Argentina kickoff their World Cup campaign on Saturday against Iceland.
The two nations will do battle in Moscow to start things in Group D. Iceland are appearing in their first ever World Cup.
The nation is on the rise in world football having made the Euro 2016 quarterfinals in its debut in the tournament. Argentina are one of the favourites to win the World Cup and come into the tournament having lost the final last time around. Despite being one of the teams likely to win the World Cup, Argentina are just below the top-tier sides of Brazil, Germany, Spain and France in the fight for the World Cup trophy.
Manager Jorge Sampaoli has already stated Argentina need Lionel Messi to be at his best if the team wants to win the tournament. He will need Messi and company to play well in the opening fixture as Iceland will have plenty to prove in their debut World Cup. It can’t be forgotten that Argentina were on the verge of missing the World Cup. Messi’s superhuman performance on the final qualifying matchday in CONMEBOL got the team to Russia. The big question will be whether another Argentine player can step-up at the tournament.
Argentina have already sent one player home from their initial 23-man roster due to injury. Attacking midfielder Manuel Lanzini has been replaced by Enzo Perez. Argentina will call upon back-up goalkeeper Willy Caballero for the tournament. The Chelsea shot stopper will start after injury forced Sergio Romero out of the team. Caballero played sparingly for Chelsea and Iceland will be ready to shoot on sight against the 36-year-old goalkeeper.
Iceland manager Heimir Hallgrimsson has favoured a 4-5-1 formation for most of the team’s matches. Against Argentina, Hallgrimsson will deploy a five-man midfield to slow down Messi and limit his creative chances.
Hallgrimsson’s biggest problem coming into the World Cup is the fitness of players Gylfi Sigurdsson, Aron Gunnarsson and Alfred Finbogasson. All three are extremely important in the Iceland team, but all three suffered from injuries in the final months of the club season. All three should start against Argentina.
Iceland were winless in their four pre-World Cup friendlies. Their poor play had a lot to do with injuries and missing players. Argentina will be able to use Iceland’s form in recent months and the lack of playing fitness from key players to their advantage. Messi will be able to unlock the Iceland defence and get Argentina off to a flying start.
Under 2.5 goals