Argentina is counting on a perfect game, and a little luck, to have a chance at upsetting New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals.
The Pumas named their strongest available side on Friday, all but one of the line-up which featured in the 13-12 win over Scotland two weeks ago.
The exception was at number eight, where Leonardo Senatore has replaced standout Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, who injured knee ligaments in that match and has returned home.
Aiming to control the ball and pace of the game to stymie the All Blacks, the Argentine squad also believes it will need to be firing in all areas to beat New Zealand for the first time ever.
“The difficulty is we need to try to do that perfect game,” captain Felipe Contepomi said.
“I think if you prepare for the game the way you want to play the game and do the right tactics, then luck might go your way.
“We definitely need some luck. We know we can make that luck if we do things properly. We just have to have that perfect game.”
Facing heavy odds against them didn’t bother Argentina, Contepomi said. The odds were the same in all previous 13 matches against New Zealand, the best of which was a 21-21 draw in 1985 in Buenos Aires.
“They are the best team in the world. They will be after the game still much better than us, but over 80 minutes they have to play,” said the Pumas skipper.
“We hope to put up a performance that our team can be proud of, even if that means winning, losing or whatever.
“We want to play 100 per cent, and we know if both teams play 100 per cent they might be much better than us.”
The Pumas have pushed New Zealand close in two of the last three games, losing by four points in 2001 and by six in the last head-to-head encounter in 2006.
“Those two were at home,” Contepomi was quick to point out. “Forty thousand people were cheering for us and not for them.”
Argentina has ground out three wins in in Pool B and should have beaten England but missed a bunch of goalkicks to put the English under even more pressure.
The Pumas, not as strong as the squad four years ago which finished third, achieved their main goal at the World Cup in making the last eight. Facing New Zealand was a bonus, and a shot at making more history.
“We’ve been growing match by match, and our goal is to have the best team prepared we can possibly have,” Contepomi said.
“If that leads to a win, so much better.”
Loosehead prop Rodrigo Roncero recovered from a left thigh muscle strain to be recalled amid four changes in the lineup.
Roncero, a starter in the Pumas’ first three pool matches, missed last weekend’s 25-7 win over Georgia which clinched a quarterfinal berth.
Also back as expected were lock Manuel Carizza, winger Gonzalo Camacho and fullback Martin Rodriguez.
Prop Marcos Ayerza, and backs Juan Imhoff and Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino were dropped to the reserves, while lock Mariano Galarza was left out of the match 22.
Among potential milestones, Contepomi needs five more points to overhaul Hugo Porta’s national record total of 590 points. Mario Ledesma, starting in his third quarterfinal for the Pumas, will equal former France captain Raphael Ibanez for fifth on the list of World Cup appearances with his 18th match.