Argentina rue Lionel Messi penalty miss as Iceland hold out for dramatic draw

Alistair Tweedale
Lionel Messi misses from the penalty spot - Getty Images Europe

Argentina were left to rue a missed Lionel Messi penalty and a decision not to award them a second penalty, despite the use of VAR at this year's World Cup, as they were held to a 1-1 draw by Iceland in Moscow.

Messi was presented with a chance break Iceland's brave resistance from the spot in the 64th minute after Hordur Magnusson collided with Maximiliano Meza in the box, but he put his effort too close to Hannes Halldorsson, who made an easy save.

Shortly afterwards, substitute Cristian Pavon looked like he had been brought down in the area by Birkir Saevarsson, but the referee waved away the Argentine protests. 

Replays appeared to show a foul by the Iceland right-back, but the Video Assistant Referee decided against overturning the decision. Just a few hours after France had been awarded a penalty after a video review in their win over Australia, Argentina may have reason to feel hard done by.

On they pressed for a winner, but Iceland's tiring players kept them at bay, ensuring Argentina failed to win their opening match at a World Cup for the first time since 1990.

Alfred Finnbogason celebrates after scoring Iceland's equaliser Credit: Getty images

Iceland's fans provided a dramatic backdrop to an enthralling affair, performing the 'viking clap' that haunted England during their defeat to the Scandanavians at Euro 2016.

They were silenced early on when Sergio Aguero fired Argentina in front after 19 minutes when he controlled Marcos Rojo's miscued shot and turned to fire superbly into the top corner to score his first ever World Cup goal. 

The lead lasted just four minutes, though, as sloppy defending allowed Gylfi Sigurdsson space to drill at goal from the right. Chelsea goalkeeper Willy Caballero could only parry and the awaiting Alfred Finnbogason made no mistake from six yards out.

Messi had a frustrating afternoon Credit: Getty images

Argentina had a total of 27 shots to Iceland's eight, with Messi alone attempting 11, but nobody in a blue shirt could find a way through.

The draw left the Barcelona star Messi facing more frustration on the international stage, where he has been unable to match his achievements at club level.

He finished as runner-up at the 2014 World Cup, and has on three occasions lost in the final of the Copa America. His hopes of emulating the watching Diego Maradona rest, in many people's minds, on whether he can win the World Cup.

Argentina - and Messi - will need to see marked improvements if they are to win the tournament this time around.


No joy today Lionel


VAR controversy

Do we have our first VAR concern of the tournament (it was only a matter of time, wasn't it)? Everyone is seemingly in agreement (both on telly and around the Telegraph office) that Pavon was indeed fouled in the box in the 77th minute, and the VAR should have overturned the referee's decision not to award a penalty. Maybe Messi would have missed it anyway...


Truly brilliant stuff

The World Cup is, of course, about seeing the best players on the planet, and we all want to see them at their very best, but who (outside Argentina) can possibly be unhappy that Iceland have managed to stop Leo Messi and co. and pulled off that most improbable of results?

England fans shouldn't be at all surprised, but what a performance it was from the Icelandics. 

Messi missed a penalty with the scores tied at 1-1 Credit: Reuters


FULL TIME - Argentina 1 Iceland 1

Iceland have done it! The smallest nation ever to play at a World Cup have taken a point off Lionel Messi's Argentina. And he looks absolutely crestfallen. 


90 mins +5 - Argentina 1 Iceland 1   

Messi hits the wall.


90 mins +4 - Argentina 1 Iceland 1  

I think this is what they call squeaky bum time. It's nerve-shreddingly tense. Iceland are doing anything legal or illegal to stop Messi. Hallfredsson scythes him down 30 yards from goal, left of centre. Messi is over the free-kick. 


90 mins +2 - Argentina 1 Iceland 1 

Another Messi chance, this time on his right foot and he gets it all wrong. It's skews well off target.


90 mins +1 - Argentina 1 Iceland 1

Iceland are doing brilliantly at slowing the game down, making every free-kick take an age, and giving themselves some time to rest between each wave of attack. Hallfredsson is fouled and 70 seconds is eaten up preparing to boot it as far up the pitch as possible. Textbook.


90 mins - Argentina 1 Iceland 1

Five minutes added on. Five minutes for Iceland to weather the storm.


89 mins - Argentina 1 Iceland 1

Finnbogason is struggling with cramp. He'll be replaced by Sigurdarson.


87 mins - Argentina 1 Iceland 1

What a save from Halldorsson, as Pavon's cross misses everyone and looks like it's going to sneak inside the far post, but the keeper flings himself left to turn it away.

Mascherano then shoots straight at the Halldorsson from 25 yards.


