Peru's first World Cup campaign since 1982 sees them take on Denmark in the second match in Group C in Saransk.
Mordovia Arena, Saransk, Russian Federation
Key Stat: Both Peru and Denmark went through the whole of 2017 unbeaten in FIFA-recognised matches and are yet to lose in 2018 either.
Expert Verdict: A marker for how closely-matched these two teams are is the fact both drew 0-0 with Sweden in their pre-tournament warm-up matches, having both qualified for the World Cup via the play-offs. Denmark are unbeaten in their last 14 matches, while Peru have gone 15 without defeat. Peru have conceded two goals in their last nine games, while Denmark have conceded two in eight. It is almost impossible to split these two, and this game has draw written all over it.
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After both qualified for the 2018 World Cup via the play-offs, Peru and Denmark face each other in Group C at the Mordovia Arena, Saransk, on Saturday June 16. This is the first ever match between the two nations and kicks off at 7pm local time.
Peru team have been boosted by the return of Paolo Guerrero after his three opposing captains in Group C wrote to FIFA to request his doping ban - having tested positive for cocaine, which he claims he ingested accidentally while drinking tea – be lifted. Much of Peru’s build-up to the World Cup has been dominated by the Guerrero saga, after he was first banned, then had his suspension reduced to make him available for the World Cup, then extended and finally temporarily lifted by the Swiss Supreme Court. Guerrero is now free to play and marked his return to action with two goals in Peru’s win against Saudi Arabia.
Paolo Guerrero's importance should not be understated. The Peru captain has scored a national-record 34 goals in 88 appearances, including five in South American qualifying. Edison Flores also scored five, while Jefferson Farfan added three and then scored three more in five games in Guerrero’s absence.
Peru's five-match winning streak was ended by Sweden in their final pre-tournament warm-up match, but a 0-0 draw in Gothenburg means they are now unbeaten in their last 15 matches. They have only conceded once in their last seven games too and, since securing World Cup qualification, have beaten Croatia, Iceland, Scotland and Saudi Arabia in friendlies. Their World Cup warm-up matches began with a 2-0 defeat of the Scots – Christian Cueva and Jefferson Farfan scoring - before Paolo Guerrero marked his return with a double in a 3-0 win against Saudi Arabia. The Swedish draw was their third consecutive clean sheet and seventh in their last nine matches.
Defenders:Luis Advincula, Christian Ramos, Alberto Rodriguez, Miguel Trauco
Defensive Midfielders:Renato Tapia, Yoshimar Yotun
Attacking Midfielders:Andre Carrillo, Jefferson Farfan, Edison Flores
With Nicklas Bendtner and Andreas Bjelland missing the World Cup through injury, Denmark have been largely consistent with the team they selected for their two friendlies this month, against Sweden and Mexico. Christian Eriksen was rested for the former but returned to score one and assist the other in a 2-0 win against Mexico in the only change to the starting XI. The side that started against Mexico is therefore likely to be the one that starts against Peru.
Christian Eriksen highlighted his importance in the 2-0 win against Mexico, with one goal and one assist – though that was never in doubt after the hat-trick he scored to fire Denmark to the World Cup against Ireland. Nicolai Jorgensen plays up front, meanwhile, and - though he was not as prolific for Feyenoord compared to the previous season, he still finished the Eredivisie season with three goals in five games.
Denmark football team sealed their World Cup qualification by beating Ireland 5-1 in Dublin, thanks to Christian Eriksen’s hat-trick, and they have not conceded a goal in their four full friendlies since. In March, Pione Sisto scored the only goal of the game as they beat Panama before a goalless draw with Chile and in June they drew 0-0 with Sweden in Stockholm before a 2-0 win against Mexico courtesy of Yussuf Poulsen and Christian Eriksen’s goals.
Defenders:Henrik Dalsgaard, Simon Kjaer, Andreas Christensen, Jens Larsen
Defensive Midfielders:William Kvist, Thomas Delaney
Attacking Midfielders:Yussuf Poulsen, Christian Eriksen, Pione Sisto
This will be the first ever meeting between the two teams, though a marker of what to expect perhaps came in their recent friendlies against Sweden. Denmark drew 0-0 with their neighbours before Peru did the same the week after as part of their World Cup preparations. Denmark also drew 0-0 the last time they faced South American opposition - against Chile in March.
Peru are unbeaten in their last 15 matches, having not lost in all of 2017 and, so far, 2018
Denmark’s current unbeaten run stands at 14 full international matches.
Peru have conceded two goals in their last nine matches in all competitions.
Denmark have conceded two in eight, and three in their last ten in total. They have not conceded more than once in a game since losing 3-2 to Poland in October 2016.
It is difficult to split Peru and Denmark, with both proving difficult to break down lately, neither losing since 2016 and the two even achieving the same result a week apart against Sweden this month.
Peru have undoubtedly boosted by the return of Paolo Guerrero, who had looked set to miss the World Cup through suspension, and any worries about his match sharpness were allayed when he scored twice against Saudi Arabia.
Denmark, meanwhile, have Christian Eriksen at the forefront of their chances - he scored one and set up the other in their final friendly as if to prove that point. He also scored in seven of Denmark’s eight matches in 2017 - the other was a goalless draw.
Their run of four clean sheets is testament to the defensive strength they possess too - and which they will hope to use to good effect against Guerrero, Jefferson Farfan and Andre Carrillo on Saturday.
The key, therefore, will be whether Eriksen can unpick Peru’s own stubborn defence - a defence which has kept six clean sheets in seven games.
New Zealand (twice), Croatia, Scotland, Saudi Arabia and Sweden have all failed to score against Peru in that time.
Denmark - Eriksen aside - lack any other goalscorers though, at least on international duty. Nicolai Jorgensen will need to improve his record of eight goals in 31 appearances if Denmark are to find a way through.
Neither Peru nor Denmark have lost a full international since 2016 so, while Denmark are favourites at 7/5 with various bookmakers, a draw could be a good bet. Bet365 and Betfair are offering 9/4 on the draw – the same price some have for a Peru win. If you do fancy one of them to win, a 'draw no bet' pick can provide a little security. Denmark to win and draw no bet is 4/6 with Betfair, while Peru are priced at 6/5.
Another profitable bet could be betting against both teams to score, given both have hardly conceded in recent matches. Betfair and Betway have both priced ‘no’ to BTTS at 5/6.
For the same reasons, backing few goals to be scored could be sensible. Paddy Power and 888sport are both offering 15/8 on there being under 1.5 goals in Saturday’s game.
Both Peru and Denmark have been excellent defensively during their World Cup warm-up matches, and both might cancel each other out. If Paolo Guerrero or Christian Eriksen can find a way through for their respective teams it could be crucial, but it is hard to find anything to split Peru and Denmark at present.