Peru are making a first appearance at the finals since 1982. How far can they go?
Honours: World Cup 1998; Copa America, 1939, 1975
FIFA Ranking: 11
HOW THEY QUALIFIED
Chile’s 3-1 defeat at Brazil in their final qualifier opened the door for Peru, who duly took it courtesy of a mutually beneficial draw against Colombia, to secure fifth spot in CONMEBOL qualifying and a play-off against New Zealand.
STAR MAN – Paolo Guerrero
Guerrero, captain and topscorer, was the recipient of a late reprieve to make a first appearance at a World Cup. The 34-year-old had tested positive for cocaine – contained in a tea he drank – following a World Cup qualifier away to Argentina in October. Yet, he was cleared to play at the World Cup after a Swiss court agreed to temporarily lift his doping suspension while it considered his appeal against a 14-month ban.
After spells at Bayern Munich and Hamburger SV, the 34-year-old has plied his trade in Brazil since 2012, first with Corinthians and then Flamengo. For Peru he has scored 34 goals in 87 games, including a brace in his return match against Saudi Arabia, a game which his side won 3-0.
NEXT BIG THING – Renato Tapia
The 22-year-old has spent five years in the Netherlands, winning the title with Feyenoord Rotterdam in 2017. He is robust in the tackle, and has a knack for finding gaps in opposition midfield. Since making his debut in 2015, he has cemented his place at the base of the Peru midfield, earning 28 caps since.
THE COACH – Ricardo Gareca
Gareca, capped 20 times by Argentina, has had a nomadic coaching career, but had most success at Club Atlético Vélez Sarsfield between 2009 and 2013, where he won three Argentine Primera División titles.
Ironically he scored the equalising draw for Argentina against Peru during qualifying for the 1986 World Cup that denied Peru an automatic qualifying spot.
The 60-year-old is known ‘Tigre’, for his fighting spirit. Expect much of that from his Peru side, and a willingness to take the ball under any sort of pressure.
WORLD CUP HISTORY
Peru lost both of their games – to Romania and Uruguay – at the very first World Cup in 1930 in Uruguay and then had to wait for 40 years for a second appearance at Mexico 1970, where they made the quarter-finals, but regressed at the 1978 and 1982 editions, making the second round and failing to emerge from the Group Stage respectively.
It would be some 36 years before they would grace the World Cup stage again.
REASONS FOR OPTIMISM
They are a well-oiled collective buoyed by the return of their captain and leading scorer plus a simply incredible group of fans.
June 16th: Denmark
June 21st: France
June 26th: Australia