Argentina headed to Russia as many people’s tip to win the World Cup 2018.
This is also a tournament that many are expecting Lionel Messi to shine at too, especially with his rival Cristiano Ronaldo bagging a hat-trick in Portugal’s first game of the competition against Spain. Iceland was the first obstacle in Argentina’s way in Russia, one which you would’ve expected them to overcome with relative ease, but that wasn’t to be the case.
Iceland was looking to frustrate Argentina with a disciplined setup and it looked to be working well until Sergio Aguero struck in the 19th minute with a wonderful finish. Argentina’s lead lasted little over four minutes though as Augsburg striker Alfred Finnbogason hit back in the 23rd minute, silencing the Argentinian support at the Spartak Stadium.
The spotlight then focused on Messi in the 64th minute, as the Barcelona man and one of the greatest footballers of all time, had the chance to restore Argentina’s lead from the penalty spot. You would have banked on him doing just that and getting his tournament off to a goalscoring start, but it was a poorly struck spot kick that Hannes Halldorsson had no problem saving, leaving Argentina and Messi to think of what might have been with the game ending all square at 1-1.
So, the question on many people’s minds is whether or not Argentina and Messi can redeem themselves in this tournament, or whether they could be facing the humiliation of an early exit. Well, first of all, you would feel that Argentina are in a group where if you take quality into consideration they’re the best. While they didn’t show it as much as they should have against Iceland they have more than enough to win their remaining fixtures.
Croatia are next up for Argentina on Thursday and while they sit top of Group D as things stand, they made extremely hard work of beating Nigeria in their opening fixture, who were well below par. You’d expect Argentina to go out and make amends against Croatia and in many respects, Messi will aim to do the same. You never really expect someone of his ability to miss from the spot, but that moment shouldn’t define his tournament and getting amongst the goals in the remaining group games will be a boost.
Cristiano Ronaldo could also be the driving force behind an upturn in Messi’s form in Russia. The two have been rivals for a number of years when it comes to goals and personal accolades, with the Portuguese superstar managing to bag a hat-trick in his side’s 3-3 draw with Spain in their opening game. People will now expect Messi to respond, and if he does, it’s likely they will lock horns once again but this time on the world stage. While Argentina and Messi should be disappointed after their 1-1 draw with Iceland, there is still all to play for.