Argentina vs Iceland – Preview, Predictions and Betting Tips
This match is over: Final score is: 1-1
Next Argentina match: Argentina vs Croatia
Next Iceland match: Nigeria vs Iceland
16th June 2018 – 14.00 GMT
Otkritie Arena, Moscow
Crisis-ridden Argentina will be hoping they rise to the occasion on the big stage when they go head-to-head with World Cup debutants Iceland at the Otkritie Arena in Moscow on Saturday afternoon.
The two-time world champions stumbled their way to the finals in Russia after a near-disastrous qualification campaign. With four fixtures left to fulfill, there appeared to be a real chance that Argentina may fail to qualify for the World Cup for the first time in 48 years.
Coach Jorge Sampaoli was brought in to save the day. He didn’t impress, drawing three subsequent matches, but a Lionel Messi hat-trick in the final qualifier in Ecuador saved La Albiceleste’s blushes as they finished two points above sixth-placed Chile in the CONMEBOL standings.
There is still real uncertainty around the make-up of Sampaoli’s starting line-up going into the finals but the same can’t be said of first opponents Iceland. Still buzzing from their run to the quarter-finals at the European Championships two years ago, Heimir Hallgrimsson’s charges are not in Russia to simply make up the numbers.
Iceland topped a very strong qualification group which included Ukraine, Turkey and Group D rivals Croatia. The Argentines would do well to not underestimate Gylfi Sigurdsson and his teammates, as England did in France in 2016. If so, like during qualification, they could find themselves chasing their rivals again.
In recent tournaments, Argentina have tended to start relatively slowly. Four years ago, they edged past Bosnia & Herzegovina, while at the previous five finals a single-goal win was also enough.
Given their preparations for Russia, don’t expect Sampaoli’s side to go on a scoring spree against the Scandinavians. Under 3.5 goals should be free money at 2/9 with William Hill.
Argentina also kept clean sheets at five of their eight matches in Brazil in 2014 while Iceland went through qualifying with a solid defensive setup, keeping clean sheets against Turkey, Ukraine and Croatia inside the past year. Iceland are at 5/2 with Betfair to win with a one-goal handicap, or 3/4 with Betway to do so with a two-goal headstart – which covers the previously mentioned single-goal win for the South Americans.
- Iceland are the smallest ever nation to qualify for a World Cup, with a population of just 350,000
- Argentina scored just 19 goals during qualification, the same amount as bottom nation Venezuela –
- Under 1.5 goals – 11/5
- Iceland conceded just one goal in their final five qualifying fixtures
- Iceland clean sheet – 5/1
- Javier Mascherano is five games short of Diego Maradona’s World Cup appearance record (21)
- Gonzalo Higuain needs five goals to draw level with Gabriel Batistuta as Argentina’s all-time World Cup top scorer
- Gonzalo Higuain to be tournament top scorer – 33/1
Argentina: Nahuel Guzmán, Gabriel Mercado, Nicolás Tagliafico, Cristian Ansaldi, Lucas Biglia, Federico Fazio, Éver Banega, Marcos Acuña, Gonzalo Higuaín, Lionel Messi (captain), Ángel Di María, Franco Armani, Maximiliano Meza, Javier Mascherano, Manuel Lanzini, Marcos Rojo, Nicolás Otamendi, Eduardo Salvio, Sergio Agüero, Giovani Lo Celso, Paulo Dybala, Cristian Pavón, Willy Caballero.
Iceland: Hannes Þór Halldórsson, Birkir Már Sævarsson, Samúel Friðjónsson, Albert Guðmundsson, Sverrir Ingi Ingason, Ragnar Sigurðsson, Jóhann Berg Guðmundsson, Birkir Bjarnason, Björn Bergmann Sigurðarson, Gylfi Sigurðsson, Alfreð Finnbogason, Frederik Schram, Rúnar Alex Rúnarsson, Kári Árnason, Hólmar Örn Eyjólfsson, Ólafur Ingi Skúlason, Aron Gunnarsson (captain), Hörður Björgvin Magnússon, Rúrik Gíslason, Emil Hallfreðsson, Arnór Ingvi Traustason, Jón Daði Böðvarsson, Ari Freyr Skúlason