What the All Whites can expect from Peru in November's intercontinental playoff

Peru's Paolo Guerrero celebrates his equaliser against Colombia on Wednesday.
GUADALUPE PARDO/REUTERS

Peru's Paolo Guerrero celebrates his equaliser against Colombia on Wednesday.

Finally the All Whites know who they will face in November's World Cup intercontinental playoff, so what should be expected of Peru? 

They finished fifth in South American World Cup qualifying on Wednesday and represent a best-case scenario for New Zealand, even if they are ranked 12th in the world. 

Suffice to say a matchup against Argentina or Chile would have provided little hope of a positive outcome, but Peru, at least on paper, look beatable.

Peruvian fans before the match against Colombia.
GUADALUPE PARDO/REUTERS

Peruvian fans before the match against Colombia.

About half of their squad play in Peru, while the remainder are dotted around the globe, from Russia to Denmark, the United States and Brazil. 

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Their coach, Ricardo Gareca, had them lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation for most of qualifying, with 33-year-old captain Paolo Guerrero leading the line.

Peruvian fans before the match against Colombia.
GUADALUPE PARDO/REUTERS

Peruvian fans before the match against Colombia.

He scored the equaliser against Colombia on Wednesday which booked their trip to Wellington for the first leg. He has played for a bit for Bayern Munich and a lot for Hamburger in the German Bundesliga in the past, and has still been banging in the goals in recent times in the top division in Brazil.

All Whites captain Winston Reid would back himself to deal with the threat of Guerrero, but it is out wide where New Zealand are at their weakest and where Peru have some very dangerous players.

Their best known player to fans here might be Jefferson Farfan. The 32-year-old winger has played for PSV (Holland) and Schalke '04 (Germany), with his current team is Lokomotiv Moscow in Russia, but he has mainly been usurped by the next generation of Peruvian stars. 

Peru's goalkeeper Pedro Gallese celebrates getting through to the next stage of World Cup qualifying.
MARIANA BAZO/REUTERS

Peru's goalkeeper Pedro Gallese celebrates getting through to the next stage of World Cup qualifying.

Left winger Edison Flores is one who has taken his place. The 23-year-old is trying to carve out a career in Europe. He was signed by Danish outfit AaB in 2016, where Kiwi Tamati Williams is backup goalkeeper, from his Peruvian club. 

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Andre Carillo, 26, has featured on the other wing. He is currently on loan at Watford in the English Premier League from Portuguese club Benfica. 

Midfielder Renato Tapia, 22, came through the PSV system before moving to FC Twente and onto Feyenoord this year, while Yoshimar Yotun plays in the midfield for Orlando City in the MLS.

A Peruvian shaman performs a ritual on a Paolo Guerrero shirt prior to the striker scoring a crucial equaliser against ...
MARIANA BAZO/REUTERS

A Peruvian shaman performs a ritual on a Paolo Guerrero shirt prior to the striker scoring a crucial equaliser against Colombia on Wednesday.

Christian Cueva, a 25-year-old attacking midfielder, played in 16 of their 18 qualifiers. He plays in Brazil for Sao Paulo, but has been tracked by Tottenham Hotspur.  

Still, there isn't a world superstar in the team like Lionel Messi for Argentina or Alexis Sanchez for Chile. 

Playing in Lima will be difficult, although at least altitude shouldn't be a problem. Their main venue through qualification was the 45,000-seat Estadio Nacional, which sits at 137 metres in Lima. The other ground they used, the 80,000-seat Estadio Monumental "U", is at 261m, also in Lima.

Peruvian shamans perform a ritual prior to the match against Colombia.
MARIANA BAZO/REUTERS

Peruvian shamans perform a ritual prior to the match against Colombia.

It is highly unlikely, but the Peruvian Football Association could decide to take the match to different heights for a bit more home advantage. They have the 42,000-seat Estadio Garcilaso in Cusco which sits at a nauseating 3361m, while there are other similarly altitudinous stadia dotted around the country.

No matter where they play, the All Whites are in for a hostile reception. The world's worst football riot occurred at the Estadio Nacional in 1964 after a Peru equaliser was disallowed against Argentina. In all, 328 fans are known to have died.

The one big factor which might be in New Zealand's favour is the pressure, or comparative lack thereof, of their home fans.

Peruvian fans before the match against Colombia. The text on the flag reads: "Mum, I'm going to Russia".
MARIANA BAZO/REUTERS

Peruvian fans before the match against Colombia. The text on the flag reads: "Mum, I'm going to Russia".

The weight of expectation won't be nearly as heavy for the All Whites as Peru. New Zealand last went to the World Cup in 2010, while Peru haven't made the finals since 1982.

They celebrated like they had made the World Cup after their draw against Colombia. The passion and drive is there, but if they are down going into the second leg in Peru then the doubts might start to creep in and it's advantage All Whites.

The two teams have never met before, but this playoff should be an absolute cracker.

 - Stuff

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