17:00 BST, Saturday 16 June, Mordovia Arena (Saransk, Russia), BBC
The final team to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, Peru make their long-awaited return to the tournament on the heels of a 2-0 victory over New Zealand in the second-leg of a qualification play-off in November.
Their last World Cup victory came in 1978.
Back in the World Cup after missing out in 2014, Denmark earned their spot in Russia thanks to Christian Eriksen’s hat trick during a 5-1 victory over Ireland in their own second-leg of their qualification play-off.
The Danes reached at least the round of 16 in three straight World Cups -1986, 1998 and 2002- they took part in before failing to advance from the group stage in 2010.
This is the first meeting between Peru and Denmark.
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Sweden 0-0 Peru [International Friendly]
This scoreless draw with fellow World Cup participant Sweden on June 9 ended Peru’s run of four straight friendly victories, but the result still satisfied Peru manager Ricardo Gareca.
His side carried the better of the play for most of the match and showed some aggressive moments, despite not getting on the scoresheet.
With another stellar defensive effort, the Incas have allowed just one goal over their last five friendlies, a run that featured wins over World Cup-bound sides Croatia, Iceland and Saudi Arabia, in addition to Scotland.
Denmark 2-0 Mexico [International Friendly]
Yussuf Poulsen scored in the 71st minute and Tottenham man Eriksen added a goal of his own three minutes later to help Denmark run their unbeaten stretch in friendlies to four, also on June 9.
Though Denmark’s defence continues to shine, pulling out a victory right before the World Cup offers some needed momentum following consecutive goalless draws against Chile and Sweden.
Before the draw with Sweden, Peru scored 10 goals in their previous four matches. The front four can daunt, and that might not include talented 26-year-old Andre Carrillo, who has scored twice in 2018 friendlies, in this starting XI.
The 4-2-3-1 is projected for Denmark, with those four at the back a big reason as to why they’ve been so stingy of late. Jonas Knudsen could also see time in defence for the Danes.
While Eriksen will be active in the middle, he should draw obvious attention for the Peruvians, meaning he’ll need some offensive help.
Key Battle: Paolo Guerrero (Peru) vs Kasper Schmeichel (Denmark)
It’s been a difficult 2018 off the pitch for the 34-year-old Guerrero, a hero in his home country who finally gets a shot at what likely will be his only World Cup opportunity.
A suspension related to a positive test for benzoylecgonine, the primary metabolite of cocaine, left Guerrero in a position to miss the World Cup.
However, after fellow Group C captains from France, Australia and Denmark’s Simon Kjaer offered their support, a Swiss court halted the ban – which will resume after the World Cup – so Guerrero can play.
Guerrero, who scored twice in a 3-0 win over Saudi Arabia earlier this month, has 34 international goals.
With this month’s victory over Mexico, Denmark keeper and Leicester City product Kasper Schmeichel has recorded four straight clean sheets in 2018 friendly competition.
He also was solid during qualification as he and the Danish defenders were a big reason they yielded only six total goals and never over one in any of those ten contests.
With Guerrero, and running mate Jefferson Farfan, capable of exciting fans in attack, Denmark will rely on Schmeichel to maintain his solid form in order to get off on the right foot.
Peru’s past shouldn’t matter
After exorcising their qualification demons, Peru’s next drought to conquer is their six-match winless streak in World Cup competition.
Their last victory came in the first round against Iran in 1978, but no matter how many pundits or fans try to remind them of their recent World Cup deficiencies, the reality is the past doesn’t matter.
Nobody in the Peru squad was born the last time their nation won a World Cup match, so they have no demons to worry about.
This is a solid team with a nice balance, whose only focus is taking down Denmark to position themselves for a spot in the round of 16.
Is Age Hareide ready for the spotlight?
The 64-year-old Nowegian-born manager of the Danes has won league titles in three European countries and coached the Norway national team in the 2000s, but this is the biggest moment of his coaching career.
Since taking over in Denmark in late 2015, Hareide has fared well but the World Cup is an entirely different animal.
As a first-time coach in this event, there may be the tendency for Hareide to over-think things. He will try to avoid that while guiding a Danish club that hopes to join favourite France at the top of the group.
Prediction: Peru 1-1 Denmark
This could end up being the most competitive of the four matches scheduled for Saturday. Though Guerrero and Eriksen have shown the ability to fill up the scoresheet during international play, defence should rule the day.
Both sides are stout at the back and that should continue in a match that could ultimately determine which of these teams makes it out of the group stage, assuming France is the other in Group C.
It should be fun.
Listen to the RealSport football writers discuss Group C in Kremlins in the Basement: RealSport’s daily World Cup podcast.
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