The build-up to the Japan vs Peru Unofficial Football World Championships title match has been slightly overshadowed by confirmation that Japan will not now participate in the Copa America. This final decision has been made because of problems assembling enough players to form a credible squad.
This latest u-turn follows a series of Copa America withdrawals and confirmations on behalf of the Japan Football Association (and some confusion over the Kirin Cup). The uncertainty, of course, was caused by the effects of the devastating earthquake and tsunami disaster. Despite being placed in a very difficult situation, there has been criticism of the JFA for failing to make a clear decision much earlier.
‘It is a great pity that we won’t be able to take part in the tournament as the local people [in Argentina] were preparing to welcome us,’ said JFA President Junji Ogura. ‘We realised that we would not be able to form a squad good enough to play in the Copa America and on that basis we had no choice but to give up the opportunity to play in the tournament.’
Certainly Japanese UFWC fans will be disappointed that there is now no chance of their side taking the unofficial title into the Copa America. However, all attention can now turn to the Kirin Cup, and Japan’s opening match against Peru. The Peruvians, of course, will be participating in the Copa America, so if they are able to win and retain the UFWC title it could still end up being contested in Argentina.
Peru enter the Kirin Cup having themselves encountered substantial problems in raising a squad. In fact, Peru coach Sergio Markarian has named a squad without any European-based players. That means there is no place for the likes of Hamburg and Werder Bremen strikers Paolo Guerrero and Claudio Pizarro. All 18 squad members play their club football in Peru, including defender Walter Vilchez of Sporting Cristal and midfield playmaker Roberto Merino of Union Comercio.
Coach Sergio Markarian is an interesting chap. He was born in Uruguay, but grew up in Argentina, returning to Uruguay at the age of 18 to become not a footballer but the general manager of a fuel distribution company. After seeing Uruguay fail at the 1974 World Cup finals. Markarian quit his job, sold his Mercedes, and began top pursue what his friends thought was an impossible dream – to become a top football coach.
After almost ten years coaching amateur sides in Uruguay, his first professional job was in Paraguay at Olimpia Asunción in 1983. Since then, he’s been very well travelled, having coached ten clubs in five countries – including Panathinaikos in Greece. ‘El Mago’ (‘The Magician’) is credited with inventing the tactical system that Greece used to win the 2004 Euro Championships. He’s had two stints as coach of the Paraguay national team, and took over the position as Peru coach in July 2010.
Markarian’s brief reign has already seen a remarkable resurgence from a Peru side that failed to qualify for World Cup 2010 and at one point fell 91st in the FIFA rankings – the country’s lowest ever position. Under Markarian, Peru have lost only once in seven games, winning four and drawing two. They’ve now risen to 54th in FIFA’s rankings.
Peru have already won seven UFWC title matches, and are 22nd in the UFWC rankings. The country’s most famous UFWC win was a 1982 victory over France. Read more about Peru’s UFWC history here.
Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni has not yet named his squad, but there are likely to be a few new and unfamiliar names included, with the resumed J-League taking priority, and European-based players finishing up their domestic seasons. We’ve previously covered some of Zaccheroni’s options here.
The Japan vs Peru UFWC title match kicks off next Wednesday 1 June at 19:20 local time, 11:20 BST. We’ll preview the match and the rest of the Kirin Cup ahead of then.
Peru squad: Goalkeepers: Raul Fernandez (Universitario), Salomon Libman (Alianza Lima); Defenders: Jesus Rabanal (Universitario), Christian Ramos (Alianza Lima), Walter Vilchez (Sporting Cristal), Renzo Revoredo (Universitario), Adan Balbin (San Martin); Midfielders: Antonio Gonzales (Universitario), Carlos Lobaton (Sporting Cristal), Yosimar Yotun (Sporting Cristal), Rinaldo Cruzado (Juan Aurich), Michael Guevara (Sport Boys), Roberto Merino (Union Comercio); Strikers: Raul Ruidiaz (Universitario), Luis Advincula (Sporting Cristal), William Chiroque (Juan Aurich); Christian Cueva (San Martin).