Peru vs Denmark: 5 things to look forward to

The most compelling of the two opening Group C match-ups pits Peru against Denmark.

REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

World Cup title contenders France are the obvious favourite in Group C and Australia will need to overachieve from their regular form to make any noise, so Peru and Denmark both look to get off on the right foot in their pursuit of a berth in the knockout round.

Read RealSport’s preview of Peru vs Denmark HERE.

The two sides meet Saturday at Mordovia Arena in Saransk with little room for error in an intriguing opener.

Peru are back in the World Cup for the first time since 1982, while it’s only been eight years since Denmark last played on the biggest stage of international football.

Complete with national heroes, a rising star, ageing managers and two nations with something to the prove, this match-up might fly under the radar in terms of international exposure, but has plenty of story lines to peak one’s interest.

  1. 1 Peru's future is now

    REUTERS/Mariana Bazo

    Paolo Guerrero's World Cup debut, albeit a controversial one, is getting plenty of attention. After all, the 34-year-old national hero is Peru's all-time leading scorer with 34 international goals, so his story is made from prime time.

    But 26-year-old Christian Cueva is the future of Peru's national team. Cueva, who plays for Brazilian side São Paulo, helped Peru to a third-place finish at the Copa America three years ago and registered four goals during World Cup qualification.

    An energetic attacking midfielder with a high motor, Cueva is definitely somebody to keep an eye on when Guerrero doesn't have the ball. If Peru are to record their first World Cup victory since 1978, they'll likely need Cueva to be a factor.

    Four years ago in Brazil it was Colombia's James Rodriguez who burst on to the scene and won the Golden Boot. Cueva probably won't lead the tournament in goals, but he could be someone people will talk about when it's over.

  2. 2 Eriksen can't do it alone

    REUTERS/Marko Djurica

    By far the more well known Christian playing in the World Cup is Tottenham man and Denmark star midfielder Christian Eriksen. He has 22 international goals for his career, including 11 while qualifying for this tournament.

    Eriksen's hat trick in a 5-1 win over Ireland in the second-leg of World Cup qualification play-off got Denmark to Russia. And while the Danish are here, their group opponents will pay plenty of attention to their go-to guy. 

    The pre-tournament knock on the Danes has been that they rely too much on Eriksen because the attack flows through him. That's all understandable considering fellow midfielder Thomas Delaney, who plays in Bundesliga, was the only other Denmark player with over two goals - he had four - during qualification.

    Perhaps even more concerning is that Denmark managed just three goals in their last four matches before the tournament. The good news is that two came in the 2-0 win over Mexico on June 9th. Eriksen scored one of those.

    The reality is Denmark likely doesn't have the depth or consistent talent in front of Eriksen to prove their critics wrong. Peru did not allow a goal in three straight matches leading up to the World Cup so Denmark will be challenged right out of the gate.

  3. 3 Gareca's time has finally come

    REUTERS/Guadalupe Pardo

    Much like his star striker Guerrero, Peru manager Ricardo Gareca will finally make a World Cup appearance. The Argentine was a solid player in leagues for his home country and has fared well since beginning his managerial career back in 1996.

    Known as "El Tigre," the 60-year-old Gareca managed three teams to league titles in Argentina and one in Peru. He took over the Peru national team in early 2015 - his first international job - and guided them to a semi-final appearance at the Copa America later that year.

    Now, Gareca gets the chance to strut his stuff on the World Cup stage. And he's not alone.

    Denmark manager Åge Hareide, who will turn 65 in September, is also making his debut as a World Cup manager, though he has coached at the international level with Norway.

  4. 4 Expect goals and a victor

    REUTERS/Gleb Garanich

    Based on Denmark's history in the World Cup, there's a good chance there will be a winner in this contest. Of the Danes' 16 matches in World Cup competition, only two have finished in a draw.

    That's equals the number of draws Denmark played to over their last three friendlies leading up to the tournament. 

    The first at the World Cup came 1-1 against South Africa in 1998 and the most recently in 2002, a 1-1 finish with Senegal. Peru, meanwhile, drew two of the three matches they played in their 1982 appearance.

    And though keeper Kasper Schmeichel has been a big reason his country has not allowed a goal in their last four friendlies, history isn't on Denmark's side for clean sheets at the World Cup of late. The Danes have recorded just one in their last 11 contests at the tournament - 2-0 over France in 2002.

  5. 5 Is this Group C's most important match?

    REUTERS/Tatyana Makeyeva

    Unless France totally fall out of form - and because Australia will have a hard time being competitive for a full match - it seems likely Peru and Denmark are playing for second place in the group. That makes this match extremely important to both sides.

    Both have played well defensively entering the tournament, so it's expected to be a tight contest where these teams can't afford many self-inflicted damage.

    That's especially true for Peru, who will play France five days after and before getting their crack at Australia. On the flip-side, Denmark's advancement could hinge on their final group game against the French.

    So it's understandable why Peru and Denmark each need to open with a victory to set themselves up for good things during the rest of group play. There's enough pressure being at the World Cup, no need to acquire anymore than is already there.

Listen to the RealSport football writers discuss Group C in Kremlins in the Basement: RealSport’s daily World Cup podcast.

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