In-form team is tak­ing on a patchy team

Waikato Times - - Sport - AN­DREW VOERMAN

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.’’

An­drew Voerman

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