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  • Argentina's Lionel Messi reacts after the match.

    Argentina's Lionel Messi reacts after the match. | Photo: Reuters

Published 16 June 2018

Messi blew his chance to win the match when he had a penalty saved by Hannes Por Halldorsson.

Following Argentina’s humbling draw with Iceland, Saturday, in which Lionel Messi missed a crucial penalty, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman has hilariously claimed Messi's miss was due to Argentina’s last-minute withdrawal from a pre-World Cup Friendly with Israel.

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The Argentine Football Association canceled the friendly match, which would have been played in Jerusalem on June 5, after an intense campaign by the pro-Palestinian activists and groups calling for a peaceful boycott against Israel.

Liberman suggested in a tweet; however, the footballer star's skills would have been sharper had his team not pulled out of its final warm-up game in the wake of pressure after Israeli forces killed at least 125 Palestinians and injured over 10,000.

“In Argentina's against Iceland game we saw just how much Messi needed the warm-up game against Israel,” Liberman tweeted after Messi missed a penalty and were eventually held to a 1-1 draw by Iceland.

Liberman also hailed Iceland as a “giant” after the performance.

Ahmed Tibi, an Arab Israeli lawmaker, also linked the miss to the withdrawal from the Israel game, tweeting a poll asking, “Who was happier that Messi missed his penalty today?” 

Messi’s miss Saturday was his fourth failed penalty in his last seven attempts for Argentina and Barcelona. He has also missed over 20 penalty kicks in his career.

Iceland, by far the smallest country by population to appear at the World Cup, famously beat England in the last 16 of Euro 2016 and again inspired by their "thunder clapping" fans ran tirelessly and fought for everything to write another glowing chapter in their short but glorious major tournament story.

"I hope it is going to prove important to us to reach our goal to qualify," Halldorsson said of the penalty save.

"I did my homework, I looked at a lot of penalties by Messi, and I also looked at how I had been behaving in previous penalties, so I tried to get into their mindset, how they would be thinking about me.

"I think the Argentinians felt a bit frustrated that they weren't getting through and it was important we equalized so quickly. I guess our game plan worked almost perfectly."

Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli said: "We need to find more variety of options going forward. It's a very competitive group."

"The circumstances around the missed penalty and that led to Leo's mistake, that's just another statistic, it's part of the past... football is like that. We need to be strong as a group, believe in ourselves and know we have all the tools to beat anybody," he added.

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