Socceroos sent packing as Peru expose lack of finishing power
Peru 2 (Carrillo 18′, Guerrero 50′)
By Jordan Mulach
Australia’s ambitions of making it through to the knockout stages of the World Cup have been crushed by a 2-0 loss to Peru in Sochi.
— FIFA World Cup ???? (@FIFAWorldCup) June 26, 2018
Australia started the match hoping that a win would secure a passage to the next round but, in the end, it finished the group stage without a win and at the bottom of Group C.
Peru’s win in their first World Cup appearance since 1982 was their first victory at the tournament since 1978.
The opening 10 minutes saw Australia dominate possession as they probed at the weaknesses of Peru’s backline which was without Alberto Rodriguez who had been concussed in training.
Australia’s momentum was temporarily stalled after Mile Jedinak received a yellow card for a raised boot that caught Christian Cueva on the shoulder.
But worse was to come for Australia when Peru, against the run-of-play, opened the scoring.
A long ball forward found Paulo Guerrero in behind the Socceroos’ defence. His cross picked out Guido Carillo on the opposite side of the box, whose first-time volley gave Mat Ryan no chance as it arrowed into the corner of the net.
Despite the setback, Australia was still creating opportunities. Tom Rogic wriggled past two defenders on the edge of the penalty area and his shot forced keeper Pedro Gallese to save with his legs.
The Socceroos’ best chance of the half came when a slide-rule pass by Rogic got Robbie Kruse in behind Peru’s defence. His cross took out the keeper and with an open goal beckoning for Mat Leckie, two Peru defenders managed to block his shot almost on the goal-line.
The hammer blow for Australia came early in the second half when Cueva drove into the penalty area and slipped the ball to Guerrero who swivelled on the edge of the six-yard box and hooked a left-foot shot past Ryan for 2-0.
In the 52nd minute, Australia’s prayers were heard, but not yet answered, as Tim Cahill made his first appearance of the tournament, replacing Tomi Juric and creating history by surpassing Mark Bresciano in making four World Cup starts.
Australia’s oldest player was joined by the youngest five minutes later as Daniel Arzani replaced Robbie Kruse.
The pair’s arrival provided hope as Australia continued to create chances, particularly from set pieces. A headed clearance from a corner sat up for Aziz Behich whose volley whistled just past the post.
And then another corner fell to Cahill, whose volley was blocked on the six-yard line by a Peru defender.
Australia’s inability to produce the telling blow was highlighted when Behich was in the clear with Cahill waiting unmarked on the edge of the six-yard box but the cross fizzed across goal and out of reach.
As the minutes ticked down, it was clear that the result was already sealed. Peru held possession where it counted while the Socceroos were dead on their feet in Sochi’s sapping 32-degree heat.
The Socceroos campaign ended in disappointment while Peru finished third in the group.
It was of little consolation that Australia still wouldn’t have progressed, even with a win. In the other group match, Denmark held on for 0-0 draw against France, giving it five points and second place in the group.
Australia: 14 (2 on target)
Peru: 4 (3 on target)
Australia: 1 Ryan, 19 Risdon, 20 Sainsbury, 5 Milligan, 16 Behich, 7 Leckie, 15 Jedinak, 13 Mooy, 10 Kruse, 23 Rogic, 9 Juric
Substitutes: 4 Cahill, 17 Arzani, 22 Irvine
Peru: 1 Gallese, 17 Advincula, 15 Ramos, 4 Santamaria, 6 Trauco, 13 Tapia, 19 Yotun, 18 Carrillo (18′), 8 Cueva, 20 Flores, 9 Guerrero (50′)
Substitutes: 23 Acquino, 7 Hurtado, 16 Cartagena