84 mins - Argentina 1 Iceland 1

Another Argentina sub: Higuain replaces Meza. Aguero, Messi and Higuain all on the pitch now. Can Iceland hold out?


82 mins - Argentina 1 Iceland 1

It's getting scrappy - there a lots of tired legs out there, and Argentina break towards goal, losing the ball and winning it back a couple of times. Messi loses it, Meza gets it back. Messi gets a yard on the edge of the box, it opens up for him, is this the moment? He moves onto his left and bends towards goal, the keeper is sprawling right, flings himself towards his post, but the balls sails wide. Iceland survive.


80 mins - Argentina 1 Iceland 1

Messi pulls off the shoulder of the last defenders, pulls the ball down beautifully, but it just won't drop quickly enough for him and an Iceland toe nips in to take it away from him before he can shoot.

Argentina have had more than enough chances, but it remains level in Moscow. 10 minutes left for either team to find a winner.


77 mins - Argentina 1 Iceland 1

Pavon is straight in the action - and he goes down in the box! Huge penalty appeal, the referee says no, but is that only because he has already given them one? Replays show there was definitely a touch, but the VAR isn't even consulted. 

It's a strange one, this. Not clear and obvious enough to overturn, presumably.. Big, big call.


75 mins - Argentina 1 Iceland 1

More pressure from Argentina; they are turning the screw but no breakthrough yet.

Some subs:

Cristian Pavon replaces Angel Di Maria for Argentina.

Ari Skulson comes on for Aron Gunnarsson for Iceland.


70 mins  - Argentina 1 Iceland 1

It's all Argentina at the moment (maybe Iceland are tiring, after all) and the Icelandics just can't get out of their half. A free-kick deep in their own territory provides some respite but they cannot get the ball to stick up top and Argentina come again. Messi tries to work it onto his left on the edge of the box but just can't lose his marker. The ball eventually falls to Banega but his curling effort is easily saved.


67 mins - Argentina 1 Iceland 1

Messi sends a free-kick over the bar, Iceland race up the other end and win a corner, but it comes to nothing. What a game this is.


65 mins - Argentina 1 Iceland 1

Messi has a history of missing penalties in big moments (see Chelsea 2012 Champions League semi-final, for example), and he's done it again here. It was a decent save but a really poor penalty if you're the best player the world has ever seen.

Messi pen

Gislason replaced Gudmundsson sometime during all that drama.



Halldorsson guesses the right way and Messi's penalty is poor! He palms away and it remains 1-1! 


Penalty to Argentina!

Messi lofts the ball into the box and Magnusson is the wrong side of an Argentina forward. He brings him down and the ref points to the spot!


62 mins - Argentina 1 Iceland 1

A sad sight for Iceland (and Burnley) as Joey Gudmundsson slumps to the turf before limping off injured. He will be replaced shortly, but for now Iceland are playing with 10.


59 mins - Argentina 1 Iceland 1

Messi breaks into some space in midfield, and feeds Banega to his left. He winds up from 25 yards but Ragnar Sigurdsson flies in to block heroically. What a challenge. 

It's hard to see how these Icelandic players aren't tiring. The work they are putting in is astonishing.


56 mins - Argentina 1 Iceland 1

Messi is growing into this, and he very nearly manages to shake off the two, three, four, maybe five players snapping at his heels on the edge of the Iceland box. He can't quite do it alone, and feeds Aguero, but he has two men on him quickly and the chance is snuffed out.


53 mins - Argentina 1 Iceland 1

Argentina are probing, patiently passing back and forth, across the pitch, but for now at least, they can't find a way through. Manager Jorge Sampaoli decides he needs a bit more creativity in midfield, bringing Ever Banega, more of a No 10, on for Lucas Biglia. 


49 mins - Argentina 1 Iceland 1

Lovely, lovely move from Iceland, with Gunnarsson winning possession in the middle, before feeding Finngobason, who lays off to Bjarnason. He combines well with Sigurdsson but the cross into the box is too high for Finnbogason.


47 mins - Argentina 1 Iceland 1

Argentina start the second period the way they began the first: on the front foot. Di Maria wins an early corner from which Otamendi heads over.


Here goes with the second half

Argentina get the second half under way.


Maradona is smoking a cigar while he watches


The viking clap has been in full swing

Iceland's fans have been in fine voice Credit: AP


Half time - Argentina 1 Iceland 1

What. A. Half. 

We all knew what Iceland were capable of but still I don't know how many people could have predicted this. They are so far from a limited, defensive side. This is a team who do the basics brilliantly but they are not at all scared to have a go. 

