Argentina face-off against Iceland in the opening World Cup game of Group D. Argentina reached the finals during the previous edition of the tournament and they will be eyeing to replicate the feat, though the defensive side of their game has come under scrutiny.
On the other, Iceland are making their World Cup debut in Russia and they have pretty much nothing to lose during the tournament. The European nation surprisingly reached the quarter-final of the European Championship two years ago but matching that feat remains a tall ask.
Players to watch for:
Lionel Messi – Argentina: Messi’s arch-rival Cristiano Ronaldo notched a hat-trick for Portugal during the recent 3-3 World Cup draw against Spain and the focus has since been placed on whether Messi can replicate. Unlike Ronaldo, Messi plays in a more deeper role for his nation but it would be an understatement to suggest that Argentina don’t depend on his services. Messi was hugely instrumental towards their qualification and his performances could dictate the number of goals scored by the South American nation. Messi is the country’s leading goal-getter with 64 strikes.
Gylfi Sigurdsson – Iceland: Similarly to Messi, Sigurdsson remains the most influential player in the Iceland ranks. The Everton ace normally occupies the number 10 position for the Icelanders and he remains a threat to the opposition goalkeeper with his tendency to take on long shots. Besides this, the 28-year-old is strong with his crossing abilities from set-pieces whilst having good shot accuracy from direct free-kicks. Sigurdsson has notched 19 goals for the Icelanders and this constitutes the third-best individual scoring record for his nation.
Argentina should dominate the proceedings from the off in the presence of Messi but Iceland are capable of holding their own on the counter-attack. The match will mostly be open-sided but Messi and co. should edge the game.
Argentina 2-0 Iceland
Image – Getty