Three entire generations of Peruvians have never seen their national team in a World Cup. The last time Los Incas featured at a finals was in Spain in 1982 – a drought of 36 years that finally came to an end with Ricardo Gareca’s side qualifying spectacularly for Russia by beating New Zealand in the inter-confederation playoffs 2-0 on aggregate.
Peru found themselves eighth in the notoriously difficult Conmebol qualifying group with only a few games to play but a final sprint to the finish line included beating Uruguay at home, taking a point in La Bombonera at the expense of Argentina, beating Ecuador away and holding Colombia in Lima.
Despite the pressure on their shoulders in the playoff, and in the absence of their star player and leader Paolo Guerrero, who was suspended for both legs, Peru responded to the challenge and reached Russia in a valiant and morale-boosting final straight.
|DOB: 10/02/1958||Preferred system: 4-2-3-1|
|Matches: 37||W/D/L: 16/10/11|
Peru were one of the surprise packages in the 1978 World Cup, reaching the second group stage against the odds after topping a group that included the mighty Netherlands and Scotland. Under the guidance of former Argentina international Gareca, Peru have converted themselves from one of the traditional soft touches in Conmebol to qualify for Russia on their own merit. The 60-year-old coach and a good group of players have allowed Peruvians to dream again and hopes will be high that they can repeat the success of 1978 four decades later.
Gareca inherited a squad low on morale in 2015 and through a prescription of hard graft and instilling a winning mentality returned Peru to a position where the side believed they could achieve the impossible even when they were lagging behind in qualifying. Gareca took a gamble by placing his faith in flair players such as Renato Tapia, André Carrillo and Edison Flores and also made a leader of Christian Cueva while handling the Guerrero affair with aplomb. He also recalled Jefferson Farfán and imposed his style on the squad with discretion and cool-headedness. Gareca was exactly the coach Peru needed, at exactly the right time.
|DOB: 01/01/1984||Age: 33||Position: Forward||Club: Flamengo|
|Height: 185 cm||Weight: 82 kg||Caps: 83||Goals: 32|
The undisputed leader of Peru, his goal against Colombia in the final round of fixtures ensured his side nipped into the playoff place ahead of Chile. Guerrero was banned for the double-header against New Zealand after testing positive for cocaine and receiving a 12-month suspension, later reduced to six on appeal by Fifa, allowing the Flamengo striker to return to action in May, a month before the World Cup. An experienced player who spent two seasons at Bayern Munich and a further six at Hamburg, Guerrero has scored goals wherever he has plied his trade and will offer a threat to any opponent at the World Cup. His charisma and leadership have converted him into a national sporting idol and he is Peru’s all-time leading scorer with 32 in 86 appearances. The captain is Peru’s talisman and one of the best players the country has ever produced. He is also their greatest hope of getting out of a tricky group.