Perú / Piruw / Peru
- Capital: Lima
- Official Languages: Spanish
- Co-Official Languages: Quechua, Aymara
- Nicknames: La Blanquirroja (The White and Red); La Bicolor (The Bicolour); Los Incas (The Incas)
- Association: Federación Peruana de Futbol (FPF)
- FIFA Code: PER
- Best World Cup Result (Men): Quarter Finals / Round 2 (1970, 1978)
- Best World Cup Result (Women): Not Qualified
- Best Copa América Result (Men): WINNERS (1939, 1975)
- Best Copa América Result (Women): Third Place (1998)
- Best Gold Cup Result (Men): Semi Finals (2000)
- Highest FIFA Ranking (Men): 10th (October 2017)
- Highest FIFA Ranking (Women): 32nd (May 2006)
- Lowest FIFA Ranking (Men): 91st (September 2009)
- Lowest FIFA Ranking (Women): 131st (December 2012)
- Most Capped Player: Roberto Palacios – 128 caps
- Top Scorer: Paolo Guerrero – 38 goals [as of June 2021]
The Republic of Peru (República del Perú / Piruw Ripuwlika / Piruw Suyu) is a large country (the third-largest in terms of area within CONMEBOL) situated on the northwestern coast of the South American continent. The Pacific Ocean marks the western boundary of Peru with the capital Lima situated on its Pacific coast, whilst the Andes mountain range runs along the whole length of the country. Peru shares a number of land borders with Ecuador to its northwest, Colombia to its north, Brazil to its east, Bolivia to its southeast, and Chile directly south. Originally the home to the formidable Inca Empire, it was swallowed up into the Spanish Empire becoming the ‘Viceroyalty of Peru’ during that period, before declaring its independence in 1821.
Football has been played in Peru since the 1860s with British immigrants and British-educated Peruvians introducing the game to the country, with the sport taking hold in the Peruvian coastal towns and cities where the British sailors and dock workers were more prevalent. After a number of failed attempts, the current Peruvian Football Federation was founded in 1922, before joining FIFA in 1924, and then CONMEBOL in 1925, with the country’s first game being a 4-0 defeat to the then Olympic champions Uruguay in Lima. They would take part in the very first World Cup in 1930, drawn in a group alongside the hosts and favourites Uruguay, and Romania, but would suffer a 3-1 defeat to the Romanians in their first game, before narrowly losing 1-0 to La Celeste in their second game to finish bottom of the group.
Nonetheless, the following decade of the 1930s would be Peru’s first golden era as they improved their game through playing more experienced teams through a number of tours. As a result, they would finish in third place in the 1935 Copa América before winning their first continental title in 1939 on home soil. The Peruvians beat all four teams within the group stage to lift the trophy, with Teodoro Fernández being the top scorer of the tournament with seven goals. Sadly, the fortunes of the national team plummeted throughout the 1940s to 1960s with the team only achieving a couple of third-place finishes in both the 1949 and 1955 Copa Américas.
A second golden era would appear for the country in the 1970s which resulted in Peru’s first appearance in the World Cup for forty years. Inspired by the formidable forward partnership between Teófilo Cubillas and Hugo Sotil, and resplendent with one of football’s most iconic shirts – the white shirts with a red diagonal sash, La Blanquirroja progressed beyond the group stage after beating Bulgaria and Morocco, to reach the quarter-finals of the competition as group runners-up behind West Germany. There they took on the formidable Brazil, and in one of the most exciting games in the World Cup, were unable to defeat their fellow South Americans losing 4-2 to exit the competition. Despite failing to qualify for the 1974 World Cup, Peru finally obtained success with this golden generation a year later when they claimed their second Copa América, beating Colombia 2 games to 1 in the three-game final series. The side would further qualify for the 1978 World Cup in Argentina, famously beating Ally MacLeod’s Scottish team 3-1 in the opening game, drawing against the Dutch 0-0 in the second game, and then beating Iran 4-1 to surprisingly top the group and condemn the Tartan Army to an early exit from the competition. Sadly in the second round group stage, they were beaten by Argentina, Brazil, and Poland to finish bottom of the group, with the 6-0 defeat to the Albiceleste being the lowest point of the tournament.
Peru qualified for their second consecutive World Cup for España ‘82 but by that point, the Peruvians’ second golden generation were starting to fade. In a group with Poland, Italy, and Cameroon, they managed draws against Cameroon and (the eventual champions) Italy, but suffered a heavy 5-1 defeat to a talented Poland squad in their final game to be eliminated from the competition by finishing bottom of the group. Alas it would be a further 36 years before Peru would qualify for another World Cup, this time reaching the 2018 edition in Russia. Despite suffering defeats to both Denmark and France in their opening two group games, they managed to finish their campaign with some success by beating Australia 2-0 in their final group game – André Carrillo and Paolo Guerrero getting the goals for Los Incas.
The fortunes of Peru seem to be improving once again following their qualification to the 2018 World Cup. They subsequently reached the final of the 2019 Copa América despite finishing third in their group. A penalty shootout victory over Uruguay was backed up by a 3-0 defeat of the defending champions Chile to take on the hosts Brazil in the final. Alas having suffered a 5-0 loss to them in the group stage, Peru were unable to enact revenge on their neighbours, with Brazil winning the tournament with a 3-1 victory in the final. Guerrero scored a 44th minute penalty consolation goal. Despite having fallen at the last hurdle, it was still Peru’s best performance in the competition since their 1975 victory and gave hints that a third golden era may be forthcoming. It will be interesting to see whether they can improve upon that performance in the forthcoming Copa this summer, especially as they have started their World Cup campaign in horrendous form having only drawn one of their first five qualifiers. If Peru are to match the performances of the golden generations of the 1930s and 1970s, they’ll need to produce some monumental performances over the next 12 months if they’re to win their third Copa América and qualify for their sixth World Cup!
