A Beautiful Game, football match in Peru by Tinou Bao / Flickr
Argentina v Peru
11 October 2013
World Cup Qualifier
Estadio Monumental, Buenos Aires
It’s the penultimate matchday in the 2014 World Cup Qualification tournament, and both Argentina and Peru already know where they will be next summer. Argentina will be in Brazil, having qualified for the Finals courtesy of last month’s win over Paraguay. Peru, meanwhile, will have to watch the Finals at home on TV, having failed to qualify, and with no chance of even reaching the play-offs.
With World Cup issues already settled, we can concentrate on the Unofficial Football World Championships. Argentina are the current UFWC champions, and have been since February. Peru haven’t been champions since 1982, but they are ranked 25th in the world based on UFWC title match wins. Argentina are ranked third. FIFA’s rankings show a bigger gap between the teams, with Peru 34th and Argentina 2nd.
But the joy of the UFWC is that the title is won or lost in a single match, and everything can change over 90 minutes. Peru would be by no means the first underdogs to defeat a highly-ranked team and become Unofficial Football World Champions. And Peru have something in their favour – the absence in the Argentina line-up of Lionel Messi.
Messi was injured while playing for Barcelona in September, and will miss Argentina’s qualifiers against Peru and Uruguay. Coach Alejandro Sabella is also without Javier Mascherano and Gonzalo Higuain. Argentina have survived without key individuals in previous matches, but to be without three key players, and with World Cup qualification already assured, the champions may be vulnerable.
Peru, La Blanquirroja, are coached by Uruguayan Sergio Markarian. The captain, Bayern Munich striker, Claudio Pizarro will represent the main goal threat. The 35-year-old has scored 18 times for his country. The defence will be marshalled by Santiago Acasiete, and the midfield by Juan Manuel Vargas of Fiorentina. Also in the squad are Carlos Zambrano of Eintracht Frankfurt, who scored in Peru’s last match, and 19-year-old Real Madrid midfielder Cristian Benavente.
Both Argentina and Peru play again on 15 October, in World Cup qualifiers against Uruguay and Bolivia respectively. Uruguay are still fighting for at least a play-off place, so should be difficult opponents. Peru’s game against Bolivia will be played in an empty stadium following crowd disturbances at the previous qualifier in Lima.
Argentina versus Peru kicks off on Friday at 20:00 local time (midnight BST) at the Estadio Monumental Antonio Vespucio Liberti in Buenos Aires. We’ll bring you a full match report afterwards. Who will be UFWC champions? You can place a bet via our friends at Bet365. And let us know who you think will win by voting in our poll.