For the good or for the bad, Yoshimar Yotún is expected be Orlando City SC’s lone representative in the 2018 FIFA World Cup. The Designated Player helped Peru end a 36-year drought and return to the top stage in Russia next year.
Lions fans will certainly be cheering for Yoshi, who made a good impression in his first months with the club, and with the World Cup draw already in the books, let’s see what Peru’s real chances in Russia will be.
Ranked 11th in the FIFA rankings, the South Americans were drawn in Group C, alongside France, Denmark, and Australia. With only two teams advancing to the knockout round, the Peruvians will need to be flawless to progress in the World Cup. Let’s break up all their three matches in the first round:
Denmark, June 16 (Saransk)
Peru’s first match in the World Cup will be arguably their most important one in the group stage. With France expected to reign supreme in the pool, the Peruvians and the Danish, who are ranked 12th in the world, might compete for the second spot in the elimination round, meaning the result of this match alone could define both teams’ fate in the tournament.
Against Denmark, Peru will have to stop a potent offense, which collected impressive results in the European qualifiers, such as 4-0 and 5-1 wins over Poland and the Republic of Ireland. Tottenham Hotspur’s Christian Eriksen is the catalyst of the Danish attack and the South Americans need to be ready to slow him down. Peru will also have to deal with Denmark’s physical defenders and having striker Paolo Guerrero, who is currently suspended facing doping accusations, would be extremely beneficial.
France, June 21 (Yekaterinburg)
The French are among the favorites to lift the World Cup in Russia for good reason. Ranked ninth in the world, they had only one loss in the European qualifiers and possess a generation of young and talented players such as Paul Pogba, N’Golo Kanté, Antoine Griezmann, and Kylian Mbappé.
To Peru, this is one of those games when you get extremely happy if you can squeeze a point out of it. If that’s not the case, the strategy should be trying to concede as few goals as possible, since goal differential is very likely to be a tiebreaker in case of a draw with Denmark in the opening match.
Australia, June 26 (Sochi)
The Australians got to the World Cup thanks to a 3-1 aggregate win over Honduras in the inter-confederation playoffs. Sitting at 39th in the world, the Socceroos are one of the lowest-seeded teams to compete in Russia and if Peru plans on advancing to the knockout round it cannot get any result other than a win against them.
At the age of 37, former New York Red Bulls forward Tim Cahill is still one of the most prominent names of the Australian roster with over 100 matches and 50 goals for the national team. Midfielder Mile Jedinek, who scored a hat trick against the Hondurans, is other name to keep in mind.
Peru has a decent chance of advancing to the knockout round on its return to the World Cup after 36 years. It depends mostly on a strong start against Denmark and on getting the job done against a weaker Australia.
If they make to the elimination round, though, they will match up with a team coming from Group D, which is composed of Argentina, Iceland, Nigeria, and Croatia. All of them, except Iceland, are probably too much for Yoshi & Co., but you never know. World Cups always have their surprises and why not believe that the Peruvians could be the next in line?