The opening draw with Iceland wasn’t the performance or the result that Argentina wanted and while Messi’s penalty miss and the soft defensive display will create the headlines, were there any positives to take for Jorge Sampaoli?
Willy Caballero – 5
Argentina needed a calming influence behind what was a haphazard defence and Willy Caballero certainly wasn’t that. The Chelsea backup did make one good stop from Gylfi Sigurdsson but flapped badly before Iceland’s goal and did little to suggest that Sampaoli’s decision to go with him following Sergio Romero’s injury was correct.
Eduardo Salvio – 5
The reason for Eduardo Salvio’s inclusion at right-back was to provide Argentina with an attacking outlet down the right but the Benfica winger failed to make any real impact. Never really in-sync with Maxi Meza and clearly out of position when asked to defend. Giving Gabriel Mercado another shot might be the logical answer ahead of the Croatia game.
Nicolás Otamendi – 6
A difficult afternoon for Nicolás Otamendi but the Manchester City defender remains the most dependable member of Sampaoli’s backline. Covering for Marcos Rojo and battling with Iceland’s aerial tactics, Otamendi made several vital contributions.
Marcos Rojo – 3
Why Sampaoli opted for Marcos Rojo over Federico Fazio only the Argentina coach can answer but it appeared to be the wrong decision as the Manchester United defender struggled all afternoon. After losing Alfred Finnbogason in the opening stages, his loose pass to Caballero almost gifted a goal and it was clear that Rojo was short of match practice.
Nicolás Tagliafico – 6
A couple of difficult crosses to deal with aside, Nicolás Tagliafico tried to give Sampaoli what he desired from left-back, getting forward to support the attack and coming close with a flicked header in the first half.
Javier Mascherano – 6
The fault of starting in a double-five with Lucas Biglia was not Javier Mascherano’s and while it wasn’t the vintage Jefecito of 2014, Mascherano battled to win the ball back and attempted to feed the ball forward when he could.
Lucas Biglia – 4
The issues with partnering Mascherano in midfield looked clear before kick off but with Lucas Biglia failing to filter the ball forward for the most part and not being as effective defensively as Mascherano, it wasn’t clear what his purpose was. Argentina’s improvement when he was replaced by Ever Banega spoke volumes.
Maxi Meza – 5
Plenty of intent but little end product from Maxi Meza, who endured a tough afternoon in midfield. The Independiente player failed to make much of an impression on the first half but improved after the break and won the penalty after breaking into the box.
Lionel Messi – 6
The penalty miss is all people will remember from Lionel Messi’s performance but once again all of Argentina’s attacking play came through the captain. Forced deep, surrounded by Iceland defenders, Messi toiled in Moscow and came close on a couple of occasions but ultimately had the chance to secure victory and missed it.
Ángel Di María – 3
Virtually anonymous on the left, Angel Di María offered almost nothing to the Argentina attack as Iceland packed the defence and was replaced by Cristian Pavón after 75 minutes. On the few occasions, El Fideo did get down the left his crosses fell to no one and in Pavón’s small cameo, the youngster looked immediately more threatening.
Sergio Agüero – 7
An absolutely superb goal to break his World Cup duck, Sergio Agüero vindicated Sampaoli’s decision to hand him the centre-forward role and in the first 45 minutes the Manchester City striker looked sharp. As Iceland dropped deeper and defended in greater numbers, Agüero’s influence waned but Kun should remain first choice.
Ever Banega – 6
There were some wrong decisions and a couple of misplaced passes but when Ever Banega replaced Lucas Biglia after 54 minutes Argentina at least started looking forward. The Sevilla midfielder was looking to link with Messi and find gaps in the Iceland defence and this is exactly what Argentina need going forward either from Banega or Giovani Lo Celso.
Cristian Pavón – 7
If the Haiti cameo didn’t tell us that Cristian Pavón should now be starting then surely this will. The Boca youngster replaced Angel Di María with 15 minutes remaining, immediately looking more dangerous and should have won Argentina a second penalty.
Coming on for Maxi Meza with only five minutes remaining, Gonzalo Higuaín didn’t really get the chance to show anything.