Aguero put Argentina ahead with a great strike, but Iceland hit straight back and have come the closer to taking the lead since. Gripping stuff.


45 mins - Argentina 1 Iceland 1

Iceland line up another long throw, but take it short. Then, Arnason's long, raking ball into the box is taken down outstandingly by Finnbogason. He spots Sigurdsson ghosting into the box, and the Everton man dances between two defenders, opens his body up and caresses an effort towards the far corner, but Caballero gets down to save well.

30 seconds later, he sends a volley wide of the post from the edge of the box.


44 mins - Argentina 1 Iceland 1

Iceland load the box for another long throw. Otamendi clears, and Messi has the chance to counter... but his first touch, incredibly, lets him down.


42 mins - Argentina 1 Iceland 1

Another penalty shout - the Argentina players surround the referee, sure that the ball has hit Magnusson's arm as he slides in. Replays show it did but that would be so, so harsh to give. No penalty. Again.


40 mins - Argentina 1 Iceland 1

A tame penalty shout as Biglia goes down in the box under Ragnar Sigurdsson's challenge, the VAR has a look at it but rightly, no penalty given.


37 mins - Argentina 1 Iceland 1 

Messi demands the ball off Rojo from two yards away, when there really looks like there's no need for a pass, but Messi knows what he's doing - even under pressure he pokes the ball around the defender on his shoulder and looks for it back quickly from Aguero. The City forward's pass is just too far ahead of Messi, though.


34 mins - Argentina 1 Iceland 1

Otamendi has his critics in England but his distribution is up there with the best centre-backs in the game. This time he clips a ball over Iceland left back Magnusson and so, so nearly into the path of Meza who has made a run in behind. It just doesn't come off, but that ball is on today.


33 mins - Argentina 1 Iceland 1

Diego Armando Maradona is in attendance at the Spartak Stadium. 

The man Messi is hoping to emulate in Russia Credit: AFP

Lucas Biglia shoots over the from the edge of the box. Messi looks on unimpressed that the ball didn't come his way. 


30 mins - Argentina 1 Iceland 1 

Di Maria and Gudmundsson have to be separated by the referee after a bit of handbags over a ball that had gone out of play. Tasty.


29 mins - Argentina 1 Iceland 1 

Bold early shout from our man Ben Rumsby:


26 mins - Argentina 1 Iceland 1 

A couple of Argentina corners, the second of which Otamendi heads at goal but it's an easy save for Halldorsson.


GOOOOOOOALLL!!! Iceland are level!!!

Chaos at the back for Argentina and Finnbogason pokes home!

Argentina get themselves in all sorts of trouble at the back and just cannot clear their lines. Sigurdsson gets two bites of the cherry to deliver from the right and the second one, drilled in low, is parried by Caballero but only as far as Alfred Finnbogason, who makes no mistake from six yards out.


21 mins - Argentina 1 Iceland 0 

Messi tests Halldorsson again, curling one from just outside the area but from an unfavourable angle, and the keeper holds onto it with some ease.


19 mins - Argentina 1 Iceland 0 (Aguero)

Argentina Rojo tries a long-distance strike but doesn't get hold of it, Aguero reacts quickest inside the box, and brings the ball under control immediately. He has his back to goal, and has white shirts around him. One touch out of his feet takes him away from his marker, and in the blink of an eye he unleashes a crackerjack of a left-footed shot into the top corner at the near post. Lovely strike.



Sergio Aguero puts Argentina in front!


17 mins - Argentina 0 Iceland 0

We have our first shot on target and it is that man, Messi. Iceland haven't given him much chance so far but he is so clever at finding space. He picks the ball up outside the area, skips a challenge to create a yard of space on his left and lets fly. It stings the hands of Halldorsson but he'd have been disappointed not to keep that one out.


13 mins - Argentina 0 Iceland 0

Messi is already dropping really, really deep to get the ball. His movement creates space further forward for Otamendi to step into. He shoots optimistically from 30 yards but blazes his shot well over.

Very good start to this game in Moscow. Iceland certainly aren't planning on sitting back.


10 mins - Argentina 0 Iceland 0

Huge chance at the other end for Iceland! Argentina are caught out trying to pass their way out of trouble and Caballero has to lunge in to intercept at the feet of Finnbogason. His clearance is poor, though, and falls to a white shirt in Bjarnason, but he can only drill wide of the target. A massive opportunity goes begging.


9 mins - Argentina 0 Iceland 0

Not long, is the answer. Messi swings another free-kick towards goal - this time an in-swinger. But he mis-hits and his cross is low, Tagliafico stoops and uses the pace of the ball to flick at goal but it goes wide.


