Peru’s coach Ricardo Gareca has called it “an important game against an important rival.”
Chile’s Reinaldo Rueda previewed an “intense game.”
Although it is a friendly match, there’s no love lust between their teams, and that might play out Friday night at Hard Rock Stadium.
Anytime Peru and Chile play each other the matches are rarely “friendly,” especially with both teams looking to make a statement in their first game since the “incident.”
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Long stirred by old territorial disputes — mostly from the Peruvian side — it is the most recent soccer history that pits Peru and Chile together this time.
In 2016, Chile tied Bolivia 1-1, but La Roja protested the eligibility of Bolivia’s Paraguayan-born Nelson Cabrera. Chile won the appeal and was awarded a 3-0 victory. The appeal benefited Peru, too, since Cabrera also played against them just days before. But Peru had lost the match, and the jump from 0 to 3 points put Peru in the playoffs by goal difference over Chile.
Because of that move, Peru made its first World Cup since 1982, and left two-time Copa America champions Chile out.
Chile, world-class only months before, was suddenly stumbling, while Peru was finally getting a series of breaks that landed the country in Russia. (But the team ran out of luck shortly after, when Paolo Guerrero’s anti-doping test came out positive).
Peru achieved its goal of going to the World Cup, and retained its Argentine coach. Chile began its soul-searching and called Colombian Reinaldo Rueda to lead the new process. And that is how their paths cross again.
In nine months at the helm of the Chilean team, Rueda has kicked off the generational relay, from the so-called “golden generation” of La Roja’s soccer to a newer, under-23 group.
“The Chile that people remember, the one from 2015, is one that has lost some members, even some starters, to the wear and tear of the years,” he stated on Wednesday.
However, the old leaders are still very much relevant to a process in transition. Which is why Arturo Vidal’s playing time at Barcelona is worrying for him.
“We all know what it means to have continuity in soccer,” Rueda said. “I have talked to him, and have asked wisdom and poise from him in this moment.”
Although Rueda did not give away his starting 11, it is understood that Vidal will be on the field Friday. His main decision before Friday will be to choose among his three rookie goalkeepers, all of whom barely play at their own clubs.
This complication is an opportunity for the Peruvian team. For this game, Gareca called back most of his squad from the Russian World Cup, with the notable absences of injured playmaker Jefferson Farfan, and striker Paolo Guerrero, still sidelined for his doping offenses.
Despite the friendly nature of the game against Chile, Gareca underlined the significance of the match to round off three years of progress.
“After a phase in which the team acquired experience and reached important goals, we can now start one where we attain maturity, with a team capable of facing the things that are happening to them,” he said.
Peru and Chile face off this Friday at 8 p.m. Peru will then go on to play the U.S. national team Tuesday in East Hartford, Conneticut. Chile will play against Mexico next Tuesday in Queretaro.