Peru are good but they don’t have a Messi

Waikato Times - - Sport - LIAM HYS­LOP

So much of sport is a men­tal game. The best play­ers and teams in the world carry an un­stop­pable aura around them. We know that – we’ve watched the All Blacks dom­i­nate world rugby for the last seven years. Teams walk on to the park and think ‘this is going to be dif­fi­cult’. And it is. And they lose.

In foot­ball, in­di­vid­u­als, as much as teams, hold that aura.

An All Whites de­fender step­ping on to the same field as Ar­gentina’s Lionel Messi or Chile’s Alexis Sanchez is al­ready think­ing ‘I’m in for a tough night here’. Never mind them say­ing in the leadup to the game that they’re up for the chal­lenge, it’s a com­pletely dif­fer­ent prospect when you’ve got one of the all-time greats of the game run­ning at you.

Would you say the same about Edi­son Flores? Or Juan Cuadrado? Or An­dre Car­illo? Two of those play­ers will likely start for Peru against New Zealand in the intercontinental play­off next month. The other is Colom­bian. Can you tell me who is who?

So yes, Peru have been in good form in South Amer­i­can World Cup qual­i­fy­ing. And yes, they are the over­whelm­ing favourites to make it to the World Cup. But get­ting them is a much bet­ter prospect than fac­ing Messi or Sanchez and their co­hort of fel­low su­per­stars from their re­spec­tive na­tions.

Case in point be­ing Messi’s per­for­mance on Wednesday for an Ar­gentina team woe­fully out of form. He seemed to say to him­self ‘bug­ger it, I’ll do this my­self’. He was un­stop­pable, scor­ing a hat-trick to beat Ecuador 3-1 and lift his team to World Cup qual­i­fi­ca­tion. He would have done sim­i­lar things to New Zealand.

You could sense the All Whites camp got a men­tal boost from get­ting Peru. Coach An­thony Hud­son talked of hav­ing the chance to do some­thing spe­cial in Novem­ber.

I doubt the rhetoric would have been quite the same if he was dis­cussing Ar­gentina. It would have been more along the lines of ‘what an oc­ca­sion it will be to have Messi here’, al­most con­ced­ing de­feat.

So while Peru re­main a tough propo­si­tion, I’ll take them any day over their more daunt­ing op­po­nents.

‘‘You could sense the All Whites camp got a men­tal boost from get­ting Peru.’’ Liam Hys­lop

Who would you rather de­fend against – Edi­son Flores, above, or Lionel Messi, be­low?

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