Less than 24 hours after Cristiano Ronaldo’s remarkable performance against Spain and it was all eyes on Lionel Messi.
The Barcelona star captained his Argentina side against minnows Iceland, who entered the tournament as the smallest nation to ever play at a World Cup. Their plucky performances at Euro 2016, however, gave the South Americans plenty of warning before the game.
Sergio Aguero fired Argentina into the lead early on for his first World Cup goal, but Alfred Finnbogason quickly drew Iceland level.
Yet for all of Iceland’s resistance, Argentina had the perfect opportunity to win the game when they were awarded a penalty and Messi stepped up to the plate.
It just wasn’t be, though, with Messi seeing his penalty saved in a game that saw him produce no less than 11 shots without scoring.
MESSI STRUGGLED VS ICELAND
On all accounts, it was a poor performance from arguably the best player in the world and it remains to be seen whether that penalty miss will come back to haunt him.
Next up for Argentina are Croatia – who defeated Nigeria 2-0 over the weekend – and Messi will be lining up against Liverpool defender Dejan Lovren.
In the build-up to the game, Lovren has had plenty to say about Messi and thinks Iceland found the key to stopping the five-time Ballon d’Or winner.
LOVREN ON HOW TO STOP MESSI
“We know it will be tough, we have already played them before,” he reflect.
“But we know how to play against the big teams and we are not scared of them. They have one of the best players in the world, maybe the best, in Messi, but when you saw their game against Iceland, they did a great job and showed how to defend against him.
“You can’t stop him with one player, you have to defend like a team. You saw that with Iceland.
“It’s an honour, of course, to play against the biggest players in the world. A few weeks ago, I played against Cristiano Ronaldo (in the Champions League final for Liverpool), two weeks ago it was Neymar (in a friendly at Anfield) and now it’s Messi.”
After the Iceland game, it’s hard to argue with Lovren.
Although Messi continued to produce plenty of shots, he cut a frustrated figure as numerous Iceland players flocked to thwart him throughout the game.
It will certainly give Croatia plenty of encouragement going into their Argentina clash.
That’s not to mention the fact Argentina have some serious pressure riding on their shoulders going into the game.
And although Messi could unravel Croatia at any given moment, they’ll be far less fearful than the Morocco defence lining up against Ronaldo after their respective performances.