World Cup ‘skipper’ Paul McGinley reckons Ireland need an act of God to rescue their title hopes in Portugal.

McGinley and Padraig Harrington carved out a three under par 69 in the foursomes at blustery Vilamoura but still finished the day where they started - eight shots off the lead.

Now the pair are praying that Irish style conditions of wind and rain will help them claw their way back into contention.

But they have it all to do as England, Wales and Sweden all finished in red-hot fashion to lead on 16 under par.

McGinley said: “Maybe God can help us over the weekend because we’re not helping ourselves. We’re not out of the picture, okay we’re on the periphery, but we’re not out of it.

“If the weather turns bad, it’s something we’re brought up on. It won’t worry us if it does and it might work to our advantage. You never know.”

The forecast is for rain and possible thunderstorms with winds gusting up to 25 mph.

Fearing the worst, organisers have taken the precaution of bringing forward the starting time to 8.30 am with a two tee start.

But on the evidence of their golf over the first two days, Ireland will need all the help they can get.

Yesterday’s second round was certainly an improvement as the Irish duo fired four birdies and just one bogey.

But there were still some uncharacteristic errors, this time from Harrington, who missed a two-foot birdie putt at the 11th and then duffed his tee shot into a bunker at the 13th.

The round of the day came from Argentinian duo Angel Cabrera and Ricardo Gonzalez, who scorched around Clube de Golfe de Victoria in 11 under par 61 thanks to an eagle and nine birdies.

The round took the big hitting South American pair from last place to a outright fourth on 15 under.

Harrington could scarcely believe his eyes as he surveyed the seas of red numbers beside the word Argentina on the 18th green scoreboard.

He said: “It’s incredible. Phenomenal shooting. I thought someone had made a mistake. You wouldn’t think it was possible. Especially as they are two such similar characters.

“If you were going to shoot a good foursomes score, ideally you would have one guy who is a big hitter and a good putter and another who is a good iron player and wedge player, something like that.

“But they are both similar in their games and you wouldn’t see a synergy, let’s say, between the two of them.”

The plus side for Harrington is that it shows that anything is possible, although it is hard to see Ireland clicking to the same degree on the evidence of the first two days.

Birdies at the second, third and eighth sent them to the turn in 33 but they lost momentum after that with that glaring miss by Harrington at the 11th followed by a frustrating bogey at the 13th.

Harrington made amends by draining a 20 footer at the 15th but they could not make any more ground over the closing holes - in stark contrast to England, Wales and Sweden.

The Swedes, Henrik Stenson and Niclas Fasth, were the first to strike when the finished birdie-birdie for a 67 to overtake Argentina at the top and set the clubhouse target of 16 under par.

But Welshmen Bradley Dredge and Stephen Dodd went even better - finishing with four successive birdies for 67 to join them at the top.

Overnight leaders England had struggled earlier in the day by going to the turn in one over par 37.

But they came home in 32 with a birdie at the 12th, followed by three more on the spin at the last three holes.

Harrington knows that the putts will have to drop over what he believes is a 54 hole challenge - a fourball and a foursomes round.

Before the Swedes, English and Welsh had finished he said: “It just shows what can be done if you hole the putts out there. We are not out of it at all.

“Over two rounds of golf, if we had holed five more putts we would be in second place. It would not be beyond the realms of possibility to make it up over the next two days. There are 54 holes of golf, effectively, to go.

“The 11th certainly didn’t help. I hit a beautiful putt from two feet. I was sure it was right to left and it actually moved left to right. So it is very unusual to actually get it wrong.”

Ireland could only move up two spots from 18th to 16th and McGinley believes it puts them “slightly back in the frame again.”

The emphasis has to be on the word “slightly”.

He added: “We are playing a very elite level of the game and if you perform mediocre which I did on Thursday, you get steamrolled. The standard is so incredibly high.

“You’d think it was a pitch and putt course we were playing with the scoring that was going on. That’s the level you’re playing at, if you play average you get steamrolled.”