If it wants to vibrate with another World Cup, Peru will have to make its way through the playoff route again.
The Peruvian team won for the second consecutive time the right to play the intercontinental playoff that leads to the World Cup after beating Paraguay 2-0 on Tuesday.
Masters of their destiny at the close of the marathon qualifying round in South America, the Peruvians attacked from the start and went ahead after five minutes thanks to a goal by Gianluca Lapadula after a collective move.
Christian Cueva’s long pass reached the Italian-Peruvian striker, whose forehand touch beat goalkeeper Antony Silva to unleash the revelry at the National Stadium in Lima.
With authority, La Blanquirroja continued to attack and increased in the 42nd minute through an acrobatic volley definition by Yoshimar Yotún to a pass from Edison Flores.
On an inspired night, Cueva became the generator of most of the plays that challenged the Guarani goal. Despite the absence due to injury of their historic scorer Paolo Guerrero, Peru showed a sharp offensive game. Guerrero has been effectively replaced by Lapadula.
Up 2-0 against a Paraguay that showed more momentum than a polished game, Peru managed the second half. The locals did not have to monopolize possession of the ball, but they did not suffer behind either.
“We hit when we had to hit and we held on too,” goalkeeper Pedro Gallese said.
Once again at the hands of Argentine coach Ricardo Gareca, Peru will have to define its ticket in intercontinental instances to repeat in the highest soccer event. The passage to Qatar will be played next June against the winner of the Asian playoff between Australia and the United Arab Emirates.
Gareca indicated in a press conference that whoever the rival is will be “difficult and complicated”, but the most important thing that the Blanquirroja has is that it does not “decay and overcomes adversity”.
To go to Russia 2018 and play its first World Cup in 36 years, Peru also had to avoid the playoffs, leaving New Zealand out.
As in the Russian qualifiers, the Peruvians came from behind in the final stage, shaking off last Thursday’s 1-0 loss to Uruguay.
“In the qualifying rounds we came from less to more”, highlighted Cueva. “The group got a lot stronger in the difficult moments, it came together and got stronger, that’s why we’ll be playing a playoff”.
With more than 40,000 spectators, the National Stadium roared with the Peruvian triumph and several players danced in front of the stands.
The Peruvian victory left out Colombia and Chile, teams that were chasing them for fifth place. Colombia defeated Venezuela 1-0 at home, while Chile fell 2-0 to Uruguay.
After 18 days, Peru closed with 24 points, followed by Colombia with 23 and Chile with 19.
Apart from the absence of Guerrero due to a knee injury, Peru accumulated other important casualties. Attacker André Carrillo was injured in the duel against Uruguay, while holding midfielder Pedro Aquino suffered a fracture in the fifth metatarsal of his right foot in qualifying matches earlier in the year.
“We went through innumerable problems,” reflected Gareca. «André Carrillo could not be here today, Pedro Aquino… unfortunately it was a tie full of difficulties».
“We are all looking to get to Qatar… the most important thing now is to try to be with the family, that the players return to the rhythm, that the boys with problems recover and thus arrive in an important way,” he said.
Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador and Uruguay qualified directly to go to Qatar this November.