By Mitch Phillips
TOKYO (Reuters) – Argentina are feeding off the emotion of what they know will be a monumental challenge against England on Saturday and are determined to express themselves despite the quality of the opposition and their own World Cup hopes being on the line.
After losing their opening game to France, defeat by England at the Tokyo Stadium will ensure a pool-stage exit for the team who reached the semi-finals of two of the last three tournaments.
The odds are stacked against them – they lost 10 games in a row before beating Tonga last week and have lost nine in a row against England – but with their backs against the wall and still stinging from the perceived injustice of the French defeat, they have no option but to fight for their lives.
“We know if we lose we are out but we are not talking about losing,” flyhalf Benjamin Urdapilleta told journalists after the squad trained on the match pitch on Friday.
“It’s a high-pressure situation but we are trying to transform this pressure into motivation. It’s a magnificent occasion and it’s up to us to put in the performance to match it. We are very motivated to do that.”
Assistant coach Martin Gaitan was singing from the same hymn sheet and, as a man who missed the magnificent 2007 campaign after discovering a career-ending heart problem on the eve of the tournament, he is well placed to encourage his charges to seize the day.
“For many years we’ve believed in what we’ve been building and, win or lose, that’s not going to be devalued and we will still believe in our game plan,” he said.
“We need to control the ball as much as possible and play a fast game and maintain possession. England are a complete team but we need to focus on ourselves and what we are doing rather than the opposition.
“Of course it’s a very difficult game for us, it’s huge, we want to win, but it’s also beautiful that we get to play in a match like this.”
It would be the stuff of dreams for Argentina if they could hold England long enough for the game to be decided by a late penalty but should it come to that, Emiliano Boffelli said he is ready to step up to the plate.
The fullback slid a probable match-winning long-range effort just wide in the dying moments of the opening defeat against France and was asked on Friday if that had rattled him by the small band of Argentine journalists huddled in the bowels of the stadium.
“I’ve no regrets about what happened in the French game,” he said. “I’ve got confidence and, depending on where it’s awarded, if there is another kick I’ll put my hand up again. I just do whatever I can to help the team.”
(Reporting by Mitch Phillips, editing by Amlan Chakraborty)