Peru shatter Australian dreams with comfortable victory

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.

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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.

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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
Australia 0
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.

Top 5
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.

France’s first half blitz eliminates Peru

There were a lot of questions surrounding the French heading into their clash against Peru. Even though they were expected to beat Peru and seal their progress to the knockout stages with a game to spare, an unconvincing victory against a determined Australian side had raised doubts about their attack, and seemingly left the ball open for a dynamic Peruvian team who were unlucky to lose their first-up clash with Denmark. In front of a crowd dominated by vocal Peruvian supporters (who added to the fun by letting a few red and white balloons onto the ground), France’s margin of victory was the same as it was in their opening game. This time, however, their blistering first half performance sent out a clear warning to the rest of the competition, and their solidity in the face of Peru’s desperate second half surge showed that they are tough to beat.

It soon became clear that France’s attack had finally clicked, and they were more potent in every area. Olivier Giroud was brought into the side, and he immediately provided a presence that had been lacking with his strength on the ball. Giroud brought everyone else into the play, and the results were spectacular. Antoine Griezmann did find the back of the net in the first game, but he was a shadow of his brilliant best. Here, he was surging in from behind Giroud and creating chances by finding plenty of open space. Paul Pogba was one of France’s best against Australia, but he was even better against Peru. With his forwards running into space, he came up with his usual moments of lazy brilliance. On the wing, Kylian Mbappé suddenly looked more menacing, dipping into his bag of tricks and terrorising the Peruvian defence.

The chances came thick and fast. Pogba took a long shot, and nearly caught Pedro Gallese flat-footed as the ball bounced just past the post. Raphaël Varane’s header flew just over the bar. Giroud and Mbappé played a one-two through the heart of the Peruvian defence, but the 19-year-old couldn’t quite control it. Griezmann got involved when Giroud headed the ball down for him, but Gallese made a good save. Pogba chipped Peru’s defence to find an onside Mbappé, but the precocious talent was in an awkward position and he didn’t even make contact with his attempt at an improvised stabbed back-heel volley. Unsurprisingly, the goal came soon after.

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Kylian Mbappé (right) celebrates with Antoine Griezmann after scoring the only goal of the game. Both players improved dramatically on their first game performances as France put in a menacing attacking performance.

It came when Pogba won the ball deep in attack, and found Giroud in space behind the Peruvian defence. Alberto Rodríguez slid in to block the shot, and executed the block to perfection. The result couldn’t have been worse. The ball bounced up off his leg, floating over a helpless Gallese and straight into the path of an onrushing Mbappé. He couldn’t have missed it if he tried. The goal was a just reward for half an hour of dominant attacking play, and they didn’t seem to be finished. A blistering counter-attack reminded everyone, if a reminder was needed, of France’s remarkable speed on the break, and as the half time whistle sounded the Peruvians were under siege.

Needing at least a draw to keep their World Cup hopes alive, Peru just didn’t have it in them to penetrate the French defence. They had their moments, and they came very close when Pedro Aquino’s long range shot slammed into the intersection at the top corner of the French goal. Around the hour mark, they came up with 10 minutes of blistering attacking football which had the French on the back foot and trapped in their half. Varane and Samuel Umtiti, the latter bouncing back well after his brain explosion in the first match gifted Australia their only goal, held firm, and gradually the heat went out of the Peruvian attacks.

By the final whistle, a French victory had been inevitable for some time. With their scary attack and stunning defence, they seemed nearly invincible, and they will be a formidable opponent come the knockout stages. For Peru, following a dominant but ultimately fruitless display against Denmark, it seemed an unfortunate way to bow out of their first World Cup in 36 years. As bright as they looked, they came up against a French team with their mojo back, and they never really stood a chance.

Yekaterinburg – Central Stadium
France 1 (Mbappé 34)
Peru 0
Referee: Mohammed Abdulla Hassan Mohamed (UAE)
France (4-2-3-1): Lloris – Pavard, Varane, Umtiti, Hernández; Pogba (N’Zonzi 89), Kanté; Mbappé (Dembélé 75), Griezmann (Fekir 80), Matuidi; Giroud.
Peru (4-2-3-1): Gallese – Advíncula, Ramos, Rodríguez (Santamaría 46), Trauco; Aquino, Yotún (Farfán 46); Carrillo, Cueva (Ruídiaz 82), Flores; Guerrero.

