The 2-time champions, producers of a few of the finest gamers to ever grace the sport, in opposition to the debutantes and smallest nation to ever qualify for the match.
For context, the inhabitants of the Buenos Aires province, Argentina’s capital, is 45 occasions greater than that of Iceland’s whole inhabitants.
This was David versus Goliath — after which some.
Not that you just’d have seen — any notion that the tiny island nation could be overawed by the event and their opponents was rapidly dispelled, as they went toe-to-toe with Argentina from the primary whistle.
Moments after Nicolás Tagliafico’s stooping header flashed inches vast of the publish, one lengthy ball excessive — instantly exposing Argentina’s frailties — set Alfred Finnbogason free, however the ahead could not maintain his volley down.
Argentina have been then virtually the masters of their very own downfall, gifting Iceland the ball inside their very own field in an try to play out from the again.
The ball finally fell to Birkir Bjarnason, scorer of Iceland’s first ever purpose in a significant match 4 years in the past in France, however the midfielder in some way skewed the ball vast with the purpose gaping.
It wasn’t lengthy earlier than Lionel Messi got here to the fore, utilizing his customary shuffle inside and left-foot shot to check Hannes Thor Halldorsson within the Iceland purpose.
Nevertheless it was Sergio Aguero, beforehand with out a World Cup purpose in his eight appearances, who breathed life into Argentina’s marketing campaign.
Marcos Rojo’s scuffed shot was managed beautifully by the Manchester Metropolis ahead, who brilliantly wriggled freed from his marker and slammed a shot into the roof of the web.
Cue coach Jorge Sampaoli’s trademark wild fist pumping on the touchline, this yr swapping his regular informal apparel for a pointy go well with.
Anybody who had forgotten about Iceland’s exploits at Euro 2016 and thought that early purpose meant it was recreation over have been quickly given a reminder of their preventing spirit.
With Argentina’s sloppy protection once more uncovered, Finnbogason pounced after a scramble within the field to coolly tuck the ball previous Willy Caballero.
At halftime, regardless of having simply 21% possession, Iceland had been greater than a match for his or her well-known rivals, even creating the most effective possibilities within the recreation.
However the match-changing second got here simply after the hour mark. Iceland, having defended resolutely for thus lengthy, gave away a sloppy penalty as Hoerdur Magnusson clumsily tripped Aguero within the field.
Up stepped Messi, the person on whose shoulders Argentina have positioned their hopes, and — not for the primary time in his profession — missed the essential spot kick.
Halldorsson guessed the suitable method and comfortably palmed Messi’s penalty away from hazard.
Iceland’s keeper is not simply adept at maintaining one of many world’s biggest gamers at bay.
Simply two days earlier than Iceland’s coaching camp began, Halldorssonr was in Reykjavik performing some “sidework” — directing a comfortable drink business in his position as movie director the place he had beforehand solid a profession.
Earlier than the 90 minutes have been up, Halldorsson’s lightning-quick reflexes have been once more referred to as upon as he tipped Cristian Pavon’s effort around the publish at full stretch.
For all their star energy, Argentina have been unable to discover a method by means of Iceland’s sturdy protection. It is the primary time La Albiceleste have did not win a gap World Cup recreation since they misplaced to Cameroon in 1990.
The excellent news for Messi et al is that they nonetheless reached the ultimate that yr.
Maybe some of the telling facets of the sport got here after the ultimate whistle, or somewhat it was what did not come.
Regardless of this being their first World Cup, choosing up their first ever World Cup level, there was no exuberant celebrations from Iceland, no joyous huddles.
This was simply one other recreation, they now really feel like they belong right here.