Iceland's hero keeper did homework to psych out Messi

Argentina's Lionel Messi Gonzalo Higuain and Sergio Aguero

Argentina's Lionel Messi Gonzalo Higuain and Sergio Aguero

Argentina's opening match at Russian Federation 2018 ended in a 1-1 draw in Moscow after Alfred Finnbogason's historic goal cancelled out Sergio Aguero's opener in Saturday's Group D meeting.

Confident though they are, the Icelanders don't need to be reminded that they are from the smallest country every to qualify for the World Cup.

In the 64th minute, a delicate Messi chip was destined for Maxi Meza but Birkir Saevarsson brought Meza down.

It was not until the 15th minute that Messi's shot from outside the goal area of Iceland was parried away by goalkeeper Hannes Thor Halldorsson.

After Sergio Aguero gave Argentina a 1-0 lead inside of 20 minutes, Alfred Finnbogason equalized the game just moments later.

Messi almost snatched the victor for Argentina with a fierce right-footed strike inside the box in stoppage time but his effort flew over the bar and both sides had to settle for the share of spoils. The FIFA ambassador was puffing a large cigar despite smoking being banned in all World Cup venues.

But instead of being the hero, Messi was the villain as his second-half spot-kick was easily saved by Hannes Halldorsson with the score at 1-1.

But they only qualified for Russian Federation thanks to a win in their final qualifier against Ecuador and scored 19 goals in 18 games, the lowest by any South American qualifier since the single-group format was adopted in the mid-1990s.

Croatia and Nigeria are the other two teams in Group D and meet on Saturday evening in Kaliningrad.

"Iceland could go out and play the best game of our lives and still lose against a fantastic team like Argentina", he said.

"When we went to France, we didn't really know what we were getting into", he said of the campaign, in which Iceland beat England and Austria in addition to drawing with Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal.

Gunnarsson, whose usual long red beard lends him a Viking warrior look, begins the post-game, slow-building clapping exchange between teams and fans that is now their trademark.

Christian Hartmann / Reuters Argentina's Javier Mascherano in action with Iceland's Gylfi Sigurdsson. Now they are up against Lionel Messi and it will be fascinating to see how they get on.

Argentina return to action on Thursday night against Croatia in Nizhny Novgorod.

The Barcelona man looked furious as he led his team out for the second half but the Argentines still struggled to make the most of their territorial domination.

Halldorsson made another good stop to claw away Pavon's risky cross and Iceland replaced goal scorer Finnbogason with Bjorn Sigurdarson and they held on despite Messi firing narrowly over in stoppage time.

The 34-year-old part-time video director said: "I did some homework because I knew it was a situation that could come up".

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