Alfred Finnbogason’s early equaliser was enough to earn Iceland their first ever World Cup point as Argentina faltered in their opening Group D outing.
Two years on, Heimir Hallgrimsson’s intrepid team played with exactly the same team ethic and collective zeal that propelled them past England and into the quarter-finals at Euro 2016.
Similarly, Argentina played with the same vague disorganisation that blighted their awful qualification campaign.
That said, the Albiceleste did take just 19 minutes to muscle their way into the lead when Sergio Aguero did what he does best, carving out a sliver of room and firing home in a crowded box, to score his first World Cup goal in eight appearances.
However, Iceland, the smallest nation ever to qualify, refused to roll over, with midfielders Aron Gunnarsson, Emil Hallfredsson and Birkir Bjarnason grafting like troopers to double up on Messi and shut down the spaces Argentina were trying to work.
Four minutes after Aguero’s opener ripple their net, the Norsemen made the instant pressure count when Finnbogason swept home a loose ball from six yards out to score his country’s first ever World Cup goal…
In the second half, Messi blew his chance at a Cristiano Ronaldo-style national saviour act when he once again made a hash of a penalty, awarded softly for Hordur Magnusson’s innocuous nudge on Maxi Meza.
For the record, Icelandic heroic goalkeeper Hannes Halldorsson didn’t turn professional until the age of 29, having carved himself a successful career as a filmmaker and director beforehand – though his previous employers have promised he can have his job back once he’s finished with football.
Incidentally, 34-year-old Halldorsson was also responsible for directing Coca Cola’s Icelandic World Cup promo commercial.
Anyway, that was Messi’s third penalty miss in his last six attempts, though we’re assured his overall career conversion rate is a perfectly healthy 77% – basically, it only feels like he fluffs a lot of spot-kicks.
The match went on to finish 1-1 as Iceland made a fine fist of defending deep, though Halldorsson was forced to pull off another outstanding save from substitute Cristian Pavon late on to keep it that way.
As for Argentina, time will tell whether this performance proves to be a blip (they lost their opening match at the 1990 World Cup before going on to reach the final) or indicative of their ongoing slump, exacerbated by a clear and obvious over-reliance on you-know-how.
For the time being, we’re not overly impressed with what we’ve seen.