SAINT Petersburg, Russian Federation, Jun 16 – On an action-packed day in Russia, Lionel Messi saw his penalty saved as Iceland earned a draw in their first ever World Cup match.
Fancied France made a winning start but needed the help of technology while Peru could not take advantage of the Video Assistant Referee system.
Iceland belong at football’s top table
Iceland made a splash at Euro 2016 by beating England and progressing to the quarter-finals.
The minnows are ranked 22nd in the world but few expected Heimir Hallgrimsson’s side to tame two-times former champions Argentina in their debut World Cup outing.
Alfred Finnbogason cancelled out Sergio Aguero’s opening goal in the first half and in the second period Hannes Halldorsson made himself an instant hero, saving Messi’s spot-kick.
Iceland have games against Nigeria and Croatia to come in Group D. It would take a brave man to bet against them qualifying for the knockout stages.
VAR makes its mark
France failed to impress in squeezing past Australia 2-1, needing the helping hand of the VAR system in Kazan.
Antoine Griezmann was awarded a penalty that he converted after referee Andres Cunha had initially waved away protests when he fell under a challenge from Joshua Risdon.
VAR was not needed to spot Samuel Umtiti’s blatant handball moments later, which handed Australia an equaliser from the penalty spot.
Late on, Paul Pogba’s deflected effort clipped the underside of the bar and crossed the line by the finest of margins, confirmed by goal-line technology
Peru’s passion falls short
VAR also resulted in a penalty for Peru against Denmark but Christian Cueva blazed over, missing the chance to register La Blanquirroja’s first World Cup goal since 1982 and the South Americans were punished for that miss when Yussuf Poulsen struck the only goal of the game early in the second-half.
Having waited 36 years for a return to the World Cup, the tens of thousands of Peru fans who have travelled halfway round the world have brought a passion to the tournament lacking in some parts of the host nation.
Peru’s players besieged the Denmark goal in search of an equaliser but a combination of some great goalkeeping by Kasper Schmeichel, heroic defending and wayward finishing condemned them to defeat.