Why patience, not power, is the right ploy to outsmart Peru

They say fortune favours the brave. Perhaps, but in Australia’s final 2018 FIFA World Cup group match against Peru here in Sochi, it will be smarts – not adventure – that will define the nation’s destiny.

There are some things that the two sides have in common. Both are naturally physical, attacking nations who want to impose themselves on the game.

However, where the Peruvians have wholly embraced their instincts under Ricardo Gareca, the Australians have been put into a defensive straight-jacket under Bert van Marwijk. But right now, that’s not such a bad thing.

For all their wonderful and wild play, Peru’s determination to throw numbers forward has yielded zero goals this tournament. There’s something in that.

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Of course, Australia must be respectful of the Peruvian attack, for the likes of Edison Flores, Christian Cueva and Andre Murillo could easily undo a defence that isn’t completely prepared. It is mobile, aggressive and prepared to take risks.

Although Jefferson Farfan is out, in his place comes inspirational captain Paolo Guerrero. Ironically, it was Mile Jedinak’s letter, co-signed by France’s Hugo Lloris and Denmark’s Simon Kjaer, that helped see his drug ban overturned. If he was to score the goal that denied Australia a place in the second round, there might be a few raised eyebrows.



Farfan is still in hospital as a precaution after being concussed in training following a head knock and has been formally ruled out. But that’s only going to add to the motivation of his teammates, who adore their “Little Seal”.

Listening to coach Ricardo Gareca talk in the pre-match press conference, it is clear that passions are running incredibly high in the Peruvian camp.

Disappointed though they are about what has happened – two 1-0 defeats to Denmark and then France killed all progression hopes – they are absolutely intent on rewarding the estimated 35,000 fans that have travelled from South America to watch them.

While La Blanquirroja won’t go home in disgrace if they lose to Australia, there’s a feeling of urgency about the need to avoid returning empty-handed. There’s simply too much pride on the line to lie down and let the Socceroos have an easy win.

Which leads us to the challenge that is shaping up for van Marwijk and his team. While Peru’s emotions will be flowing – for their captain, their fans and their flag, not seen at this tournament since 1982 – the Australian team needs to strip themselves of everything but the job at hand.



Tactically, they cannot get caught up in a helter-skelter shootout. They can’t try to match Peru for pace or movement. And nor should they – it would be a gift for Careca’s men for the match to fall into a slingshot affair.

Instead, the tight, compact strategy Australia adopted against France is probably the most effective means of cushioning the Socceroos through the first half.

Of course, France are much better than Peru, but Australia’s best chances will come when the Peruvians tire, lose their shape and discipline. The more difficult Australia is to break down, the faster Peru will begin to get frustrated and the more the game will open up.

If the first 30 minutes will probably belong to Peru, the final 30 minutes will almost certainly be Australia’s. And if they play their cards right, they should be able to gain total control.

Of course, the match against Denmark took a similar pattern, and Australia was left to rue a glut of attacking chances. But Peru’s defence is much weaker and the Socceroos – given the pressure on the forwards to score from open play, which they haven’t done in Russia – will be keen to answer.

Indeed, how van Marwijk uses Tomi Juric, Tim Cahill and Jamie Maclaren, and when they are used, will be critical to the final result.

Although France defeating Denmark is out of Australia’s hands, the Socceroos have no excuses not to take care of business in Sochi. By executing a patient plan, rather than a breathless one, fortune may finally favour them.




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4 min read
Published 25 June 2018 at 11:12pm
By Sebastian Hassett in Sochi