To talk about the two-time Copa América winners and finalists of the 2019 edition, who also have one of international football’s most iconic football shirt designs, we interviewed the excellent Renato the Sun. They are a Peruvian-American currently living in the USA who is, naturally, a supporter of the Peruvian national team, and a member of the English-language podcast The Peruvian Waltz. The Peruvian Waltz is a podcast which talks about anything and everything involving the world of Peruvian domestic and international football. To find their social media accounts and the Peruvian Waltz social media accounts and podcast, follow the links below:
Q. Who would you say is your country’s best player and coach/manager of all time, and the reasoning behind the choices?
There are many great players who have represented our country’s football team. That said, in terms of players, I would go with Teófilo Cubillas. Cubillas was the main man of the Peru golden generation of the 1970s to early 1980s and produced great moments with his clubs such as Alianza Lima and Porto. Not to mention his performances while wearing the Peru jersey including a spectacular performance against Scotland in the 1978 World Cup and helping Peru to win the 1975 Copa América.
In terms of the best manager, I would say that title should go to Marcos Calderón. Calderón was the man that was in charge of the Peruvian 70s golden generation and gave us glory in the 1975 Copa América, and a great display in the 1978 World Cup
Q. Who could be regarded as a ‘cult hero’ in terms of the national team both in the past and present?
As stated previously, Teófilo Cubillas is considered to be one of Peru’s greatest players and a ‘hero’ to the country. In terms of the present, that title goes to Paolo Guerrero [37-year-old striker currently at Brazilian side Internacional], the current captain and top scorer of the national team. Paolo’s goals and leadership have taken Peru to recent high moments such as qualifying for the World Cup 2018, and reaching the Copa América 2019 final.
Q. Of the current team, who would you say is the best player from Peru currently?
Aside from Paolo Gurrero, there is also Celta Vigo midfielder Renato Tapia. Tapia’s defensive midfield work is crucial for Peru and his presence is noticed whenever he is not around. Renato Tapia is widely seen to be the future captain of the national team once Paolo hangs up the boots.
Q. How would you describe the current state/performance of the national team?
Currently, it is not in the best shape as Peru have started the 2022 World Cup qualifiers quite poorly. It does not help that Paolo Guerrero has been struggling with physical problems as he is nearly 40 years old, and had to be out for the opening games for Peru. Ricardo Gareca, the current manager of the national team, is under pressure for the poor results and questionable tactical choices. There is a lot of improvement to be done with crucial matches in the qualifiers coming, along with the 2021 Copa América.
Q. Are there any Peruvian players who you think we should be focusing on for the future – who would you say is the most exciting up & coming talent from the country?
One player to keep an eye on is Martín Távara from Sporting Cristal. A technically-gifted 22-year-old midfielder with a special left foot that results in long accurate passes for a goal. He has already been called up to the national team, and has been linked with a move to Brazilain clubs such as Internacional, and Flamengo.
Q. Looking at Peru’s long international history, what would you say has been the best game, result, or performance for the national team in your opinion?
There have been a lot of great games for Peru. Recently, I would say our best performance was against Chile in Copa América 2019. Chile is often seen as a direct competitor to Peru with the ‘Clásico del Pacífico’ being played between the two countries. To see Peru win 3-0 against the defending Copa América champions at the time felt satisfying, and brought us to a Copa América final. Another fixture to bring to attention are the two inter-confederation playoff matches against New Zealand in 2017 which secured us our ticket to Russia 2018 [winning the OFC-CONMEBOL playoff 2-0 on aggregate].
Q. Likewise, is there a performance or result which is regarded as the team’s lowest point?
There have been some bad moments of the national team, from not appearing in a World Cup for around 30 years, missing out on World Cup 2014 after losing 1-2 to Uruguay at home, and the 2010 qualifying campaign was a complete trainwreck. Two matches in particular during that campaign were painful defeats for the national team with Ecuador 5-1 away and 6-0 Uruguay away.
Q. What are the best and worst things about being a fan of the Peruvian national team?
The best thing as a Peruvian is to see the players represent the country, and fight in the name of Peru. With every win or great moment comes a sense of pride. Of course with every bad moment or loss comes a feeling of pain, but there is always the lessons to be learned.
Q. Have the fans adopted some kind of unofficial anthem to sing along to before/during/after matches?
Well the fans love to sing the national anthem of Peru before every game of the national team. It brings a warm feeling to see our country represented in the football world and those who have been formed in the country.
Q. Do you have a favourite or iconic shirt from the whole time of the national team?
Yes, personally it is the 2018 World Cup jersey. The 70s golden generation jersey is iconic, but I have a love for the 2017-18 jerseys from Umbro that remind me of our qualification to Russia.
Q. Finally, what are your hopes for the future of the Peruvian national team?
Right now, the current state of the national team is at a low point. However, I know these moments are never forever. Peru has lots of young talent coming into the national team along with the experienced players. With the right man in charge, I hope Peru can reach more high points. Who knows, I would love it if we win a Copa América or make it to another World Cup. Never say never with Peru!
A massive muchas gracias to Renato the Sun for answering our questions on La Blanquirroja. Remember you can find their social media accounts and The Peruvian Waltz podcast in the links at the top of the blogpage.
If you have any comments, suggestions, reactions, or even your own answers to the above questions, please write them in the comments box below. Likewise, you can either email us at email@example.com or send a message at @The94thMin on Twitter.