AL RAYYAN, Qatar ( Associated Press) — Ricardo Gareca reflected on what is at stake for Peru on Monday in an intercontinental playoff against Australia.
Peru wants to repeat in a World Cup, something they have not achieved since they attended the events of Argentina 1978 and Spain 1982 with different coaches.
“I have had important moments in my life, but this is a beautiful opportunity,” said the Argentine coach. “A World Cup is a privilege for few. It is an extraordinary moment in my career that we want to take advantage of.”
In charge since 2015, the “Tiger” brought the team back to a competitive level in South America, qualifying for the 2018 World Cup in Russia — his first in 36 years. And they reached the Copa América final in 2019.
La Blanquirroja does not boast of luxurious individualities, but their collective work — and the confidence they radiate — is admirable.
The ticket to Russia was also achieved via a playoff in which they defeated New Zealand, the winner of the Oceania tie. Now they are fighting against some Australians who could not get the direct ticket in the Asian zone.
Peru and Australia will collide at Al Rayyan’s Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium. The venue to the west of Doha is one of the eight stages that will host the World Cup between November 21 and December 18 next.
Due to the delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the repechage will be a single game instead of the home and away format. The winner will end up in Group D, where reigning champions France, Denmark and Tunisia await.
“It’s been hard for us to get to this game and we’re not going to waste it,” said Peruvian goalkeeper Pedro Gallese. “For us it is the most important game of our lives and it will be beautiful from a physical and technical point of view”.
And boy, it was difficult to reach this playoff, in a campaign in which he was injured due to injury to his historic scorer Paolo Guerrero.
Peru was practically evicted in the South American qualifiers.
He barely added a point in the first five dates to sink to the bottom of the table, but gradually recovered positions to finish fifth.
Without Guerrero or Jefferson Farfán ruled out due to knee injuries, the Peruvian offensive weight on Monday will be in charge of Italian-Peruvian striker Gianluca Lapadula, winger André Carrillo and creative midfielder Christian Cueva.
“Australia is a well-worked team that knows what it wants on the field of play,” warned Gareca. “When that happens, we have to be very careful, we have to be in control.”
Australia are aiming to qualify for their fourth World Cup in a row and will try to capitalize on their physical display. The team led by Graham Arnold has just shown it in the 3-1 victory against the United Arab Emirates last Tuesday: the Australians had better return for the last quarter of the rival against an opponent that fell apart.
Arnold warned that Peru will be surprised by Australia’s technical quality.
“The players know their job, they go out there and do it the Australian way and that’s fighting for 90 minutes, being very physical,” the helmsman said. “And technically, Peruvians are going to be surprised at how much better Australian rules football has taken.”
Another factor is that Australia has had more preparation time in Qatar. Peru focused on Spain, where last Sunday they defeated New Zealand 1-0 in a blank.
Peruvians understand the challenge, as their midfielder Renato Tapia commented.
“With the passing of the minutes, it cost the Emirates physically,” said Tapia. “We have never felt like favorites in anything and I think that is one of our virtues. From humility build a path to victory”.