Saturday, June 29, 2013

To a point, Peru's schedule was good – their first match was against the direct opponent, Scotland, and the last against the outsiders, Iran. Did the Scots took Peru seriously or not is immaterial – Peru was serious and well prepared. But they did not survived the initial Scottish rush and received a goal in the 14th minute. May this goal completely mislead the Tartan Army – Peru gained control of the game, did not look scared or discouraged, and shortly before halftime equalized. The turning point came in the 57th minute – Masson missed a penalty. Peru continued to attack and prevailed – Cubillas scored 2 goals between 70th and 80th minute and Scotland was down.

Cubillas delivered excellent free kick and scored – one of the outstanding goals of the finals.

Peru won their most important match, but it was only the first match. The next opponent was mightier – Holland. Holland was not overwhelming against Iran, so it was expected to play better this time. Peru was riding on the wings of enthusiasm, but prediction went for the Dutch anyway. In front of relatively small crowd of 28 000 spectators the teams clashed and the heroes were the Peruvians. A second strong match, more than equal to the Dutch.
Quiroga bravely gets the ball ahead of Rene van der Kerkhof. The goalkeeper was the hero this evening and proved to be not only brave, but really good keeper. But he was not alone – the whole team played well. The match ended in a scoreless draw.

The group became a Russian roulette – before the last leg nothing was decided: Holland and Peru had 3 points each and Scotland and Iran – one point. Given the shaky play of the Dutch, the uneven performance of the Scots, and the surprisingly competent Iranian team, everything was possible. True, Iran and Scotland needed big wins, but neither Holland, nor Peru could risk playing for a tie. Peru was strong again. Velasquez scored in the 2nd minute. Then in the 36th minute Peru got a penalty.
Cubillas scored the penalty and Peru was leading 2-0. Three minutes later the moment was repeated – another penalty for Peru and again Cubillas made it 3-0. Solid lead, Peru was the classier team, continuing to attack. But Iran was not giving up. They fought back and scored a goal in the 40th minute. 3-1 at halftime.

Peru did not lose concentration and did not try to kill the game and preserve the result in the second half. It was open, attacking match, in which only scoring was to secure victory. Eventually, Peru scored one more goal in the 78th minute. Cubillas again and 4-1. Nothing changed in the remaining time and Peru qualified for the next round. The team was one of the best in the first phase of the tournament. The midfield was particularly impressive – Cueto, Velasquez, and Cubillas. The defense was solid, led by the 'slow and over the hill' Chumpitaz. Quiroga was more than solid between the goalposts. The strikers were dangerous. Teofilo Cubillas was the leading scorer of the tournament so far with 5 goals. Peru was perhaps the most consistent team at the first stage and deserved to go ahead. And may be capable of doing more than that.