Argentina 1-1 Iceland: 5 things we learned

Lionel Messi couldn't inspire his insipid countrymen to an opening win it the World Cup as Iceland's impressive record continues.

REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

As a statue of Spartacus watched sagely outside the ground, Iceland battled to a marvellous 1-1 draw against Lionel Messi’s Argentina. 

The Barcelona man proved the difference here but not as he might have hoped with his missed penalty consigning his country to a solitary point. 

In a game that answers none of the questions surrounding Jorge Sampaoli’s side, here are five things we learned:

  1. 1 Willy left hanging

    REUTERS/Albert Gea

    After first-choice goalkeeper Sergio Romero withdrew from injury, Argentina's biggest dilemma gained renewed focus. 

    None of Franco Armani, Nahuel Guzman or Willy Caballero had covered themselves in glory when given the chance. 

    In the end, Sampaoli plumped for a man who saw precious little action for Chelsea last year. He might live to regret it.

    Caballero was a study of anxiety throughout this fixture, sloppy in possession and palming an easy save into path of Alfred Finnbogason for Iceland's opener. 

    He recovered well to make a decent save from Gylfi Sigurdsson just before halftime but he looked anything but solid.

  2. 2 A first for Aguero

    REUTERS/Albert Gea

    Incredibly, Sergio Aguero scored his first World Cup goal at the Spartak Stadium on Saturday, turning and dispatching a smart left-footed volley into the Iceland net halfway through the opening period. 

    The Manchester City man was arguably his country's most dangerous performer, providing force and verve as Messi was double-teamed by the Iceland defence.

    With Argentina now needing to beat both Nigeria and Croatia to guarantee their place at the top of the group, they will hope that Aguero can be in imperious form going into the remainder of the group stages.

  3. 3 Mascherano breaks new ground

    REUTERS/Albert Gea

    He couldn't get into Alan Pardew's team at West Ham but it's fair to say that Javier Mascherano has overcome the slight. 

    The Hebei Fortune player became his country's all-time appearance holder on Saturday, winning his 144th cap. Not even Javier Zanetti, Daniel Passarella or Diego Maradona can match that tally. 

    But, in truth, the former Barcelona man struggled to influence proceedings, forming half of a lethargic partnership alongside the barely fit Lucas Biglia.

  4. 4 Alfred the Great

    REUTERS/Carl Recine

    Alfred Finnbogason can't help himself but score. 

    After ravaging the Eredivisie with Heerenveen, the Icelandic striker eventually found himself in the Bundesliga with FC Augsburg. 

    He reached double figures in the campaign just past and proved his scoring mettle here again as he showed a predators' instinct to bury Caballero's spillage. 

    The 29-year-old hardly did anything else at the Spartak Stadium; not that his manager will care.

  5. 5 Hannes directs a marvel

    REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

    Hannes Halldorsson is a man of many talents. 

    The former film director recorded a video for his country that was used during their participation at Eurovision six years ago but he has since preferred to focus on saving penalties from the best footballer in history.

    Messi's second-half penalty lacked power, direction and conviction but Halldorsson still had to reach it. 

    Reach it he did, helping his country win a golden point against one of the tournament favourites. Encore! 

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