A disastrous opening two games saw Argentina take just one point from meetings with Iceland and Croatia, but coach Jorge Sampaoli and his players got the job done as they beat Nigeria to qualify for the round of 16.
He’d spoken before the Nigeria match of the need to treat the game like a final and returned to that rhetoric after the 2-1 victory.
“We will now face a team [France] who are candidates to win the World Cup, a great team who will make it very difficult for us,” he explained.
“We know that there we have to be more consistent if we want to progress.
“But I’ve already said before the game that we had five finals and now we only have four.”
The Albiceleste coach was knew he had one man in particular to thank, Lionel Messi, and he did so in public.
“Messi’s gesture to me makes me proud because he knows the passion I have for football,” he explained.
“The number of times I’ve travelled to see him and the dream we’ve both had to come to Russia.
“Messi played on the right to have three wide men and then Messi added to them out wide and centrally.
“If he doesn’t have the ball then Argentina suffer, because he’s the best player in the world.”
The former Sevilla coach was keen to point out that he was pleased with the display from the whole team, particularly in the first half.
“The first half we were very good, penetrating well, having the ball, creating chances, without Nigeria attacking,” he reflected.
“We could have scored more goals, but it was only 1-0 and that meant they could equalise with an isolated move.
“We showed our quality in the first half.”
Much of that, according to the coach, was down to the superb support from the stands from the travelling fans.
“It was like we were playing in Argentina and the noise was spectacular,” he said.
“It was impressive and we owe the win to them, because they made a great effort to be with us.
“They cheered us on at the hotel, at the stadium… so thanks.”
Some had accused the Argentinian media of being somewhat less supportive, but Sampaoli would not be drawn on the topic.
“I’m not going to judge the media, they say what people want to hear,” he insisted.
Argentina now face France on Saturday.