Seventy-eight years after Peru last went 10 games unbeaten, they have repeated the feat. This time, their prize was not a first Copa America crown but a spot in this summer’s World Cup in Russia after 36 years.
Their route to a first final since 1982 was dramatic. Halfway through the campaign, they seemed doomed to yet another dismal failure but a stroke of luck helped Ricardo Gareca’s side gain confidence and momentum, before making it through after two nervy playoff games against New Zealand.
Peru have been placed in Group C along with France, Australia, and Denmark. Qualifying for the next round will certainly be a mammoth task but the underdog tag just might help them do it. They open their tournament on June 16th against Denmark, play France on June 21st and Australia on June 26th.
While lacking stars, Peru will be hoping that their ability to adapt to different conditions serves them well in Russia. The players have already shown in the qualifiers that they can handle everything from the altitude of the Andean mountains to the heat of the Amazon.
The big success story of the campaign was Edison Flores, a versatile midfielder who was the side’s joint-top scorer with 5 goals.
Pedro Gallese was impressive when called upon and will play an important role.
Lack of experience could be their weakness. A whole generation of footballers have passed since the last time Peru made it to the FIFA World Cup.
They also lack big stars that are often needed to pull off wins when the team is under-performing. La Blanquirroja will certainly need to show up in great form if they are to hope for any kind of success.
Ricardo Alberto Gareca Nardi is an Argentine football coach and former player. Gareca was responsible for denying Peru a place at the 1986 World Cup, scoring the goal for Argentina that ended Peru’s qualification hopes.
He went on to gain two decades of coaching experience in the South American club game, including spells at Brazil’s Palmeiras, Argentina’s Velez Sarsfield, and Colombia’s America de Cali. He has led Peru since 2015.
He has identified a young group of players with potential and has stuck by them throughout.
Peru has taken part in the World Cup finals four times. The Peruvian team competed at the first World Cup in 1930 by invitation and has entered each tournament at the qualifying stage since 1958, qualifying for the finals four times: in 1970, 1978, 1982.
Their all-time record in World Cup qualifying matches, as of 2017, stands at 42 wins, 36 draws and 69 losses. In the finals, the team has won 4 matches, drawn 3 and lost 8, with 19 goals in favour and 31 against.
Peru won the inaugural FIFA Fair Play Trophy, awarded at the 1970 World Cup, as they were the only team not to receive any yellow or red cards during the competition.
Veteran striker Jefferson Farfan was discarded after the 5th round but came back for the final few rounds and stepped up in the playoffs. Peru will need him to be fully fit for them to harbour any hopes of progress.
Progressing past the group stages would see them break all odds and critiques. However, it is very difficult to witness them pull that off, with the likes of France and Denmark around.
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