Peru are good but they don’t have a Messi
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?