With a population of about 335,000, Iceland is the least populated country to ever play at the World Cup. Their World Cup debut in 2018 was, of course, a very exciting event that nearly the whole nation tuned in to witness. The opening match against no less than football giant Argentina made it an event not to be missed. Opportunities to watch the match were plentiful in the capital city of Reykjavik, with large screens set up in public squares downtown and special events in museums for the occasion as well.
According to figures from the Icelandic Football Association, 99.6% of television viewers were watching the match in Iceland, leaving approximately 134 Icelanders not tuned in. The percentages, according to the Icelandic National Broadcast RUV, meant the match was the most watched sporting event in the nation’s history.
Iceland and Argentina finished in a 1-1 draw. Argentina’s Lionel Messi, regarded as one of the best players in the game, confessed to an injury being the reason he failed to secure a penalty shot during the match, which would have led to a win in the final minutes.
The Icelandic team made quite an impact, as the draw was Argentina’s first time to fail to win in their World Cup opening match since 1990, when they played against Cameroon. The last country to win in their World Cup debut was Senegal against France in 2002.
The Icelandic team played strategic defence. They failed to make a single shot in the second half of the match, while Argentina made 16 attempts on Iceland’s goal during that time. The goal scored by Iceland’s Alfreð Finnbogason was the country’s first ever at the Word Cup and the earliest score for a nation playing in their first World Cup (at 23 minutes in) since Nigeria’s goal against Bulgaria in 1994.
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