For people inside the United Kingdom, Peru is renowned for Macchu Picchu, and for football fans, Nolbero Solano but the Peruvians have surprisingly good pedigree in International football for a country of over 20 million.
History at FIFA World Cup:
La Rojiblanca are proud of their decent record on the world stage and since the British brought football to them in the early 1900s, they have been inconsistent but at times, punching well above their weight.
Peru have qualified for four FIFA World Cup’s, including the first in 1930 in Uruguay but as their South American rivals went on to win the competition, Peru could only take 10th place after defeats to the hosts and Romania.
The Peruvians would not qualify for another FIFA World Cup until 1970 when the “glory generation” came to the fore. Didi Pereira’s side would take the competition by storm as they advanced past the group stages after beating Bulgaria 3-2 and Morocco 3-0. They lost their last match against Germany, which was not of much significance to be fair, but they were sent packing in the Quarter Finals, losing 4-2 to Brazil.
Peru would have more success to come in 1975 when they won another Copa America and qualified for the 1978 World Cup.
La Rojiblanca defeated Scotland 3-1, Iran 4-0 and managed to hold a Holland team, including Johan Cruyff, to a 0-0 draw. However, in the Second Round group stages, Peru seemed to implode against Brazil and Poland, losing both, before an infamous match with Argentina that they lost 6-0. Some still claim to this day that a militia based in Argentina fixed the game.
Peru were featuring regularly at major international competitions and again sealed their place at the 1982 World Cup in Spain. The “golden generation” was sadly in decline as Peru drew with Cameroon and Italy before being thumped by Poland 5-1 in the final match.
The country’s morale was at rock bottom following the Allianza Lima air disaster in 1987 where an aircraft chartered by Peruvian club side Allianza Lima crashed in the Pacific Ocean killing all 43 passengers on board. Caught up in the disaster was Marcelo Calderon, the coach of the Peruvian national team.
Since 1982, Peru have yet to qualify for the FIFA World Cup and will be eager to reach the next finals which will be held in Brazil in 2014.
History in Copa America:
Similar to their performances at the FIFA World Cup, Peru have been inconsistent in their results at the Copa America but they have won the competition on two occasions.
The Peruvians won their first Copa America in 1939 which Argentina and Brazil did not compete in. They were in dominant form winning all of their matches on the road to the final, which they beat Uruguay 3-1. In the group stages, they beat rivals Ecuador 5-2 and South American neighbours Chile 3-1 before concluding the group with a 3-1 win over Paraguay.
Before winning the Copa America in 1939, they had finished in Third Place on two occasions in 1927 and 1935 with a Fourth Place finish sandwiched between. They continued to consolidate their position in the Top five South American nations at the Copa America and finished Third again in 1949 and 1955 with a Fifth place position in 1953.
Their second triumph would come in the “glory generation” in 1975 and the Peruvians took advantage of a pretty crazy competition overall. There was no venue for the Copa America finals and Peru beat both Chile and Bolivia home and away before triumphing over Brazil over two legs. The final was against Colombia and despite losing the first leg in Bogota, they overturned the deficit in Lima but both teams were forced to play a third match to decide the winner in the Venezuelan capital Caracas.
Hugo Sotil scored the only goal of the game in Caracas on 25 minutes which gave Peru a second Copa America victory to their name.
They reached the semi-finals in two consecutive years after their triumph in Venezuela but failed to replicate the 70-80s era until 1999 where they started a sequence of Quarter Final finishes which they continued to the last finals in 2007.
Domestic football in Peru:
Universitario de Deportes are the most successful club in the country with 25 titles to their name but are closely followed by Allianza Lima who have 22 league championships in their history. Sporting Cristal have won 15 domestic titles after a superb run in the 90s and early 00s. However, the current champions are Universidad San Martin who have won three league titles in four years.
But none of them have had continental success with only one Peruvian club having won either of the major South American club competitions.
Cienciano won the Copa Sudamericana in 2003 – South America’s equivalent of the UEFA Europa League – which was the country’s first ever victory in the tournament. The competition is split in to preliminary rounds for each region so Peruvian clubs take on their Chilean counterparts in the early rounds.
Cienciano defeated Peruvian rivals Allianza Lima over two legs before meeting Universidad Catolica to qualify for the latter rounds and the minnows from Cusco came out on top, winning 5-3 on aggregate.
It could not get much harder for Cienciano who met Brazilian giants Santos in the Quarter Finals with the El Papa coming out 3-2 winners after two tight matches. Cienciano romped to the final with a 3-1 victory over Atletico Nacional from Colombia and faced Argentinian heavyweights River Plate in the final.
After an enthralling 3-3 draw in Buenos Aires, Carlos Lugo scored the only goal of the game in Arequipa to win Cienciano’s first continental competition. The ReCopa Sudamericana is a one-off match between the Copa Libertadores and Copa Sudamericana winners and Cienciano went on to beat Boca Juniors on penalties after a 1-1 draw in normal time.
Like the majority of teams out with Argentina and Brazil, the bulk of Peru’s squad is based in the country of their birth.
The two famous Peruvian stars playing in Europe are Claudio Pizarro and Jefferson Farfan, both playing their stuff in the Bundesliga. Pizarro has 19 goals in 53 internationals but has been missing from Peru’s warm-up fixtures before the Copa America. Farfan has enjoyed a positive end to the season with Schalke, winning the DFB Pokal and reaching the semi-finals of the Champions League, and has played for the national team on 40 occasions.
Sergio Markarián’s side will have an inexperienced keeper between the sticks with Raul Fernandez possibly the favoured option, and he has just 6 caps to his name. Fernandez could not make an impact at Nice in France before returning to Peru to join up with Universidad Deportes.
The base of Peru’s team will be Santiago Acasiete (33) from Almeria and Walter Vilchez (29) who plays his football with Sporting Cristal. The Almeria defender has featured 180 times for the La Liga side since signing in 2004 after being part of Cienciano’s famous Copa Sudamericana-winning team. His central-defensive partner will be Vilchez of Sporting Cristal and he has 54 caps for the Peruvian national team.
Carlos Zambrano and Alberto Rodriguez of St Pauli and Sporting CP respectively, both withdrew from the last few internationals due to injury and are still doubtful for the Copa America next month.
Juan Manuel Vargas of Fiorentina has over 30 caps for Peru and will be a huge part of their Copa America campaign. Vargas is a regular for La Viola in Serie A and can play in central or left-midfield, as well as at left-back. Josepmir Ballon plays his football with River Plate and is most comfortable playing just in front of the back-four for Peru.
Luis Alberto Ramirez will be the more creative option for Peru in midfield and he plays his football in Brazil with Corinthians. Other midfield options include Rinaldo Cruzado, Michael Guevara, Carlos Lobaton, Rainer Torres and Paolo De La Haza.
Hamburg SV striker Jose Paolo Guerrero is injured and unavailable for selection over the summer but he is one of Peru’s most prolific options with 9 goals in 28 internationals for La Rojiblanca. The aforementioned Pizarro is the country’s top goalscorer and one of the most prolific strikers in the history of the Bundesliga. Jefferson Farfan has been played as a main central striker a few times for Peru and could play as a supporting-striker to Pizarro if he is selected for the tournament.
One to watch:
The one to watch has to be Schalke’s flying winger Jefferson Farfan who has had a very good end to the season with the Royal Blues. Farfan is something of a national hero in Peru and has dealt with that pressure very well with 12 goals in 40 appearances for the team.
After a terrible start to the season under Felix Magath, Farfan helped Schalke defeat Inter Milan on the road to the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League and he put in star performance in the DFB Pokal final in May.
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