Argentina captain Agustin Pichot hailed his side’s “heart and soul” after the Pumas completed a record 34-10 victory over France to finish third at the World Cup.
Pichot appeared a broken man after Argentina lost their semi-final to South Africa last weekend and said at the time: “The World Cup is over for me.”
But he played a key role in lifting the Pumas during the week and inspired them to produce a magnificent performance at the Parc des Prince tonight.
“The Argentina team is not just a rugby team, we are a team that does a lot of things with the heart and the soul,” said Pichot.
“It was like a boxing match today. In the last the or four rounds, when you are tired and hurting, you have to look inside. That is what we did today.
“I was completely finished last week. It was a dream that was destroyed for me.
“On Tuesday I spoke (with coach Marcelo Loffreda) for about two hours. It was a kind of therapy session and decided what our new approach was going to be.
“On Wednesday morning my expression had changed. The team rejuvenates you. When you are down you can be lifted back up again.
“This energy exists between us and it is a special thing. We picked ourselves up and knew we could win the match. This is a great team.”
Pichot may allow himself one final appearance in Argentina to say goodbye to the supporters but tonight’s match is likely to be his last for the Pumas.
“You cannot give much more than this. Psychologically, with the heart, with the spirit. I am not a very talented footballer and over the last eight years I have everything. These last three months I gave everything and a little bit more,” he said.
“I couldn’t achieve more than this. I would prefer to end my career like this. I could carry on but I think it wouldn’t be fair for my history and career.
“It is the end of a great period, the end of Argentina for me. I would probably play in Argentina one more time to say goodbye. Today has been the end of the best thing I have ever been part of.
“I have been part of a very special group that will always be remembered – the Argentina World Cup team 2007.”
Loffreda is also leaving, to take charge of Leicester in the Guinness Premiership.
“I am so proud of the players, I am proud of the team,” said Loffreda.
“I am grateful to all of them for the eight years we have spent together and especially to the captain who has allowed me to spend great time with him over these years.
“I am truly grateful to him and tonight we are absolutely delighted. We played an incredible game.”
Departing France coach Bernard Laporte was philosophical about his side’s defeat and admitted they had not shaken the hangover from last weekend’s agonising semi-final defeat to England.
“It was hard to get so close last week and miss out but the best team won today,” he said.
“They have beaten us twice in this competition. They are stronger than us. They had a great World Cup and finished third. It was the right result.
“We dominated the first 30 minutes but missed three opportunities and their counter-attacks killed us. We tried to come back but it was too late.”
France captain Rafael Ibanez would not confirm whether he had played his final game for Les Bleus – despite the stadium announcer declaring he had.
“All I can say is there will be more rugby,” said the Wasps hooker.
“We didn’t want to finish the competition this way so you can imagine how disappointed the players are.”