Argentina’s World Cup opening fixture ended in disappointment as they could only manage a draw against debutants Iceland on Saturday.
Lionel Messi will no doubt dominate headlines following his missed penalty that could have given his side the lead.
Sergio Aguero opened the scoring in the 19th minute but his effort was cancelled out by Alfred Finnbogason within five minutes.
Here’s a look at the tactical battle between managers Jorge Sampaoli and Heimir Hallgrimsson.
Goals – 1
Shots – 25
Possession – 78%
Tackles – 13
Dribbles – 17
Goals – 1
Shots – 8
Possession – 22%
Tackles – 20
Dribbles – 8
Argentina set up in a 4-4-2 formation with Sergio Aguero partnering Messi up front. The Barcelona star was afforded a free role in the final third and tried to pull the strings in attack. Sampaoli’s side unsurprisingly dominated possession with Javier Mascherano in particular recycling possession well but they did lack creativity and penetration through the middle.
La Albiceleste have consistently struggled in their attempts to play out from the back though and saw that ploy backfire yet again as Iceland pounced on a familiar mistake.
There isn’t much to dissect when you analyse Iceland’s strategy under Hallgrimsson. Operating in a 5-4-1 formation, you more or less get what you expect from them. They sit deep, are well organised and defend for their lives.
However, sitting too deep up to a point that you’re forcing your keeper back onto his own line can be a concern and Iceland did well not to fall into that trap. That part is just as tricky as retaining a threat going forward as well which the underdogs did and with only 22 per cent of the ball as well.
TACTICAL TALKING POINTS
Sampaoli – Too much asked of Messi
Sampaoli may have afforded Messi the luxury of a free role, but it often looked more like a burden. Virtually every attack went through him and he regularly dropped far too deep to get on the ball. Even when he did manage to find space and drive into the final third, there was little to work with.
A number of one-twos on the edge of the area looked promising but Iceland were alert to that threat and coped with it well. Ever Banega’s introduction for Lucas Biglia did help speed things up for Argentina and it was the Sevilla midfielder who created the opportunity from which Messi earned the penalty he’ll now probably wish he hadn’t.
Hallrgimsson – Sigurdsson’s role
While Messi was overburdened by his central role in Argentina’s set-up, Gylfi Sigurdsson thrived. He dropped into the flat midfield four without the ball but was the first to break forward at every opportunity. He supported Alfred Finnbogason well and it was his drilled ball across the six-yard box that eventually saw the striker score.
Despite largely coming to life only in the final third, Sigurdsson had more touches (54) than any other Iceland player and threatened the goal as well with a couple of dangerous strikes.
Should’ve acted to force the issue earlier on. Argentina had a lot of meaningless possession for much of the encounter. While Angel Di Maria was below par, bringing on Cristian Pavon in his stead late on was questionable as it forced Argentina to play even narrower when Iceland needed to be stretched.
Rating – 5/10
His team was will-drilled and showed great discipline. Hours on the training ground and a singular focus came to the fore but it must be said that Argentina didn’t throw any curve balls their way.
Rating – 6/10
The South American supremos were ahead early on when Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero swiveled and rifled a rocket into the top corner, but the lead didn’t last long as Iceland’s Alfred Finnbogason achieved iconic status as the scorer of their maiden World Cup goal.
The mercurial Messi had the chance to give his side a 2-1 advantage but tamely struck a 64th minute penalty which goalkeeper Hannes Halldorsson palmed away.
Here we rate the Iceland players:
Hannes Halldorsson – 9:
Middle name is Thor and he had a thunderous day between the Iceland sticks, palming away Messi’s tame spot-kick and getting a fine hand to Pavon’s teasing effort.
Birkir Saevarsson – 8:
The fact he plays in his homeland and was up against Angel Di Maria may have filled him with dread. Had a busy day but coped manfully.
Kari Arnason – 7:
It’s helpful for Iceland that their two centre-backs are beyond 30 and vastly experienced. He and colleague Sigurdsson leaned on one another.
Ragnar Sigurdsson – 8:
In the face of a dangerous attacking threat, Iceland needed composure at the back. Led his side like a warrior, typified by a brilliant sliding block to deny Banega.
