Lionel Messi misses penalty as Hannes Haldorsson turns saviour for Iceland
Hannes Halldorsson emerged as the hero for the Iceland football team as he saved a penalty from Lionel Messi to hand his team a valuable 1-1 draw in their first-ever FIFA World Cup match on Saturday.
Iceland defender Hordur Bjorgvin Magnusson brought down Argentina’s Maximiliano Meza with a clumsy tackle inside the penalty area and as expected, Lionel Messi stepped up to take the penalty. With the game tied at 1-1, the pressure was on Messi to regain the lead for Argentina and in front of him was the 34-year old Halldorsson.
With all eyes on the FC Barcelona forward, Messi went for the goalkeeper’s right side but Halldorsson was ready for the spot kick. The 34-year old, who has 49 international caps for Iceland, saved the weak effort easily and that proved to be the turning point of the game. Argentina were unable to recover from that miss and although the 2014 runners-up kept attacking, the sturdy Iceland defence were able to clinch a crucial point from the match.
Lionel Messi’s penalty conversion record has been quite disappointing in the recent past and the most heartbreaking of his misses came in the Copa America 2016 final against Chile. The Argentine talisman has scored just thrice from his last seven penalties and with such a miss in the first game, Messi will be under a lot of pressure going forward in the tournament.
Halldorsson, on the other hand, produced couple of good saves along with the penalty and was one of the major reasons behind Iceland’s resilience. The goalkeeper, who is also a film director back home, showed nerves of steel against their much higher-ranked opponents and this draw will be a major boost to their chances of reaching the knockout stages.
Finnbogason on the mark
It was also a day to remember for striker Alfred Finnbogason as he scored Iceland’s first-ever goal in FIFA World Cup. Iceland were trailing after Sergio Aguero’s early goal, but Finnbogason pounced on a weak clearance from goalkeeper Willy Caballero to score the landmark goal four minutes later to level the scores.
The FC Augsburg striker was the second highest scorer for his side (3 goals) in the FIFA World Cup qualifiers and he was certainly one of the best candidates to make history for his country.