- 3 Oct 07, 01:17 AM
Paris - Argentina are getting ready for the biggest game in their history, but you never would have guessed.
In the Parisian suburb of Enghien-les-Bains, the Argentine management team held their first press briefing since reaching the quarter-finals with the comfortable victory over Ireland last Sunday.
And boy, were they relaxed. Which is just as well really, considering that Argentina’s impressive exploits in France have gripped a normally football-mad nation.
Not only was their win over Ireland splashed over the front pages, but the epic ‘El Superclasico’ derby between Boca Juniors and River Plate this weekend has had its kick-off time moved so as not to clash with television coverage of the upcoming last-eight clash with Scotland.
Head coach Marcelo Loffreda, the former civil engineer who is heading to the Leicester Tigers after the World Cup finishes, is acutely aware of the situation back home but was keen to stress that his players must not get sidetracked.
“We are aware of the support but we have to focus on what we are doing,” he said. “We know there are lot of people that are very happy with our team, maybe much more than usual.
“Many people from different sports are now looking at the rugby and that is a big coup for us. That will only get bigger if we get through and but we know we must not use up our energy thinking about it.”
You would have excused Argentina’s players if they had celebrated long into the night after making the quarters but according to officials, the party was not as wild as you might have thought.
Maybe they are fatigued, they have been away from home since 13 August and have just survived the ‘pool of death’, but with Scotland lying between them and a first-ever semi-final, the more likely reason is that they feel that their work in France is not yet done.
Scotland failed to set the world alight in their pool and reached the last eight with the uninspiring 18-16 win over an equally unadventurous Italy while Argentina on the other hand, stunned hosts France as well as Ireland and go into the game on the back of five straight wins against the Scots.
They are widely seen as favourites for Sunday's game at the Stade de France but just don't tell Loffreda.
“We do not think that,” he said. “For us, we are the underdogs.”
The comment raised a smile with the assembled press corps, with one reporter responding: “That’s what Scotland are saying.”
A laughing Loffreda took the joke before highlighting the seriousness of keeping his charges in the right frame of mind.
“The important thing is the thoughts of the players and what they believe,” he said. “It is not so much about the strategy, we know the tactics, but our main challenge is to put the players in a good way of thinking and to make sure they are mentally tough.
“We are not thinking about the semi-final. We are only thinking about Scotland. The players do not need to think about the expectation, the fans or the situation.
“The game is the thing that will keep the players calm.”
This match will also be about the kicking. With Scotland's Chris Paterson slotting over penalties and conversions at will, “discipline” is firmly at the front of Loffreda’s mind.
In fact he mentioned the word eight times in the six-minute chat he had with us English-speaking journos before revealing he was disappointed with his side's penalty count against Ireland.
"We were penalised eight times and our standard is not more than five," he said.
And that was that. After fulfilling his obligations with the Argentine media, a smiling Loffreda was ushered back to the serene lakeside hotel to pack his bags ready for his squad's change of location.
From there he will plot Scotland's downfall in a game that will definitely not be as laid-back.
Mark Orlovac is a BBC Sport journalist based in London. He will be based in Paris for the knockout stages of the Rugby World Cup.