On paper, it seemed like a mismatch.
After all, it’s 2 time champions Argentina that we’re talking about. And they happen to have the best player on the planet. They face a side that has a population of roughly 300k, making them the smallest nation to compete at the tournament.
Despite the contrast in pedigree, the Vikings refused to be cowed and rightfully lived up to their nickname. Though Argentina struck first through Aguero, Finnbogason equalized soon after and in the process netted Iceland’s first ever World Cup goal.
Although the Argentinians had several chances, including a certain penalty, they just couldn’t find a way past Halldorsson. The men in white stood tall, and were rewarded with a historic point. Cue the celebrations from the Icelanders.
Amid the action, here’s what we can learn from both sides.
Messi Is Human After All
Tasked with leading his nation to glory, the 5-time Ballon d’Or winner couldn’t find a way past Iceland. Everytime he had the ball, he was instantly swarmed by 3 opponents. Though he managed to dribble his way out on a couple of occassions, there was no end product.
Then came the penalty.
With the score at 1-1, Argentina’s captain had the golden opportunity to put his side in the lead. Many expected him to score, as he has converted all attempts from the spot in every international tournament.
After the game, Messi conceded that missing the penalty “hurts” him. Who wouldn’t? When Argentina needed their hero, he failed miserably and he himself knows it. Speaking of heroes…
Halldorsson The Hero
Just give this man a trophy.
All afternoon, Halldorsson was throwing his body all over the goal mouth. Although he could do nothing to stop Aguero, the part-time film director wasn’t about to let anything get past him. His game changing penalty save against Messi gave the Icelanders a massive boost in confidence, while sapping their opponents off it. Equally impressive was his quick reactions to palm away Pavon’s deflected cross.
In the end, Halldorsson finished the game with 6 saves. Both Messi and Ronaldo took 11 shots against him, but none scored. Iceland’s fairytale run continues, and they have their keeper to thank for.
The Controversy Of Parking The Bus
Anyone who watched the Euros knew how Iceland would set up. Gritty, defensive play were the hallmarks of their side. In the end, that playstyle earned them their first ever World Cup point.
While it’s worth celebrating their achievement, should their tactics be equally praised? After all, these are the things we Liverpool fans have grown sick of seeing throughout the season.
To answer that particular question, yes. Those tactics got them far in the Euros, so why not repeat the trick? And as the underdogs, there’s no shame in parking the bus against superior opposition. That’s why many football fans were feeling happy for Iceland, even though they didn’t play particularly attractive football.
However, if the same were to be repeated by the likes of Germany, I bet the coach would receive plenty of stick. It makes no sense for a quality side to defend so deep when they have the attacking talent.
The bottom line is there’s a place and time for such tactics. Some days, such playstyle would be lauded. On other days, it just lands you in trouble (I’m looking at you Mourinho). Hence, I’m sure most will continue to support the tiny European nation for the remainder of the tournament.