Peru tipped to edge out Denmark in Group C clashby Gabriel Sutton / 15 June 2018, 21:26Tweet
The last match Peru played at a World Cup came on 22nd June 1982. Back then, the film ET was a new phenomenon, Prince William was a day old and Aston Villa were the reigning European Cup winners, so rusty are the history books.
The 5-1 defeat to Poland that day symbolized the end of the golden generation - Teófilo Cubillas, Juan Carlos Oblitas and co. - who had enthralled the neutrals in the 1970s with exquisite, audacious football.
Nearly four decades on, La Blanquirroja finally have a squad with the potential to create another memorable era: the way to prove it would be victory over Denmark.
Their manager, Aage Hareide, aspires to a performance like the one that saw his side beat Ireland 5-1 in the play-off qualifier. That match though was one of just four of their last eight in which the Danes didn’t fail to score, so consistency will be king if they are to make the last-16.
The big pre-tournament news for Peru is that key man Paolo Guerrero has been made available after a drugs ban was overturned; after scoring 34 goals in 82 international games, the 34-year-old is 5/2 with bet365 to bag anytime.
The target man’s selection in a 4-2-3-1 enables Peru to go more direct than they did in the striker’s absence. However, Guerrero is still shorter than Denmark centre-backs Simon Kjaer and Andreas Christensen, so Peru will have to use his physical presence by serving him accurately from advanced areas.
Luckily for manager Ricardo Gareca, he has individuals capable of doing so. There is plenty of technical quality in a midfield that contains enigmatic number 10 Christian Cueva, who has had a slightly colourful career but appears to have matured, based on his excellent form for Sao Paolo.
Peru also pose a counter-attacking threat: Andre Carillo of Watford and 22-year-old Edison Flores - who ironically plies his trade in Denmark - are both very quick.
Wingers will fancy their chances of causing problems for the opposing full-backs, Brentford’s Henrik Dalsgaard and Udinese’s Jens Larsen, neither of whom having entirely convinced the natives.
Luis Advincula, a speedy right-back who is confident with both feet, will create overloads while left-back Miguel Trauco is capable of a fine diagonal ball.
Midfielder Pedro Aquino has said the team will stick to their national principles:
"We know that Denmark is going to try to impose its physique. But we already face similar selections and try to play with the ball. "
The forward-thinking players though will have to be careful not to vacate too much space in behind, especially behind Advincula. Denmark wide man Pione Sisto - who has impressed for Celta Vigo over the last two seasons - is a gifted dribbler who will look to make mazy runs in from the left channel and link-up with Nicolai Jorgensen, the Eredivisie’s top scorer in 2016-17.
There is no denying who Danish Dynamite’s danger man is though: Christian Eriksen has been given more freedom in an attacking midfield role since Hareide changed to a controlled 4-2-3-1 system and his creative qualities could be vital.
The boss says it will be a team effort:
“It’s not quite true that Denmark is over-dependent on Eriksen. We have a team that works for him but he also works for us. It’s not a one-man show. Christian is a part of the team but he’s also a star, a fantastic football player. He can observe space quicker than anybody else, that is his key value for the team.”
While Eriksen undoubtedly improves Denmark, the first game of the competition will be one of the most iconic moments in Peru’s history: Gareca’s men might just get the victory that would see them become the big story of the day.
Prediction: Peru 2-1 Denmark (12/1 with Betfair)