Top 5
1. Olivier Giroud (France)
If Giroud’s opening game omission for the more purely skilled Ousmane Dembélé didn’t seem like a mistake at the time it definitely does now. Giroud added poise to the attack on return to the starting line-up, and his physical presence allowed him to hold off defenders and create dangerous pockets of space for faster teammates to run in to. He won’t be dropped any time soon.
2. Paul Pogba (France)
Pogba put in another commanding performance in the centre of the park, winning the ball on a number of occasions and providing an attacking threat with his vision and technical ability. His successful tackle high up the pitch, and subsequent pass behind the defence, was integral to the winning goal, and he looks set to make more of an impact down the track.
3. Kylian Mbappé (France)
Mbappé displayed pace, skill and plenty of confidence as he launched threatening raids from the right wing and scored the only goal of the game with a good run in behind. He looked very dangerous with the attack functioning at its best, and with proper support he may have a huge impact at this tournament.
4. André Carrillo (Peru)
Carrillo has played two brilliant games at this World Cup, and he has been remarkably unfortunate to find himself on the losing side in both of Peru’s matches. He was everywhere as Peru looked to break through a resolute French defence, and it’s no coincidence that he reached his peak during Peru’s 10 minute period of dominance in the second half.
5. Antoine Griezmann (France)
Griezmann’s movement was always dangerous, and, unlike his disappointing first-up effort, he looked like creating something every time he got the ball. He notched up an instant chemistry with Giroud, and their combination could be a very fruitful one at this tournament.

Denmark hold firm against desperate Peru

Christian Cueva stepped up to take the penalty just before half-time. Minutes before, he had been tripped in the box, and after play had continued for some time the video assistant referee brought it back and awarded the fairly obvious penalty. Now, on an emotional day for Peruvian football, he had a big chance to score Peru’s first World Cup goal for over 30 years as he started his run-up on the edge of the box. He paused a few paces into his approach, did a little stutter step upon resumption, and lifted the ball clean over the crossbar. The small section of Danish supporters in the Mordovia Arena gave a small cheer. The rest of the Peruvian-dominated Saransk crowd were in complete disbelief. In the dugout, coach Ricardo Gareca sat open-mouthed as he contemplated the opportunity his side had just passed up. In the match, Peru never got a better opportunity, and failed to score despite dominating territory and putting the Danish defence under siege.

The game started very openly. There were nervous moments early as the Danish looked to settle into the game, especially when Yussuf Poulsen came close to giving away a penalty with a rough looking challenge inside the area. The Peruvians had most of the early running, passing the ball well and giving Danish keeper Kasper Schmeichel something to think about with a series of ambitious but powerful shots from long-range. The most ambitious shot came from right-back Luis Advíncula, who blazed away from ridiculous distance and ended up miles away from the target. Not so trivial was a perfect shot from André Carrillo, who cut in from the right wing and forced Schmeichel into making a diving save to keep it out of the bottom corner. Carrillo and Advíncula’s purposeful overlapping play created plenty of work for Andreas Christensen, with Carrillo drifting around and creating his fair share of problems.

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Luis Advíncula sings the Peruvian national anthem before the match. Peru had not appeared in the tournament for 36 years before their clash with the Danish.

The Danish seemed to be settling, but Peru still had the best opportunities and a diving lunge from Simon Kjær was all that prevented Jefferson Farfán from finding the back of the net when Carrillo played him through. Their consistent defence meant clear-cut chances like Farfán’s were few and far between, but Peru’s excellent structure meant they couldn’t muster any early threat in attack. For the first half hour, Denmark’s lone attempt on goal was Thomas Delaney’s ambitious and ultimately wild shot from distance. Star man Christian Eriksen couldn’t get into the game, and Denmark didn’t have the fluency to find the back of the net. Then, almost out of nowhere, Peru got their penalty. After Cueva’s miss, it was a rueful Peru and a relieved Denmark who left the field at half time.

Peru had another brilliant chance to score just after the break, when Cueva found himself in behind the Danish defence with plenty of space to work with. His ball across goal gave Carrillo a chance, but he bungled his first time shot and Edison Flores’ attempt to salvage his teammates’ mistake was just as poorly-hit and limped harmlessly over the goal line. Denmark took the lead a couple of minutes later. It came on the counter, with Eriksen finding some rare space to run at the Peruvian defence and his forwards making good runs in support. With the defenders caught between a rock and a hard place he threaded a pass to Poulsen, who slipped the ball past Pedro Gallese into the back of the net. It was a simple attacking move, but it caught out an undermanned Peruvian defence with brutal efficiency. Then, as if they’d been stung, Peru begun to attack with earnest. Soon they were pressing hard and dominating the game.

