Peru reignited hopes of qualifying for their first World Cup since 1982 with a 2-1 victory at home to Venezuela on Friday, but face a much sterner test with the visit of Argentina (Wednesday, 2:25am BST).
The Peruvians were one of the surprises of the 2011 Copa America, their new, tactically chameleonic coach Sergio Markarian masterminding a third-place finish for the side who had finished bottom of the pile in the qualifying table for the 2010 World Cup.
The Uruguayan has, however, been unable to inspire similarly impressive results from his side during the 2014 qualification process. Awful luck with injuries contributed to four defeats in the five qualifiers they had played before Friday’s round of matches.
Victory against Venezuela was paramount if Peru were to remain in contention. It was achieved, despite a Juan Arango strike seeing them a goal down at the break, thanks to two second half strikes from Jefferson Farfan that tipped the match in the home team’s favour and secured them a vital three points.
That match was the first time this year that Markarian has been able to deploy Peru’s ‘fantastic four’ of Farfan, Paolo Guerrero, Claudio Pizarro and Juan Vargas together in competitive action, although, Farfan aside, it was the central midfield pairing of Rinaldo Cruzado and Luis Ramirez who impressed the most.
Each provided the assist for one of Farfan’s goals and they dovetailed very effectively in the centre of the park, Ramirez showing good intelligence in moving between the lines and Cruzado controlling play with his technical ability and slick passing. Together they mastered the midfield area.
The ability to do so was, however, aided by the absence through injury of Venezuela’s most accomplished midfielder, Tomas Rincon, and against Argentina stiffer challenges await.
In a comfortable 3-1 home win over Paraguay, Argentina deployed Rodrigo Brana and Fernando Gago at the base of their midfield, a combination that fuses brawn and brains. Javier Mascherano, suspended for that fixture, will replace Brana for the trip to Lima, and a midfield of he and Gago will provide much more formidable opposition.
The win over Paraguay was Argentina’s sixth consecutive victory in all fixtures; a third consecutive in World Cup qualifying. They have won every match they have played so far in 2012, including friendly victories against Brazil and Germany, scoring an average of 3.4 goals per match.
Just a cursory glance at the attacking resources available to their coach, Alejandro Sabella, offers sufficient explanation for their superb offensive output, with Lionel Messi, Gonzalo Higuain, Sergio Aguero and Angel Di Maria primary among the scorers this year. The likes of Carlos Tevez and Javier Pastore are not getting a look in at present.
Messi has scored in every one of Argentina’s matches thus far in 2012, including hat-tricks against Switzerland and Brazil, with Sabella having seemingly discovered the formula to recreate the diminutive forward’s Barcelona form at international level. He has scored four goals in Argentina’s six qualifiers to date, the same total he managed in 18 starts during the World Cup 2010 qualification process.
Messi and his teammates will be confident of notching goals against a Peru side who have conceded in all of their last four World Cup qualifiers. Injuries to both preferred right-backs also mean that Peru will not be at full strength.
Despite their attacking flourish, Argentina have also proved to be less than watertight at the back, conceding in four of their five matches this year. There is a lack of pace that could be exposed, especially by Farfan, and with the Lima crowd firmly behind Peru the hosts can be fancied to find the back of the net at least once.
Peru vs Argentina Betting Tips Verdict
- We would therefore suggest backing both teams to score @ 8/11 with Bet365.
- Argentina have been quick out of the blocks in all five of their matches this year, scoring in the first half of all of them and in the first 31 minutes in four of the five. Peru have also conceded four goals before the half hour in their six World Cup qualifiers to date. With this in mind, also take Argentina to score before the 36th minute @ 5/6 with Bet365.