16 minutes Interestingly, Arnold kept Atkinson at right-back after his baptism of fire against UAE. Peru is pushing, trying to contain its opposition. Ryan makes an unusual mistake. On the other end, Leckie whips into a corner but Leckie’s contact isn’t enough. We are 15 minutes away and the Socceroos have had a few looks at goal but nothing that registers.
13 minutes Early yellow card for Atkinson for holding Cueva. They have a free kick. Trauco does the honors and it’s nice, but Gonzales’ first touch is heavy. Lucky for Australia.
Btw, that got me too.
10 minutes Trauco beats his man and goes for a nice one-two with Gonzales in the Australian third goal but the latter defends well. Some turnovers of possession here as both teams try to find their groove. Already some heavy challenges and here Trauco is a bit behind Boyle.
7 minutes Ryan is already bellowing at his teammates from goal, raising a finger to his temple in a ‘use your head’ manner. Mooy has the ball, he passes to Leckie, who stalks him for the first time and Australia makes inroads down the left. No final ball, however.
5 minutes Duke is outside the box with his eyes up and on a long ball over the top racing towards him. He tries a speculative shot that sails wide. Peru are now in transition, until Australia’s third goal and Lapadula beats Rowles and whips in a cross that goes nowhere in the end.
2 minutes Here we are. Atkinson takes an early throw-in and the ball lands at Gallese’s feet. He brings it back halfway and comes together again when Australia bring it back towards the Peru goal.
Lots of fans in the stadium. Guess what, though, Peru have the numbers and the team will be boosted by it. The players are now coming out of the tunnel for the anthems, and this is only the second time they will face each other, following Australia’s loss to Gareca in the Russia 2018 group stage. Carrillo was the one of the scorers in this match.
The venue for this game is interesting because Australia have played a lot of qualifying games in Qatar and are very used to the conditions. They’ve been based there for two weeks – the longest time they’ve been together at camp for the better part of four years.
That’s not the case for Peru, and assistant coach Nobby Solano had a crack at Fifa over the decision.
“The game starts at nine and they say the stadium is air-conditioned so it will be cool when we play,” he said. “But we trained in Spain until this weekend because it’s too hot to train in Qatar during the day.
“We are asked to play under the same conditions as it was decided that it would not be possible to play the World Cup. For a match of this size, with so much at stake, I am not sure that this either really good for us or Australia, although obviously it’s the same for both teams.
Lots of people in Melbourne!
The kickoff is not far away now. For those who woke up (very) early in Australia, here is David Squires. Everybody needs a little Squires at 4:00 a.m.
For Australia, the story is different. Where Peru had a torrid start to qualification before ending well, the Socceroos started well and came undone in the third leg with a number of poor results that put the team – and Arnold in particular – under pressure.
Here’s a bit more information about the Peru team led by Ricardo Gareca, known as ‘The Tiger’. Garca has transformed the national team since taking charge in 2015, qualifying them for their first World Cup in 36 years at Russia 2018 and can now do it again.
I received a message from a Peruvian fan this weekend, which underlines how important this game is for Peruvian football.
“The difference is that Peru has a whole country (33 million people) behind them supporting our team for this game,” he wrote. “The meaning of football for us is very different to the Australians and that will be reflected on Monday. Bear in mind that for us to be here we had to play Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Chile, Spain. Uruguay, etc. Some of them couldn’t come. Imagine what that means.
Kye Rowles, who just signed this week with Hearts, retains his place in central defense ahead of Trent Sainsbury, who suffered from a knee injury. And Mitchell Duke gets the nod, with Mat Leckie moving to the wing in place of Craig Goodwin.
In Peru’s XI is 90-game keeper Pedro Gallese, a legend in Peru and a veteran of the 2018 campaign. Christian Cueva is the most gifted on the ball and Andre Carrillo is the world-class right winger. Also watch out for Gianluca Lapadula, an Italian-born striker to a Peruvian mother, who has been playing for Peru since 2020.
Peru coach Ricardo Gareca, meanwhile, said the tie’s unique format would be a very different competition to what Peru and Australia faced in 2018 World Cup qualifying. didn’t follow this time around, the home-and-away format is no more and has been replaced by a knockout game in neutral territory.
“It’s a key game and the fact that we’ve already played intercontinental qualifiers, I don’t think is that important,” said Gareca. “Every game is different and what we want to do is keep growing, we’ve known each other for seven years in our national team.
“We had very difficult situations, we manage them, we know the way forward is difficult, but that’s what we want to do. We are all ready for that, we are all ready for this type of game.
“From that point of view, besides the fact that we have a lot of experience, Australia too. We are both in the same situation and we hope to make the most of this opportunity.
Socceroos boss Graham Arnold held tough pre-match talks, warning that the Aussie Rules Footballers have made technical improvements.
“You have to be ready for whatever Peru individually throws at us,” Arnold said. “I really believe in our players. It’s a unique match and it’s a final. It’s crystal clear to everyone. Its good. I think the Peruvians will be surprised by the technical improvement of the Aussie footballers.
He also said that the South American style is “an attractive style of play, they are very good technically individually”.
This is going to get technical.
Well, that’s it. The match to finish them all. Sudden Death Intercontinental Playoffs. It is, as one journalist said during the pre-match press conferences, “the final”. More precisely, it is the final before the final, with the latter in sight. The winner takes it all and books a (return) ticket to Qatar for the World Cup in November. For Australia, it would be a fifth consecutive World Cup.
Who will win? Peru is a big favourite. Looking at the Fifa rankings, which aren’t always the most accurate indicator, Australia are ranked 42nd and their South American counterparts 22nd. If we focus on results instead, Peru beat Venezuela and Colombia en route to finishing fifth at Conmebol behind Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Ecuador. Australia, meanwhile, finished third in their group and beat the United Arab Emirates in their first Asian qualifier last week. There’s more to all of this, so let’s get to it.
Kick-off in Qatar is at 9:00 p.m. local time and 4:00 a.m. AEST.