In-form team is taking on a patchy team
It is easy to see why Peru were the team Anthony Hudson wanted. After all, when you compare them to Argentina, Chile, or Colombia, all big countries when it comes to football, they can seem rather small.
But on recent form, the only thing small about them is their name.
This year, the 10 South American teams have each played six qualifiers, and if you look at the results in those matches, Peru seem like a pretty big deal.
Brazil led the way, as you would expect, given that they finished first overall, taking 14 points from a possible 18.
But right behind them were Peru, who had three wins and three draws for a total of 12.
Next were three teams who managed nine – Argentina and Colombia, who qualified, and Paraguay, who did not – then Uruguay, who also qualified, with eight; Bolivia and Venezuela, with seven, Chile with six, and Ecuador with none.
It’s an in-form Peru team that is coming here, one that hasn’t lost a match in almost 11 months.
You can look at their squad and see no superstars, and it is cute to note that they have one English Premier League player whereas the All Whites have two, but last time out Hudson started a guy who can’t make his A-League team, which kind of undermines that point.
There were two options on offer for the All Whites as the final slate of South American qualifiers took place on Wednesday.
They could have got Argentina, Chile or Colombia, a traditionally strong nation going through a bad patch, or they could have got Peru or Paraguay, a minor player going through a good one.
But whichever way it went, it wouldn’t have changed the biggest factor in this tie, which is the form of the All Whites themselves.
In 2009, leading up to the playoff with Bahrain, they had a couple of solid results in the bag – a 0-0 draw with Iraq to end their Confederations Cup campaign, and a 3-1 win in Jordan. They went on and won, 1-0 on aggregate.
In 2013, they had next to nothing – no Confederations Cup, a 1-0 win over Saudi Arabia that was negated by a 2-0 loss to the United Arab Emirates, a couple of games against Californian club sides, and a 0-0 draw away against Trinidad and Tobago. They went on and lost to Mexico 9-3 on aggregate.
This time around their buildup has been somewhere in between. They have had big games – two friendlies in June, three matches at the Confederations Cup, and another friendly against Japan last week – but the performances haven’t been encouraging. They have rarely been competitive, and over 90 minutes, they have been consistently second best – losing six from six.
If the All Whites make it to the World Cup, it’s going to be because they have pulled an 180-minute performance out of the hat at the last minute, not because they got lucky with their opponent.
‘‘If the All Whites make it to the World Cup, it’s going to be because they have pulled an 180-minute performance out of the hat at the last minute.’’