Australia came into their clash with Peru with reason for optimism. They had pushed Denmark to the brink in their last game, and were unlucky not to come away with the win, and they certainly didn’t disgrace themselves against the French. They did lose, but that wasn’t exactly an expected result. Now, all they had to do was beat Peru, and hope the French and the Danish didn’t come to some pesky agreement that would see them both progress at Australia’s expense. The beating of Peru would surely be the easy part. They couldn’t be that good, could they?
Australia started the game well, controlling possession and territory and looking the more threatening of the sides without creating too much. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, Peru scored. Peru hadn’t made many attacks, but when they did get forward they did so with devastating effect. Paolo Guerrero managed to get on the end of a long ball (from a seemingly offside position) and he ran into space inside the box. Well corralled, he hung a cross towards the edge of the area, where André Carrillo was making a run towards the ball. Every part of the goal was timed to perfection. Carrillo met Guerrero’s cross just before it hit the ground, and his volley was perfect. It shot off his boot with force, eluding Aziz Behich and Mark Milligan and beating Mathew Ryan’s dive as it rolled forcefully into the bottom corner. Australia were behind, and it wasn’t really clear how it had happened.Embed from Getty Images
Paolo Guerrero scores Peru’s second goal under pressure from Mark Milligan. Guerrero’s goal all but sealed the Socceroos’ fate.
Then Peru went back to casually sitting back, holding the Australians at bay with contemptuous ease and only really looking threatened on a couple of occasions. Tom Rogic drove through the heart of the Peruvian defence, ducking and weaving while holding off his opponents and holding onto the ball. He fired off a shot while surrounded by defenders, but he was unable to beat Pedro Gallese, who was perfectly placed to repel the effort. It was Rogic who proceeded to create the best chance of the half, threading the ball through the Peruvian defence and finding Robbie Kruse deep inside the box. Kruse pulled it back for Matthew Leckie, but Peru were in position and the ball was diverted out for a corner. Australia went into half time very much in control of the play, but behind on the scoresheet.
The game was basically over less than five minutes after half time, thanks to the work of Guerrero. Peru’s talismanic captain (he is so revered that residents of Lima protested in the streets when news came through of his since-overturned World Cup suspension), found the ball in the box, and a bit of space was all he needed. Christian Cueva started it, running down the left and cutting in to shoot against the slightly stretched Socceroos defence. Mile Jedinak was there, and he stuck out a leg to block the shot, but he couldn’t stop it from bouncing towards Guerrero, who was lying in wait. Guerrero swivelled and shot with his left foot, Milligan got a slight touch on the ball, and it seemed to travel into the bottom corner in slow motion. It left Australia, having failed to score a goal from open play all tournament, needing three goals just to have a chance of qualification. Peru were proving a bit harder than first thought.
Now needing a minor miracle to progress, Bert van Marwijk summoned Tim Cahill from the bench. Cahill has had an interesting year. He quit A-League team Melbourne City, citing his desire to get game time before his fourth World Cup, and then spent the rest of the season warming the bench in a fruitless spell with Millwall. The 38-year-old’s selection in the World Cup squad met with some consternation, with critics suggesting he was only there for marketing reasons. Then he didn’t play in Australia’s first two matches, and as the Socceroos fought desperately for goals against France and Denmark there was outrage as he was not called on to take the field, and Australia couldn’t rely on his penchant for headed goals. So, with Australia in dire straits at 2-0 down, Cahill finally found himself called into the fray, and found himself cast as Australia’s saviour.Embed from Getty Images
Tim Cahill (bending over) uses Mile Jedinak as a meat shield before an Australian corner. The tactic never really worked, but Australia continued to use it at every set piece involving the talismanic striker.
The players seemed to be relying on him too. When Australia finally had a set piece with Cahill on the field, three players formed a human shield between him and the Peruvian defence. For his part, Cahill put his hands around Leckie’s waist, and jumped around on the balls of his feet. It didn’t really work that time, and it didn’t really work when Australia won other corners and free-kicks either. If Peru were supposed to be unnerved by the presence of a player so formidable in the air that he was cloaked by a retinue of bodyguards at every corner, they weren’t. Cahill created a couple of chances, like when he flicked the ball on to Behich and the left-back’s shot was deflected away, and when he found a chance to volley in the box but couldn’t get his shot past the well-positioned Christian Ramos, but the couple of chances weren’t enough.
It soon became clear that Australia just weren’t good enough to break Peru down. Their build-up play was lethargic, and they couldn’t take advantage of Cahill’s presence as a result. They controlled possession, but their attacks consisted of shuffling the ball from side to side, and occasionally chancing a cross which was blocked by one of many Peruvian defenders queueing up to scupper the Australian attacks. It seemed like Australia’s only hope of getting the ball into Cahill was if the Peruvian defenders got bored of waiting for the Socceroos to do something and they drifted off. Australia controlled the game, but the match played out exactly as Peru had planned it: the Peruvians sat back, waited for an opening and hit them on the break. Peru finished the match with just four shots. They only needed two of them to send Australia packing.
Sochi – Fisht Olympic Stadium
Peru 2 (Carrillo 18, Guerrero 50)
Referee: Sergei Karasev (Rus)
Australia (4-2-3-1): Ryan – Risdon, Sainsbury, Milligan, Behich; Jedinak, Mooy; Leckie, Rogic (Irvine 72), Kruse (Arzani 58); Juric (Cahill 53).
Peru (4-2-3-1): Gallese – Advíncula, Ramos, Santamaría, Trauco; Tapia (Hurtado 63), Yotún (Aquino 46); Carrillo (Cartagena 79), Cueva, Flores; Guerrero.
1. André Carrillo (Peru)
Carrillo’s three performances in Russia have been nearly flawless, and he capped off an excellent individual World Cup by finding the back of the net with a stunning volley. His goal, coupled with his excellent work rate in both attack and defence, made him one of Peru’s most dangerous and effective players.
2. Paolo Guerrero (Peru)
Guerrero didn’t receive a lot of service from his teammates, and he was often left out of the action for lengthy periods of time. When he did touch it, however, his work was brilliant. His goal came from a very classy finish, and although the run he made before his assist was questionable the pass itself was top class. A brilliant performance.
3. Tom Rogic (Australia)
Rogic looked like Australia’s only real attacking threat until he was bizarrely removed with 20 minutes to go. He created a couple of chances out of nothing, and his ball to tee up Australia’s best opportunity of the match was beautifully executed.
4. Luis Advíncula (Peru)
Advíncula used his pace to good effect as he contributed solidly to the Peruvian defence and occasionally offered something going forward. His combination with Carrillo was as strong as ever, and he determinedly continued to rebuff Australia as they looked to eat into the deficit.
5. Aziz Behich (Australia)
Australia’s campaign may have ended in disappointment, but Behich should take credit for another strong performance at left-back to cap off a good individual World Cup. He looked as dangerous as ever when he got up the pitch at pace, and found plenty of the ball while Australia looked to break down an organised defensive front.