Soccer

South Florida soccer fans won’t have to wait until the World Cup for a world-class match

Ricardo Gareca’s first match as head coach for the Peruvian national soccer team was held March 30, 2015. Now he brings his team to Hard Rock Stadium for Friday’s friendly against Croatia.
Ricardo Gareca’s first match as head coach for the Peruvian national soccer team was held March 30, 2015. Now he brings his team to Hard Rock Stadium for Friday’s friendly against Croatia. El Nuevo Herald

World-class soccer returns to Miami on Friday night at 8 when Peru and Croatia face off in a friendly at Hard Rock Stadium to prepare for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Peru’s national team went through its last practice Thursday morning at the stadium, and Croatia followed later in the day.

“We think it’s going to be an intense match, but I don’t know whether it will have the same rhythm of a World Cup game because it’s preparation to get [to the World Cup] in the best shape possible,” Peru coach Ricardo Gareca said at Thursday’s news conference. “But both teams are going to take the game seriously.”

“Croatia is a very good team, with very good positioning. For us, having the ball is very important and we’ll try to fight for possession. I am not going to say that we’ll control the ball, because in some matches we’ve controlled our rivals and in others they have controlled us,” Gareca added.

Friday’s match will be the first friendly played by Peru in 2018. South Florida holds fond memories for Gareca.

“I want to thank everyone for the support we received,” Gareca said. “We’re going to play for those people, and play seriously. I hope we can have a good match. This is where everything began. My first match was in Miami.”

As for Chile’s lineup, Carlos Cáceda us expected to start in goal because Pedro Gallese is injured. Aldo Crozo and Miguel Trauco will play at back while Miguel Trauco and Anderson Santamaría, who is replacing the injured Alberto Rodriguez, will play center backs.

The midfield will see Yoshimar Yotún, Renato Tapia, André Carrillo and Edison Flores, and the strikers will be Christian Cueva and Jefferson Farfán.

“I’ll confirm the lineup tomorrow. The guys already know, I told them. We’re trying to review some ideas, specially on the video and in chats in person,” Gareca said. “We have a lot of expectations. We hope to be able to continue our growth game by game.”

The entire Peru team, with the exception of Paolo Guerrero, who is suspended, has trained for several days in South Florida. He is expected to finish his suspension and play in the 2018 World Cup, although his sanction is under review.

“We’re following this Paolo thing closely. We think he’s totally committed, despite the difficult time he’s having. We’re very happy that he’s back training with his club,” Gareca said.

Peru and Croatia could meet in the second round of play in Russia. But Friday may show whether Peru can stop Croatia’s powerful attacks by Luka Modric, Mateo Kovacic and Ivan Ralitic

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