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Argentina start campaign against hopeful Iceland

Moscow, June 15: Argentina and their talisman Lionel Messi will embark on yet another attempt to end a long period without a major trophy when they start their World Cup campaign with a Group D match against Iceland at the Spartak Stadium here on Saturday.

Argentina last won the World Cup in 1986 when the legendary Diego Maradona single-handedly carried them to the title.

Maradona almost propelled his nation to a second consecutive World Cup title in 1990. But the Argentines fell at the final hurdle to the erstwhile West Germany, thanks to a second half penalty many deem to be controversial.

Since then, the South American powerhouse have endured a lengthy series of heartbreaks at the World Cup, a lengthy wait which has now completed 32 years.

Their last major trophy came in 1993 when they won the Copa America. The Argentines will be keen to make up for the bitter disappointment of the 2014 World Cup when they were upstaged by the Germans in the final.

As has been the case since the 2006 World Cup, Messi will be the centre of focus for most Argentina fans. The dimunitive FC Barcelona star has struggled to reproduce his club form with the national team.

Russia 2018 will probably be his last chance to show that he has the ability to live up to the massive weight of expectations that comes along with the famed Argentina jersey.

If he is successful in leading Argentina to their third World Cup crown, Messi will finally remove the biggest blemish that has scarred his otherwise illustrious career.

Apart from Messi, Argentina have a wealth of attacking talent, including the likes of Sergio Aguero and the Juventus pair of Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain.

Dybala was in excellent form for Juventus last season while Higuain is something of a World Cup veteran, having played in 2010 and 2014.

Iceland on the other hand, will eye an encore of their Euro 2016 campaign. After shocking the world by reaching the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, they achieved another milestone by qualifying for their first World Cup.

Most of the players in the Iceland squad had featured at Euro 2016 and should they continue their excellent form into the World Cup, the island nation may create some upsets. IANS

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