Three Hopes, One Fear: Peru at the 2018 World Cup

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Peru’s 38 year World Cup drought is over, and they are in Russia with their all-time leading goal scorer in tow. Will 2018 be more than just an appearance for La Blanquirroja, or will they crash out of the group stage?

Hope 1 – Paolo Guerrero’s availability will make the difference.

Despite earlier fears surrounding a doping ban, Peru’s captain Paolo Guerrero will be available for the 2018 World Cup. Guerrero, the record goal scorer for Peru with 34 goals in 87 caps, will be the primary scoring outlet for the side.

Possibly the biggest name in Peruvian football, Guerrero played eight years in the Bundesliga, starting at Bayern Munich before moving to Hamburger SV. During those eight years, the Peruvian forward 64 goals across all competitions. Having most recently played in Brazil, at both Corinthians and Flamengo, Guerrero has amassed 97 goals during his time at the two clubs.

Guerrero’s inclusion is not without worry, however, as the star striker is coming off an eight-month absence from soccer. Concern should be assuaged as he scored twice in his recent return to action against Saudi Arabia on Sunday.

Hope 2 – Other attackers can ease Guerrero’s onus.

While Guerrero’s return will be a welcome one, Peru will hope the 34-yeard-old is not the only one scoring goals. Winger Jefferson Farfan, who currently plays at Lokomotiv Moscow, is the tried and true second option for Peru. Farfan has scored 25 goals in his 83 appearances for Peru.

Farfan and Guerrero might be the classic pairing for Peru, but there are plenty of young attackers waiting to make their mark for La Blanquirroja. Edison Flores and Christian Cueva are the two most likely to break out.

Flores is a left winger who currently plays for Aalborg in Denmark. The 24-year-old has already shown his nose for goal at the international level, scoring nine times in 28 matches.

A favorite of manager Ricardo Gareca, Cueva has been a mainstay in the midfield, scoring eight goals in his 44 appearances. Cueva scored from a penalty kick in a recent friendly against Scotland.

Hope 3 – A balanced group will work in their favor.

France may be favorites to win Group C, and possibly the whole tournament, but finishing runner-up to Les Bleus is not out of the question. Peru has drawn a group with two difficult, though ultimately beatable sides in Australia and Denmark.

Australia is arguably the weakest side in the group. Questionable along the back and overly reliant on a now 38-year-old Tim Cahill, The Socceroos could find themselves dispatched by a well-organized and inventive Peruvian side.

The first group stage match against Denmark is a stern challenge for Peru. Denmark is led by the attacking virtuoso Christian Eriksen. Though the Tottenham midfielder is capable of superb moments, with the entire Danish attack reliant on him, he might be the most burdened Dane since Hamlet. If Peru can find a way to limit Eriksen, they may just see their way to the round of 16.

 

Fear –   Losing to Denmark.

Beating Denmark would put Peru in prime position to advance to the next round but opening with a loss and then facing a seemingly inevitable defeat against France would be demoralizing and ruinous for La Blanquirroja.

As mentioned above, Denmark is a team that Peru could beat, but not without difficulty. Denmark showed their resolve and Eriksen showed just how capable he is when the Danes met the Republic of Ireland in a qualifying play-off. Ireland had earned a serviceable draw in Copenhagen, but in the second leg Denmark routed the home side 5-1. Eriksen turned in a splendid performance, scoring a hat-trick.

Peru’s biggest fear is Eriksen and Denmark playing that way when they meet June 16.

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