World Cup Group C: Peru already have one victory before kicking off against Denmark
Peru and Denmark play a pivotal opening game in the race to earn a Round of 16 berth.
Peru is at full strength following Paolo Guerrero's reinstatement. The captain received special permission to participate in the tournament. The country will return to the World Cup for the first time in 36 years.
They couldn’t have asked for a tougher debut than Denmark at Mordovia Arena in Saransk. This will be the first game between these two sides. Each arrives carrying an undefeated streak, four games for Denmark, 15 for Peru.
It's the first match in Group C. Considering both Peru and Denmark must play France afterwards, there is no question this is a must-win contest for both. Three points here represent a big step towards the knockout stage. A loss could toll doom.
FIFA Ranking: 11th
Ricardo Gareca’s men have settled as one of the most in-form teams in the tournament. There is no question the Incas have enough depth and talent to make things complicated for most teams in the competition. Denmark is no exception.
There is a reason Peru have not lost in the past 15 matches, with 10 wins and five draws. This team knows what they can and can’t do.
Expect the usual 4-2-3-1 style. Gareca is not known for making too many tactical changes. His game plan will be to crowd the middle of the pitch, limiting Christian Eriksen’s creativity, then attack through the flanks, utilising Edison Flores and Andre Carrillo,'s pace, the tandem charged with feeding Guerrero as much as possible.
Guerrero is the undisputed leader and star in the side. The Flamengo striker responded to Gareca’s trust, netting two goals in his return against Saudi Arabia.
But he is not the only name worth watching. Jefferson Farfan thrived in Lokomotiv Moscow this past season, Renato Tapia is the one who manages the tempo. The defence deserves praise since they have conceded just one goal in their last seven matches.
FIFA Ranking: 12th
Beyond their four-match unbeaten run, the Danes have registered four wins, four draws and two losses in their last 10. That’s the kind of form you want to have as the World Cup nears.
Denmark set up in a classic 4-3-3 system. The creative burden falls on the shoulders of Tottenham star Christian Eriksen. Pione Sisto and Yussuf Poulsen's pace are at his disposal. They will be key to dismantling Peru's rearguard.
Eriksen clearly runs the show for Denmark. When he is on, so is the team. However, he is not the only player who can power the Danes. Kasper Schmeichel has been among the best shot-stoppers in the Premier League for quite a while now. Simon Kjaer and Andreas Christiansen are vastly underrated as a defensive pairing. Thomas Delaney provides much-needed balance in midfield. But don’t make a mistake. This team will go as far as Eriksen can carry them.
It's hard to say whether Peru or Denmark will come away with the win. It's an even match.
However, Peru are one of the most in-form sides in the world at the moment. It seems no team can defeat them. Knowing their collective strengths outmatch their individual capacity [and being South American], I believe Los Incas will extend their run and reach the knockout stages of a World Cup for the first time since Argentina 1978.