Argentina Looks Fragile and VAR Enters the Scene

A pair of missed penalties and some Video Assistant Referee calls were the defining moments in Day 3 of the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Lionel Messi’s miss from the spot meant missed opportunity for Argentina meanwhile France managed a victory against Australia.

Messi Unable to Influence Argentina

A day of firsts for Iceland as the Nordic squad held Argentina to a 1-1 draw in Moscow’s Spartak Stadium.

It was a formidable inaugural FIFA World Cup game for Iceland as the tie also meant Iceland earned its first point in World Cup history after qualifying for the first time last Fall.

Iceland’s first ever World Cup goal cancelled out Sergio Aguero’s solo effort that temporarily put Argentina in the lead. Lionel Messi’s atypical miss from the penalty spot ultimately decided the match as the misfire cost the South Americans a win.

Alfred Finnbogason’s 23rd minute equalizer came during an Argentina defensive mix-up which the World Cup newcomers profited from with aplomb. A physical start by the Nordic’s made it tough for either team to string consecutive passes together causing a disorganized flow.

Iceland were careful to commit numbers forward and instead chose to put 11 men behind the ball while absorbing pressure from La Albiceleste (Argentina). Eventually riding it out until the final whistle.

VAR is in the House

In France’s 2-1 win over Australia, the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) and Goal-line technology systems were called upon for the first time in FIFA World Cup history.

New to the FIFA World Cup this summer, VAR and Goal-line technology were used to correctly rule a pair of penalty kicks and the game-winning goal. Paul Pogba’s toe-poke shot was the difference as his effort clipped the bottom of the crossbar and bounced inside the goal line – replays, and the referee’s Goal-line technology watch, confirmed.

VAR influenced the match first when Australian defender Joshua Risdon’s trip of French forward Antoine Griezmann was confirmed by assistants in the booth. Then four minutes later when French defender Samuel Umtiti’s handball in the box was scoped out.

Griezmann converted past Australian goalkeeper Matt Ryan to make it 1-0. Then Socceroos Captain Mile Jedinak matched Frenchman moments later by converting his attempt.

Through Kylian Mbappe, the French started the game promisingly. They played the first 20 minutes at a good tempo and created some half-chances but following a disciplined Australian opening, the Europeans dropped off and coaxed the Socceroos into the game.

Fueled by a an impressive first half, the Socceroos’ came out for an equally impressive second half. They took the necessary risks to earn something from the game and were ultimately unfortunate not to have left the game without at least a draw.

Meanwhile the French playmakers could only manage to walk around the pitch with no threat.

A favorite to reach the final, France will have to improve offensively against remaining opponents from Group C Peru and Denmark if they are to achieve expectations.

Wasteful Thinking

In Saransk, Denmark frustrated a wasteful Peru in a 1-0 Danish win. The Group C tilt saw the Peruvians miss a penalty and a handful of inside-the-box opportunities.

Amongst the misfiring, Yurary Poulsen managed to hit the target and collect Denmark three points. Poulsen’s finish past Peruvian goalkeeper Pedro Gallese came in the 59th minute after Peru failed to track back while committing numbers forward.

Christian Cueva’s miss from the spot summed up the game for the South American’s. Danish goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel was forced to hustle for the shutout. His Man of the Match performance featured many blocks to keep Los Incas scoreless.

Finishing Group D, Croatia’s 2-0 victory in Kaliningrad over Nigeria earned the Europeans pole position of Group D.

The scrappy play between these Group D foes lacked an offensive cutting edge as both teams found it difficult in attack.

Argentina and Iceland, the other two teams in the group, played to a 1-1 draw earlier in the day meaning a win for Croatia or Nigeria would enhance their chances of advancing. It was the Europeans who capitalized when a Mario Mandzukic header was deflected into his own net by Oghenekaro Etebo.

The 1-0 lead was doubled by Luka Modric from the spot after Mandzukic was brought down by William Ekong in the penalty area. The Super Eagles now have it all to do going into its second match against Iceland.

Up next for Croatia is a matchup against France which can define the outcome for Les Blues and can certify first place for the Blazers (Croatia).