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André Carrillo runs with the ball during his brilliant performance on the right wing. Carrillo used his pace and skill to his advantage and caused plenty of trouble for the Danish defence.

First, Flores drilled a shot at Schmeichel, who stuck out his left glove to deny Peru once more. Then talismanic captain Paolo Guerrero was introduced, and Peru’s all-time leading goal-scorer tested Schmeichel with a strong header mere seconds after entering the fray. Miguel Trauco found Alberto Rodríguez in the box, and his header across goal came tantalisingly close to the outstretched legs of Farfán and Carrillo. A Carrillo cross managed to evade Schmeichel, and a goal was only averted by Poulsen’s headed clearance at the back post. Guerrero’s classy backheel shot caught Schmeichel off guard, and it only missed the goals by less than half a metre. Carrillo found space in the box once again and distributed to Farfán in a dangerous spot, but once again Schmeichel and Kjær were up to the challenge and combined to clear the ball to safety. Peru came from all angles, and the Danish were pushed back deeper and deeper.

Somehow, they weathered the storm. Peru’s chances came less frequently as the game went on, and Eriksen even managed to force Gallese into a one-on-one save in the dying moments. Denmark were still defending for their lives, but Peru’s clinical build-up play gave way to desperation, and then despair as the final whistle sounded. Their win, lucky as it may have been, puts them in the box seat to progress from Group C, and their remarkably resilient defensive showing bodes well for the road ahead. For Peru, there were plenty of positives, but they will be scant consolation for a scoreline which reads, some would say unjustly, Denmark 1, Peru 0.

Saransk – Mordovia Arena
Peru 0
Denmark 1 (Poulsen 58)
Referee: Bakary Gassama (Gam)
Peru (4-2-3-1): Gallese – Advíncula, Ramos, Rodríguez, Trauco; Tapia (Aquino 87), Yotún; Carrillo, Cueva, Flores (Guerrero 62); Farfán (Ruidíaz 85).
Denmark (4-2-3-1): Schmeichel – Dalsgaard, Kjær, Christensen (M Jørgensen 81), Larsen; Kvist (Schöne 36), Delaney; Poulsen, Eriksen, Sisto (Braithwaite 66); N Jørgensen.

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Kasper Schmeichel (in black) rises above all others to punch away a Peruvian cross. Schmeichel was in top form during Denmark’s win, keeping a clean sheet and making some crucial saves.

Top 5
1. André Carrillo (Peru)
Carrillo was everywhere. He played a bit on the right and a bit on the left, contributed to defence and attack with well-thought out interceptions and incisive pieces of offensive play. He combined well with Advíncula and Farfán, and he created most of Peru’s many chances with his pace and skill. He was in good touch, and could be a scary opponent to face.
2. Kasper Schmeichel (Denmark)
If there’s one person Denmark can thank for their win, it’s Kasper Schmeichel. He showed all of his skills to deny Peru time and again, breaking the Danish record (held by father Peter) for most consecutive clean sheets in the process. He looked completely comfortable against the Peruvian attack, making plenty of excellent saves and ensuring Denmark held on to their lead.
3. Jefferson Farfán (Peru)
Farfán had plenty of pace and troubled the Danish defence with his very threatening runs in behind. He showed his experience through his excellent positioning, and gave Schmeichel a serious working-over with his skill with the ball at his feet. There were multiple occasions where he was unlucky not to score, and on another day he could have had a huge impact on the scoreboard.
4. Simon Kjær (Denmark)
The Danish captain was in the right spots all day, cutting off attack after attack with his excellent tackling and his brilliant leadership. He barely gave away any fouls, and he had good presence in the air. His hard work, shown in particular by a desperate goal line block late in the game, served him well against the dynamic Peruvians and will continue to do so.
5. Yussuf Poulsen (Denmark)
For good and bad, Poulsen found himself heavily involved in both attack and defence. He did plenty of good things going forward, recovering from giving away a potentially costly penalty (and nearly conceding another) by scoring the only goal of the game. His clearance when Schmeichel was evaded by a good cross prevented a Peruvian goal and showed the value of his defensive efforts.