Denmark coach Age Hareide picked out Paolo Guerrero as the “star player” for World Cup opponent Peru but called the Flamengo forward’s work rate into question.
Guerrero was cleared to play at the World Cup when a Swiss supreme court judge granted an interim order to freeze the 34-year-old’s 14-month ban, which he received for testing positive for a metabolite of cocaine. The availability of Guerrero came as a huge boost for Peru coach Ricardo Gareca, who saw his veteran captain score five times in 17 appearances as Los Incas qualified for the World Cup for the first time in 36 years.
Denmark captain Simon Kjaer was one of three players who sent an open letter to FIFA to request that Guerrero’s suspension be paused for the World Cup, asking the governing body to show clemency to a player who had worked his whole career to achieve the dream of reaching the finals, and Hareide said the Peru captain would be one to watch.
“He is a classic star player, a strong finisher and really good in the box,” Hareide told Bold.dkahead of the Group C contest in Saransk. “But the question is how much it costs the team in relation to work effort.”
Peru’s pre-World Cup form has been impressive and it is unbeaten in its last 15 outings under the guidance of former Palmeiras and Independiente coach Ricardo Gareca.
Hareide drew parallels between Gareca’s side and his own, having watched it draw 0-0 with Sweden in its final warm-up game. “We have seen all Peru’s matches, including the match against Sweden,” said Hareide. “We expect them to continue playing well. Like us, they have a strong defence and, like us, have not lost in a long time. When they win the ball, they set off quick counter-attacks.”
Denmark’s last competitive defeat came in October 2016, when it suffered back-to-back losses to Poland and Montenegro, but Hareide’s men recovered to finish second in qualifying Group E before beating the Republic of Ireland 5-1 on aggregate in a play-off.
Hareide underlined the importance of Tottenham midfielder Christian Eriksen to Denmark’s chances in Russia, and said his side would be an imposing physical proposition. “We have Christian Eriksen’s good touch and a lot of height and strength,” said the 64-year-old, whose most recent managerial honours came when he guided Malmo to a Swedish league and super cup double in 2014.
“We usually do well in set-piece situations and we will continue that. We will also find our way into the game and how we can change our approach if needed. I think that will be very, very important.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Peru – Yoshi Yotun
Orlando City midfielder Yoshi Yotun is expected to sit in the heart of Peru’s midfield – a position he plays to great effect for the MLS side.
The 28-year-old has scored three goals in 10 appearances for Orlando in 2018 and his ability to turn defence into attack from his role just in front of the back four could be vital to Peru’s chances of finding the net in Russia.
Denmark – Christian Eriksen
One of the most dynamic, creative players in Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham squad, Eriksen scored 10 goals in 37 Premier League appearances as Spurs finished third in the table in 2017-18.
The 26-year-old was his country’s top-scorer in World Cup qualifying, finding the net 11 times, and provided three assists as he found himself directly involved in 56 per cent of Denmark’s goals.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– This will be the first ever encounter between Peru and Denmark.
– One of the original participants in 1930, Peru qualified for its fifth World Cup after beating New Zealand in the play-offs. It is its first appearance since 1982, which is the biggest gap of years (36) between participations at the World Cup for any of the 32 teams qualified for the 2018 tournament.
– Peru has faced the eventual World Cup winner in each of its four previous World Cup appearances (Uruguay in 1930, Brazil in 1970, Argentina in 1978, Italy in 1982).
– Denmark has reached the knockout stages in three of its four previous World Cup appearances but never progressed past the quarterfinals (1998).