Hordur Magnusson – 8:
Survived a first-half handball appeal but not a second, for a clumsy foul on Aguero. Was otherwise excellent. Forced the save from Caballero that led to the equaliser.
Johann Berg Gudmundsson – 6:
Gave his all for the cause and only left the field when injury forced him to do so just after the hour mark.
Aron Gunnarsson – 6:
Many may have worried about his stamina dealing with a dangerous Argentina attack, but stood up to the task well.
Emil Hallfredsson – 6:
A fearsome sight with the strking bald head. Kept his head in a focused and calm performance.
Birkir Bjarnason – 7:
Sports the flowing locks of a Norse god and flowed forward at every opportunity as well as being focused, linking well with Sigurdsson.
Gylfi Sigurdsson – 7:
The creative spark for a side lacking much of it. Worked well with Bjarnason as Iceland perhaps saw more of the Argentina half than they thought they would.
Alfred Finnbogason – 8:
Enjoyed the distinction of netting Iceland’s first goal at a World Cup, a moment he’ll not soon forget. Worked tirelessly.
Rurik Gislason – 6:
Replaced the injured Gudmundsson and slotted straight in as a cog in the industrious Iceland machine.
Ari Skulason – 6:
Replaced the tiring captain as the ranks were replenished.
Bjorn Sigurdsson N/A:
Late legs for a tiring Iceland that had worked so hard.
Despite a howler right up there with Lorus Karius’ best, Spain and Manchester United keeper David de Gea has brushed off his mistake in the clash with Portugal at the World Cup on Friday that gifted a second goal to Cristiano Ronaldo.
“I was late to put my knee down and the ball was screwed up,” said the 27-year-old.
“I’m calm. It’s a mistake that can happen, It was a difficult ball, I’ll keep training and try to do things right. I haven’t killed anyone.
“Football is like that, things can happen. They’re mistakes, those who put the gloves on and go out on the field know how difficult it is.”
Madrid-born De Gea then put in an advance strike against any criticism his error might bring him, while seeming to attack Spain’s own fans.
No se trata de no equivocarse,— Sergio Ramos (@SergioRamos) June 16, 2018
se trata de no rendirse nunca.
It's not about never failing,
it's about never giving up.
En mi equipo siempre, @D_DeGea
Always on my team.
¡Seguimos! / Let's keep it up.#VamosEspaña 🇪🇸 pic.twitter.com/SNizXiBW1Y
“I like that there are criticisms,” said De Gea cryptically.
“Diego Costa has also been criticised and he scored two goals.
“I would have liked that they defend me more in a difficult moment in my life, with an issue from outside the game.
“I don’t see much that they support me from Spain. My own criticism is bad enough.
“Football is like this, if you make a mistake you’re very bad, if you play well you’re very good. You have to get up.”
De Gea then vowed to keep working and be ready for Spain’s next match, now a must win fixture against Iran on Wednesday.
“I’ll keep training and doing things well,” he stated, “we have an important game against Iran and if we win it will be an important step to qualification.”
“In the end we’ve drawn, not lost, the reaction was great. There it is, it’s happened.
“I count on the support of the coach and my colleagues to continue. The coach is with me, with all of the team,
“We had a good game, I’m happy with the team’s reaction, I think we deserved more.”
Spain’s new coach Fernando Hierro has other goal-keeping options in his squad with Napoli veteran Pepe Reina and youngster Athletic Bilbao youngster Kepa Arrizabalaga.
➡️Friday: Ronaldo scores a hat-trick against the best goalkeeper in the world - David De Gea 👏— BlameFootball (@blamefootball) June 16, 2018
➡️Saturday: Messi misses from 12 yards against a 34-year-old film director - Hannes Þór Halldórsson 😳 pic.twitter.com/rMnIVHZTky
De Gea did have one supporter – Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho who is currently in Russia as a commentator who leapt to his defence.
“It’s my boy. It hurts me to say it, but he knows. He knows it’s a bad mistake,” said the former Chelsea boss.
“It’s a mistake that he doesn’t make with us, with United. He was our Player of the Season, fantastic performances. But that happens to the best.
“The good thing with the best is that in the next match he’ll be there, not afraid. Confident to go and ready to help the team. It is a goal with David’s face.”
De Gea will be out to prove Mourinho’s words accurate against Iran on Wednesday in Spain’s next outing.