World Cup previews: Argentina v Iceland

Here’s what the Football Manager 2018 data has to say about the likely line-ups for this match. Yesterday I waited until the teams were announced and it all felt a bit rushed, so today I’ve done the analysis up front using my best guesses of likely starting 11s.

The explanation for this is here but in a nutshell I’ve treated the Football Manager database like a scouting tool and compared the two teams across a range of measures by combining their in-game attributes.


Here’s how the two teams stack up in terms of overall ability according to Football Manager’s researchers, i.e. the game’s hidden ‘current ability’ stat:

There’s a predictable mis-match here, and Messi’s gauge is of course completely full. Sigurdsson is the stand-out player for Iceland as you might expect, with their goalkeeper looking worryingly suspect given the array of attacking talent that Argentina have.

Goal threat

Something pretty fundamental to any analysis is where the goals might come from, so here’s a comparison based on the various game attributes that contribute to finishing skill:

Iceland at least look as though they have plenty of players who can score, with the midfield able to step up if needed and Arnason in defence a danger at set pieces. The two biggest threats are likely to be in Argentina shirts however, as you might expect.


The mental side of the game is also difficult to measure using “real life” match stats, and can often paint an interesting picture of who might be the strong and weak links in each team:

In mental terms the sides appear more even, although Mascherano looks a class apart and the Argentinian defence appears less likely to buckle under any pressure. The likely central six for Iceland don’t appear to have any weak links, so if they combine well then the underdogs could have a chance.

Aerial threat

Here’s how the two teams measure up in the air, which could well be the difference at set pieces:

For all their technical strengths, Argentina’s midfield don’t offer much when the ball is in the air. You could argue that they don’t really need to, but this does give Iceland hope in dead ball situations and from crosses, although they’ll still have to contend with their opponents’ formidable central defenders.