Author: Bremen Keasey
Peru were one of the most surprising inclusions at this year’s World Cup in Russia. When Jefferson Farfán scored the first goal in Lima during Peru’s qualifier against New Zealand, the nation started believing their 36-year long dream might come true. In stirring scenes at the Estadio Nacional, la Blanquirroja, completed the dream, winning 2-0 in Lima and on aggregate to win their first World Cup birth since 1982.
I had not known much about Peru going into that final playoff game, but it’s hard not to feel those emotions felt by the Peruvian fans seeing their sporting dreams come true. It was stirring, especially considering the controversial drug suspension of their captain, Paolo Guerrero. Farfán celebrated in tears while running to the sidelines and showing Guerrero’s number 9 shirt to the world. It was an emotional moment for the nation.
So, when Peru opened up today against Denmark, I was focusing in. How would the players make their country dream after over a generation gone from the World Cup?
Peru showed few opening jitters, sparkling on the pitch with dazzling skills, unreal tenacity and incredible passion. They instantly hooked me in. Their jerseys looked timeless, their dribbling was playground-like and their players liked themselves some dyed hair (any radio listeners know I love some fun haircuts).
Immediately I was cheering for la Blanquirroja, oooing and aaaing at every mazy run by winger Andre Carrillo, every marauding run by wingback Luis Advíncula and groaning at every missed chance, especially Christian Cueva’s missed penalty kick that skied into the top row.
After Denmark went ahead with a cool finish from striker Yussuf Poulsen, Peru mounted everything they had to score. They just couldn’t. Denmark’s keeper Kasper Schmeichel was in fine form, and Peru couldn’t find that finishing touch. Every goal seemed agonizingly close, and yet I stayed hopeful they could convert. They had to because of their mesmerizing play.
But they didn’t. Heartbreak.
And yet in Lima, despite the loss, the crowd celebrated their boys as if they won. They must’ve felt that those players showcased the heart of their beautiful country.
That is the real magic of international soccer. You can imagine the Peruvian kids with their eyes glued to the TV watching their heroes, their idols, their countrymen trying to show what Peru can do. La Blanquirroja inspired hopefully more than just me, and it’s that magical touch of the World Cup that makes the heartbreak something to celebrate.