Third place with an injury-hit squad at the last Copa proved a false dawn for the team then coached by Sergio Markarian. Once the World Cup qualifiers got under way, Peru were hit by an old problem: the inability to compete away from home.
Since failing to make France 98 on goal difference, Peru’s away record in qualification reads won 2, drawn 6 and lost 27, with their last victory coming in 2004.
The problem is part mental and part physical, with Pablo Bengoechea, who was Markarian’s assistant and then had a brief spell in caretaker command, complaining that the team were unable to sustain their rhythm over 90 minutes. Another more obvious problem is the lack of outstanding talent. And these are now the problems of Ricardo Gareca, whose task is made all the harder by a lack of preparation time.
Although Gareca coached in Peruvian club football from 2007 to 2008, he has had to take over the national side with precious little time to get to know the domestically-based players and assess the form of those who play abroad.
“I accept this challenge,” said Gareca on his presentation at the start of March in the knowledge that it’s going to be a tough task, but not an impossible one. After his first game, a 1-0 defeat by Venezuela, he said: “I don’t know if we’ll arrive at the Copa America fully prepared, but I’m sure will give a good account of ourselves”.
HOW THEY LINE UP
As his players assembled for their first training sessions in March, coach Ricardo Gareca said: “We’ll take a few days to decide how to play. My preference is for a number 10 style playmaker, but we’ll
have a look at what we’ve got.”
In the event, he went with a 4-2-3-1 against Venezuela that was most concerned with a search for speed on the counter-attack – and that could be the template for the Copa, given that Peru find themselves in a tricky group.
With attacking full-backs and some pace down the flanks, Gareca will trust that his team can provide a sufficient supply line to centre-forward Paolo Guerrero.
Age 25 (23.02.90)
Has emerged in the last two years as a lithe, athletic goalkeeper who saved a penalty on his international debut against Panama in August last year.
Age 25 (10.07.89)
Eintracht Frankfurt (Ger)
Centre-back “El Kaiser” was Gareca’s choice of captain for his first match, but he has never totally lived up to his billing and has been prone to moments of rashness.
Age 27 (21.03.88)
Tall, central midfielder with a sound range of passing who has shown in this year’s Libertadores Cup that he is capable of dropping into a defensive line of three.
Age 20 (19.05.94)
Real Madrid (Spa)
Spain-born attacking midfielder, he plays for Real’s reserve side, Castilla, and was thrown into the closing stages of the last World Cup qualifying campaign.
Age 31 (01.01.84)
Top scorer in the last Copa and hero of Corinthians’ 2012 Club World Cup triumph. Strong and calm in the box, he is in sight of becoming Peru’s all-time top marksman.
Age 57 (10.02.58)
Argentinian who scored the goal that prevented Peru’s qualification for Mexico 86. Coached Universitario in Peru, but is best known for a successful four-year spell in his homeland with Velez Sarsfield.
Jun 14 Brazil v Peru Temuco
Jun 18 Peru v Venezuela Valparaiso
Jun 21 Colombia v Peru Temuco
BEST PERFORMANCE: Winners in 1939 and 1975 (twice)
PERFORMANCE LAST TIME: Third