Australia v Peru Preview - Can the Socceroos qualify through to the knockout stages?

Gabriel Sutton by Gabriel Sutton / 26 June 2018, 10:13

"The public were incredible and that is what really hurts, that we were unable to pay back this fervour, which the team awoke, and this multitude of people who followed us," – Peru manager Ricardo Gareca, after his side’s 1-0 defeat to France saw them eliminated from the World Cup.

"I said before the tournament that everyone would be surprised with their passion, and their love for the team. We will do the impossible to try and give them a goal or a win to celebrate in our final match"

Despite not yet taking any points, Peru and their top supporters have been a breath of fresh air to this World Cup; the same can be said of Australia, who need a victory in Sochi to have a chance of staying in the competition.

Both held their own against France, one of the tournament favourites and both put in strong second half displays against Denmark, who might be fortunate to qualify in second-place.

Elimination isn’t a foregone conclusion for the spirited Aussies, who have played with vigour and tenacity during Bert Van Marwijk’s five-month stint in charge.

They will however, need to improve their hit rate: 9.5 shots per game, only eight teams have had fewer and only 2.5 shots on target per game. Both of their goals have come from Mile Jedinak penalties, which might indicate a need for more belief in terms of their end product.

Their attacking options are restricted by the unfortunate injury to Andrew Nabbout, which means Tomi Juric, who is himself recovering from a recent lay-off, is set to start.

Juric is a selfless worker but will need support from the likes of Tom Rogic and Mathew Leckie; the latter was arguably the stand-out player against Denmark last time out. Busy, industrious and skilful, Leckie poses a real threat in the transitional phases and that’s something Australia could exploit.

Peru’s full-backs, Luis Advincula and Miguel Trauco, both play in an aggressive, front-foot manner and they assume that every ball they challenge for, they will win. That mentality is beneficial in lots of ways, but it can leave gaps that expose unconvincing centre-backs Christian Ramos and Alberto Rodriguez – although the latter could be replaced by the calmer Anderson Santamaria.

Daniel Arzani is another Australian who could take advantage. He said: "We just have to be braver and that's the way everyone's looking at it. We have to take more risks going forward because it’s a must win for us. The most important thing for me is the team and when I've gone on the field usually we need a goal or we need me to try and help the team create something and that’s been my goal.”

The wide man looked bright after replacing the disappointing Robbie Kruse and looks likely to start here with Tom Rogic, a persistently powerful runner, as the most advanced midfielder.

That role for Peru will fall to Christian Cueva, who had a tough time against France. The man-marking job of N’Golo Kante meant he was forced into the left channel – at times further left even than wide man Edison Flores – and that limited his creative capabilities.

The key for Ricardo Gareca’s side will therefore be to make sure they can release Cueva in pockets of space much closer to the ‘D’, which is where his clever movement and neat footwork comes to the fore.

Australia have a dilemma: Aaron Mooy is the closest thing they have to N’Golo Kante in terms of energy and tenacity, but by assigning the Huddersfield man a marking job, they risk limiting his capacity to create.

Alternatively, they could free Mooy up by giving that role to Jedinak, who has many strong defensive qualities – but mobility isn’t necessarily among them.

Australia will also have to quieten the speedy Andre Carrillo, who is having an impressive tournament so far and looks set for a move to Everton, where he would be re-united with Marco Silva. His opponent would be Behich, who has also looked good in this tournament; offering plenty of energy and confidence under pressure but equally, he is yet to be tested one-on-one by a direct winger.

Peru will be desperate to score their first World Cup goal since 1982 to please the supporters who went, while Australia might be tactically braver.

While these two sides may not attain the last-16 place their performances have arguably merited, they could at least bow out with a thriller.

The Sack Race’s Verdict: 3-3 (80/1 with Betfair)

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