Peru’s World Cup Hopes Boosted As Farfan, Rodriguez Step In For Guerrero

Peru may not have been to a World Cup for 36 years, but they fly off to Europe full of confidence after a 2-0 win over Scotland in Lima that breaks the record for their longest unbeaten run.

Their last defeat was in November 2016 against Brazil. And now they have put together three consecutive wins against European opposition (they beat Croatia and Iceland in March). As they build towards facing Denmark, France and Australia in the World Cup, this is a massive morale boost, especially as all three were achieved without captain and star centre-forward Paolo Guerrero, who is set to miss the World Cup on account of a drug ban.

Peru cannot replace Guerrero’s ability to hold the ball with his back to goal and bring others into the play. This is the main reason coach Ricardo Gareca’s initial formation against the Scots was not an overwhelming success.

In a bid to have extra midfield protection in Russia, Gareca gave a slight tweak to his normal 4-2-3-1 formation. The versatile Edison Flores, who usually starts on the left, came into a more central role to help form a block with the more defensive midfielders Renato Tapia and Yoshimar Yotun. Andre Carillo retained his place on the right flank, but playmaker Christian Cueva moved from a more central position to operate wide on the left. It left the team disjointed in attack, unable to build around Jefferson Farfan.

But Farfan, an old school friend of Guerrero, has made a triumphant return to the national team. And if he is not great at holding the ball up, he still has sufficient pace to be played behind the opposing defensive line. That’s how Peru broke the deadlock against Scotland, with Farfan chasing a long ball into the channel from left-back Miguel Trauco, beating keeper Jordan Archer to the ball and having his shot blocked by the arm of Scott McKenna. Cueva slotted home the penalty.

And Cueva was soon back in the middle, close enough to Farfan to help the passing moves flow, with Flores back on the left and the formation looking more like a 4-4-1-1. Peru looked far better, and created space beautifully for the second goal, soon after the restart. A lovely flowing move saw Farfan send Yotun to the byline. On the second attempt his pull back found Farfan, who swept home with his left foot.

There was time for Gareca to look at more of an attacking formation, with centre-forward Raul Riudiaz coming on for Yotun. It was the moment of the game when Peru looked most open defensively, leaving the coach surely to conclude that playing two strikers is for emergencies only.

In the absence of Guerrero the side was captained by veteran centre-back Alberto Rodriguez — and his performance was one of the highlights of the night. Rodriguez has suffered an injury-plagued year, playing very few games for Junior of Barranquilla in Colombia. There were doubts about his readiness for the World Cup, but he dispelled them with an immaculate display, winning all his duels with sound timing and providing a sense of quiet leadership that will be much in demand when Peru take the field in Russia.


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