia (Xinhua) -- Iceland goalkeeper Hannes Thor Halldorsson, who tipped out Lionel Messi’s penalty kick to guarantee a 1-1 finish in Iceland’s first-ever World Cup match here on Saturday, said that he is quite familiar with Messi’s style of play, the penalties in particular.

"I did a lot of homework, watching a lot of penalties from Messi," Halldorsson said after the game.

"And I also looked back at some of the penalties I had faced and what he might be expecting from me.

"I had a good feeling he would put it that way," Halldorsson added.

"It’s a dream come true for me to have saved that penalty, especially as it helped us gain a point that could be very important for us in trying to qualify from this group," he noted.

Iceland will face Nigeria in their second Group D match in Volgograd on June 22.
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Messi: ‘It’s time to be calm and think about what’s ahead’

By Michael Place MOSCOW Russia (Xinhua) -- Argentina must not dwell on their 1-1 draw against World Cup debutants Iceland on Saturday and begin preparing now for their next match against Croatia, according to Lionel Messi.

Argentina had 72% of possession and took 26 shots compared to Iceland’s nine in their opening World Cup Group D fixture at Spartak stadium.

But the Albiceleste’s dominance was not reflected on the scoresheet as Iceland defended resolutely, often with all 10 outfield players behind the ball.

"We are disappointed by not starting the tournament with three points," Messi told reporters after the match.

"But we have to be calm and think about what is ahead."

"I think we deserved to win the game.

"They practically did nothing but defend and kick long balls.

"It is tough for everybody when teams close up like that and offer little space.

"Maybe at times we played with anxiety."

Messi endured a frustrating afternoon and had a 64th-minute penalty attempt saved by goalkeeper Hannes Halldorsson.

Saturday’s result means Argentina risk being eliminated from football’s showpiece tournament if they lose their next match against Croatia on June 21.

The two-time world champions will play their final Group D match against Nigeria five days later.

"We really felt that it was a complicated group, that it was going to be a difficult game," Messi said.

"Physically they [Iceland] are very strong.

"Croatia are a great team and Nigeria are also good.

"Now we have to think about what’s coming, rest, prepare well and not think about this game anymore."

Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli admitted his team had no answer to Iceland’s defence-minded strategy.

"The feeling when you go out to win and don’t succeed is one of frustration," he said. "We came here in a positive frame of mind.

"We decided to go out and play to win against a team that is defensively very organized and dense.

"That stopped us from creating more chances than we did.

"This [World Cup] has just begun.

"We will learn from what happened and we have to make sure that we win the next match.
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Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli: Messi in very uncomfortable situation

MOSCOW Russia (Xinhua) -- Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli admitted here on Saturday that Lionel Messi was in a very uncomfortable situation in the first World Cup game against Iceland.

World Cup debutants Iceland stunned the world in their first-ever World Cup game, tied hot favorites Argentina 1-1.

Sampaoli told reporters after the match, "Messi was in a very uncomfortable situation because Iceland played very defensively."

"Messi couldn’t find the space he needs," he added.

Talking about the penalty kick done by Messi but denied by Iceland goalkeeper Hannes Halldorsson, Sampaoli said:

"It was a clear opportunity and we should have won, but the result was a frustration."

"However, we still believe in ourselves and we know that we have all the tools to succeed, and we will focus on the next match," he noted.

Argentina will take on Croatia in their Group D second match in Nizhny Novgorod on June 21.

             

 

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