No matter how many times you want to think about it, Los Pumas’ performance against England was one of the most disappointing in a long time. For all the expectation that had been generated around this debut at the 2023 World Cup in France, the disappointment of 27-10 against is enormous.
The Argentine national team came to this World Cup in good shape. With a consolidated squad, with a good level of play, with important results against the best teams in the world. With a high-level final preparation for this tournament. But everything that could go wrong did, and on the field we did not see what the rugby world expected.
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The blow was hard. Very hard. England was a sea of doubts in the run-up. Questioned coach, bad results, very weak performances, injured and suspended players. But he woke up just in time. Right in front of Los Pumas.
The Pumas lost to England in their debut in the Rugby World Cup. (Photo: Reuters)
Because of these contrasts between one team and another, it was clear that Argentina had a good chance of achieving a victory. Without being a clear favorite, the oval planet perceived that the national team arrived in better conditions. There was a lot of talk about that. It was a reflection of what was seen. But a World Cup is a World Cup.
It was demonstrated that this “candidate” role was detrimental to the players. There is no other way to explain that the same people who, even before the start of the match, had extremely high confidence, have delivered such a poor performance. The defeat was created mentally, from managing the pressure of having to deliver a result.
Another factor that had a negative influence was the expulsion of Tom Curry when barely nine minutes into the game. If before the kick off Los Pumas could win, playing 15 against 14 in 70 of the 80 minutes became mandatory. The “we have to win” weighed in every decision that was made. On and off the court.
Because the technical staff did not see a change in the game plan after that advantage. The Pumas continued clinging to the initial strategy, when logic indicated otherwise. But Michael Cheika decided to stay with what was already proposed instead of taking a turn.
It was demonstrated that this “candidate” role was detrimental to the players. There is no other way to explain that the same people who, even before the start of the match, had extremely high confidence, have delivered such a poor performance. The defeat was created mentally, from managing the pressure of having to deliver a result. (REUTERS/Benoit Tessier)By: REUTERS
Although it was not the best version, there was an experienced team in front. That he understood how you had to play with a numerical disadvantage. Putting defensive pressure to not let the game unfold from one end of the field to the other, avoiding the physical wear and tear of taking over where they lacked a man. Letting the clock run as fast as possible in each scrum, each line. Taking advantage of every scoring situation: penalties from midfield and up to three drops by George Ford, the star of the night. That he joined the team because the captain of the Rosa, Owen Farrell, was suspended. That in principle was good news for Argentines. But it ended up being his worst nightmare.
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Beyond all the shortcomings of Los Pumas, the luck factor was also not on their side: they ended up inside the English ingoal three times, but only one was a try. It is true that there were many inaccuracies resulting from the nerves of debuting in a World Cup, and bad decisions made at times when the mental pressure suffocates. Too many rebounds and errors in the aerial game, which is always a guarantee. Slowness in the game to look for spaces on the outside.
The Argentine fan who came en masse to Marseille to support the team left crestfallen, worried, hurt by the way the team played. Losing is always an option in sports, but not in the way it was done. People left disappointed. But he is already looking for a way to find the positive part of all this.
Just like before the fateful debut against England, only there is no longer any margin for error: you have to beat Samoa, Chile and Japan to advance to the round. (REUTERS/Benoit Tessier)By: REUTERS
The first is that the World Cup is long. This was just the first game and there are still three to go. The best of all is that the chances of qualifying for the quarterfinals are still intact. Just like before the fateful debut against England, only there is no longer any margin for error: you have to beat Samoa, Chile and Japan to advance to the round.
Can be done? Of course. Playing like against La Rosa? Difficult. Now there are two weeks to learn from this blow and prepare for the match against the tough Samoans, which will be on Friday, September 22 in Saint-Etienne.
The concentration in La Baule-Escoublac will be the place where the team and staff must reset the chip and return to the path that brought them here. Cheika and his collaborators will have to do self-criticism and choose the path to follow. The team leaders must raise their hands and guide their teammates, all in columns behind the same objective.
The goal is still there. Qualifying for the quarterfinals is still possible. After the blow, you have to believe again.