Since their first meeting on that famous night in Lens in 1999, Los Pumas have grown from strength to strength to become the game´s most potent force outside the Tri and Six Nations countries. While the Irish, are still very much renowned as one of the best in the world.
So what can we expect from this crucial clash of titans in Pool D? Well this time around, Gonzalo QUESADA will not be the one converting those penalties and drop goals, while Ireland will not have the legendary Keith WOOD leading them into the field. But still the main ingredients, as they were displayed in the previous two meetings, will always be there: passion, determination and full commitment.
For Los Pumas, things just seems to be getting better and better at this World Cup. Ever since that famous victory over France in the opening day right up to the demolishing of Namibia, it seems like destiny is written all over the wall for Señor LOFFREDA and his army to achieve greatness and immortality. Now the only thing that separates them from their destiny is just one point and I repeat, one point only.
At this stage, we can say that we’ve made it to the next stage but that very important one point could prove to be too much to let go. Being grouped together with two other giants, it seems the only thing we can ask for is to progress to the next stage and after that for better or worse face the mighty All Blacks. Now, avoiding them, seems more like a reality rather than a distance dream.
As for the Irish, personally I find it hard to believe that they are in this situation. Early this year during the Six Nation (very unlucky not to win it), I felt they were probably the second best team in the world. Now a couple of hard fought victories against Namibia & Georgia and a defeat to France, have left Eddie O’SULLIVAN and his boys with no choice but to win. And they also need the bonus point as well (to make things even more complicated, they must avoid Los Pumas from claiming a bonus point!!!). Their "mission impossible" consists on scoring 4 tries against the only team yet to concede a single try in the entire Rugby World Cup.
Current form may leave us with a better chance of going through but anyone who knows his/her rugby well, will tell you to never ever underestimate Ronan O’GARA, Brian O'DRISCOLL and company.
Now here is a Blast From The Past between these two respected rivals at the Rugby World Cup.
20th October 1999, Stade Félix Bollaert, Lens
If this was a boxing event, it would have probably been known as the HUMPHREYS vs. QUESADA match.
When David HUMPHREYS converted a drop goal on the 45th min, the score line was 21-9 and the Irish look all set to face France in the quarterfinals. The Irish were so confident, that some of the fans had already bought their tickets (before the match that is) for the next game schedule to be played in Dublin. But nobody would have ever expected what was about to happen.
After 3 consecutive penalties by QUESADA (47th, 55th & 65th minute) plus another one from HUMPHREYS (61st minute), the score was brought to 24-18 for Ireland. Suddenly there seemed to be very little hope for a dramatic comeback. Yet, had I tell this to anyone back then, people would have probably laughed at me.
A try from Diego ALBANESE in the 74th minute with QUESADA converting the kick gave Los Pumas a 25-24 lead and stunned everyone in the stadium. At this point of time, the Irish were in panic mode but still the game was anyone’s for the taking.
Despite plenty of retaliation from the Irish side to score a try, another penalty by QUESADA in the dying minutes, sealed the deal for Los Pumas and they achieved a massive upset over Ireland. This was a result that sent a shock wave throughout the rugby community.
26th October 2003, Adelaide Oval, Adelaide
When Ireland and Argentina were drawn together in the same pool, the one thing that people couldn’t stop talking was that night in Lens. It was so fresh in the minds of both sets of players as if it only happened yesterday. One commentator even did mention that this match was going to get both sets of supporters chewing their fingernail.
The memories came back even stronger when QUESADA opened the scoring with a 7th-minute long-range effort. Then the Irish stormed back with a try in the 17th minute courtesy of Alan QUILAN, followed by a conversion from, who else but David HUMPHREYS.
A drop goal and a penalty by QUESADA served to reduce the deficit to a single point. 10-9 was the lead in favour of Ireland at half time. Then a drop goal by Ignacio CORLETO put Argentina in the lead but two successive penalties from Ronan O’GARA saw Argentina trailing 12-16.
With seven minutes to go, QUESADA was there again to convert another penalty to again take Argentina within one point (15-16) and to bring the entire crowd to their feet for a massive conclusion. Only this time, it was a little too late for Los Pumas as Ireland held on to their nerve for the victory. Truly a blood and guts performance from both sides.
Now back to 2007. So which way is this match heading this time? Can Los Pumas gain that one point and march on to the last eight? Or will the Irish Luck finally smile on the boys in green to create a Houdini act? Only time will tell.