Saransk is the place where Peru and Denmark close Group C’s first day of action. In their fifth World Cup appearances, and fresh from their respective playoffs, the Europeans and the South Americans will fight for what early on seems to be the second available spot- right behind France.
Saturday marks a historic day for Peru. 36 years after their last participation, their national anthem will be sung in the world’s greatest football stage. In Saransk, the Ricardo Gareca-led team (and 30 million people)’s World Cup dream begins.
Their first rival is Denmark. Having missed the Brazil meeting, they’re eager to prove themselves. With Christian Eriksen leading the attack, they can provide more risk than one might expect. Besides, they are tall enough to keep the ball above the midfielders’ heads. It won’t be a piece of cake, but all parties are willing to give it a shot.
The eye of el Tigre
In the last few months, Paolo Guerrero’s suspension altered Peru’s original game plan. Since aerial shots were no longer an option, Ricardo Gareca favored ground play, ball touch and pressing when it was lost. This complete pack was key for the early friendlies against Croatia and Iceland, as well as the team’s home farewell against Scotland.
Paolo was back for the Saudi Arabia game, but recent developments force me to not take that match into as much account as earlier. The key game here is the one against Sweden. Both referential players (Paolo and Jefferson Farfán) played together, but the net didn’t open for la Blanquirroja.
Now that the stakes are up, Gareca continues with the usual 4-3-2-1. However, the lancer is different. For two practices already, winger Farfán has capped the formation. He has performed in that position before in one of the most important games in the national team’s history and succeeded, so that is out of the question. Gareca’s decisions are known to be clever (the 15-game streak without losing and the qualification itself are proof enough), so even if he turned out wrong here, he shouldn’t be questioned.
What this situation shows is that Paolo still has some way to go. Six months without professional, competitive football (not only training) have taken their toll, and this game, as stated above, might decide who goes into the knockout stages. Him not being ready is no surprise. The question is whether or not he’ll have some minutes or if he’ll sit it out à la Salah.
Up to the challenge
The equivalent to the title above in Spanish would be “estar a la altura”. A rough English translation would be “to be (up) to the height”.
Indeed, an important key Denmark is willing to seize is precisely that. A Dane player’s regular height is 1.85m. Across the midfield, your average Peruvian player stands at 1.75m. This opens possibilities of aerial play and perspective blocking, and coach Åge Hareide is aware of this. He can also take Peru’s friendly against classic rival Sweden into account- the also tall Swedes would block the midfielders’ sight with some frequency. However, there’s also his team’s own friendly against Chile. Facing a team who only missed out on the party by goal difference (and a CAS decision they originally sued for), the result was the same as the friendly above. No goals.
Denmark has a good goal card, though. Named Christian Eriksen, the Tottenham attacking midfielder can create and make situations with the potential of giving Peruvian goalkeeper Pedro Gallese a run for his money.
The goal post is also covered- by Kasper Schmeichel. Following into father Peter’s gloves, he has the potential to frustrate Farfán, Edison Flores or any Peruvian set on denying him a clean sheet. In front of him, the Danish 4-3-3 is ready to cause some trouble for the returned.
Head to head
This will be the first game between both teams.
Both teams are strong candidates for (at least) the round of 16, thus a tie wouldn’t be surprising. That being said, this is my country we’re talking about. I look forward to a victory, maybe a 2-1. For a 1/3 of a century wait, it would make a good comeback.
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