On Saturday afternoon, Iceland earned a 1-1 draw against the big stars of Argentina at the World Cup. After the Nordic’s countries achievements over the last four years, the result should not come as a major surprise.
However, instead of celebrating the fact that smallest country to participate at a World Cup picked up their first ever point. The media have decided to slate their opponents, especially the great Lionel Messi.
Argentina’s weaknesses exposed
First, let’s get this out of the way, La Albiceleste’s performance was not great. The South American giants have so many big names players. However, they seemed to run out of ideas and offer little creativity.
Once again Jorge Sampaoli side looked to Messi to bail them out. Unfortunately, the Barcelona star endured a rare off day, including having a penalty saved by Icelandic goalkeeper Hannes Halldorsson.
If the penalty had gone in it, it would have just plastered over the cracks in the Albiceleste set-up. They are poor at the back, lack ideas in midfield and heavily rely on Messi.
Unfortunately, for Messi, those problems have existed for a long time. If their opening game is anything to go by, he will never lift the World Cup.
Iceland are a great TEAM
The fact Argentina were poor should not take anything away from Iceland’s immense display. The Nordic nation are participating in just their second major international tournament in Russia.
Their first was at Euro 2016, when they made the quarter-finals of the tournament, beating England in the first knockout stage. Even as an Englishman, it is hard not to like them.
They do not have a host of great players. However, they are a great team. Every player knows his job and they play to their strengths. As a unit, they are incredibly hard to break down.
The players look proud to be representing their country. Whereas players from other countries just look like they are going through the motions. National pride seems to cause through the veins of everybody involved in the Iceland set-up of the minnows.
Iceland can make the knockout stages
Looking at Group D prior to the tournament, qualification for the last 16 was a realistic aim for any of the four teams involved. The first game draw against Argentina will only add to Iceland’s already burgeoning confidence.
It is all ifs and buts at this stage of the competition. No doubt at some point Lionel Messi will turn up at Russia 2018, which could well drag his team into the next round. The fact that Croatia defeated Nigeria in the other Group D game on Saturday could be irrelevant if Iceland can beat Nigeria and take something from their game with the group leaders.
However, Iceland have the discipline and more importantly the quality to get results in their final two group games. They are unlikely to change their game plan, as it is a plan that has brought the team comparative success in recent years.
While the majority of the worlds media wallow or delight in Argentina’s misery. It is important to remember that Iceland may be small, but they are big in heart and sheer determination.
They should be congratulated for achieving such a result against such a big footballing nation. However, something tells me Gylfi Sigurdsson and co. are not yet finish surprising people at World Cup 2018.
Can Iceland make the knockout stages of the World Cup?