8 mins - Argentina 0 Iceland 0

How much longer will things look like this?


4 mins - Argentina 0 Iceland 0

Decent ball from Messi but there isn't enough pace on it. Otamendi gets up to flick towards goal but he tries such a fine glance that he misses it completely, and it bounces harmlessly wide of Halldorsson's goal.


3 mins - Argentina 0 Iceland 0

After that surprising early shot for Iceland we have very swiftly settled into the pattern of the day: Argentina are having all of the ball, Iceland are deep, back in their own half, hassling energetically whenever the ball comes forward.

A bit too energetically, though, with a free-kick conceded on the left-hand touchline 35 yards from goal. Messi is over it.


1 min - Argentina 0 Iceland 0

14 seconds in and we have our first shot of the match as Gylfi Sigurdsson drags his effort wide of the target. Positive stuff early on.


Iceland get the match started

Can Lionel Messi do it on a warm, dry afternoon in Moscow, with the world watching? Or will Iceland add Argentina to their impressive list of coups? Let's find out.


The Spartak Stadium is rocking

It's an incredible atmosphere in Moscow. The Argentina fans are full of confidence, Iceland's really do believe an upset could happen. 

National anthem time, and Caballero looks like Messi has said something mean to him. He has turned his back on his captain.


 Kick off is a couple of minutes away.


Any Argentine weaknesses?

Oh, but of course. In qualifying they won only seven out of 18 matches and just scraped through thanks to a Messi hat-trick in the high altitude surroundings of Ecuador's Quito when it really counted.

We all know what Messi, Aguero and Di Maria can do, but in deeper positions they are far wearker.

Lucas Biglia and Javier Mascherano start in central midfield for Argentina Credit: Getty images

34-year-old Javier Mascherano plays in central midfield today, while the error-prone Marcos Rojo is at centre-back alongside the much-improved but still sometimes pretty erratic Nicolas Otamendi. There are mistakes in this side.


Everyone's an Iceland fan today, right?

Even though they embarrassed England in France two years ago, we've all forgiven Iceland and are right behind them here.

Yes, it would be great to see Messi give his best response to Cristiano Ronaldo's incredible hat-trick last night, but perhaps equally wonderful would be a scrappy, ugly 1-0 smash-and-grab win for the underdogs, wouldn't it? Just call me Scrooge.


Just some of the players NOT starting for Argentina today

Gonzalo Higuain, Paulo Dybala, Giovani Lo Celso (of PSG) and Ever Banega. Plenty of firepower in reserve, then,

Gonzalo Higuain only makes the bench Credit: Getty images


The teams

Argentina: Caballero, Salvio, Otamendi, Rojo, Tagliafico, Biglia, Mascherano, Meza, Di Maria, Messi, Aguero

Iceland: Halldorsson; Magnusson, Sigurdsson, Arnason, Saevarsson; Bjarnason, Hallfredsson, Gunnarsson, Gudmundsson; Finnbogason, Sigurdsson


Chris Bascombe's interview with Gylfi Sigurdsson

Ahead of today's game, check out this interview with Iceland's star man, who is fully of the belief that Iceland have no reason to fear Argentina... or anyone at the World Cup for that matter.


Looking forward to the 2018 World Cup's first viking clap

The Iceland fans were great fun in France at Euro 2016, and they'll be enjoying themselves in Russia today. 

Iceland fans in Moscow Credit: Getty images


Here we, here we, here we go

It's such a good day of football today - four great games and just so much to get excited about, but this one is the game of the day in my opinion, and I'm chuffed to have been given the privilege of providing live updates from the game.

Iceland, who, of course, dumped Roy Hodgson's England out of Euro 2016, will play their first ever World Cup match against non other than Lionel Messi's Argentina. Iceland is the smallest nation ever (in terms of population) to qualify for the World Cup, but this wonderful team has bags of potential and given what they have achieved in the last four years they have no reason to fear anyone.

Lionel Messi is chasing a first World Cup medal Credit: AFP

They'll have a specific game plan for nullifying Argentina's many, many talented attackers, and I imagine that will largely involve sitting back and allowing their opponents to dominate the ball. It could be a frustrating day for Leo and co. but that is taking nothing away from Iceland, who can't really be expected to come out and attack and leave themselves open (hello, Saudi Arabia).

The problem for Iceland is that once you take care of Messi, you still have Gonzalo Higuain, Sergio Aguero, Angel Di Maria and the rest to worry about.

Argentina's worry, though, is that their defence isn't up to much. They had a terrible time in qualifying, and are really shaky at the back.

They have far better players than Iceland, but I don't think anyone should be expecting a completely one-sided affair.