INTERNATIONAL football fanatic Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) shares his verdict on Tuesday night’s World Cup qualifier from San Juan.
Peru v Brazil | Wednesday 02:15
A total of 28 points has always been sufficient for direct qualification to the World Cup in the past and Brazil’s all-conquering performance against Argentina during their 3-0 win on Thursday night has put the Samba Boys on 24. There are seven games to play still…
It’s quite remarkable to see the Selecao sitting so comfortable at the top of the standings. When Tite took charge after another miserable spell under Dunga, Brazil were faltering – the new man has guided the group to five wins out of five and on the verge of qualification.
The Samba Boys exercised their World Cup semi-final demons in Belo Horizonte with a commanding display. Had Tite’s team shown a more ruthless streak in the second-half, the 3-0 scoreline could easily have been doubled.
Tite’s team continue to impress
The Selecao have been smart and stylish since the Copa America. Not since Marcelo Bielsa’s Argentina in 2001 has a team looked so dominant in South America’s World Cup qualifiers and the revitalised nation have looked a different team with Neymar now inspired in the yellow canary jersey.
With Neymar and Philippe Coutinho roaming behind exciting Gabriel Jesus, Brazil offer major threats from the flanks and more than enough playmaking quality to open up stodgy, slow and cumbersome defences. Argentina were comfortably exposed.
At the back, the Samba Boys have been compact and diligent. Tite’s troops are only as good as the sum of their parts and that team philosophy has filtered through fast and effectively. The squad are on a high – winning, winning well and winning back friends they lost in 2014.
Peru end rotten winless away record
Talking of highs, Peru claimed their first away World Cup qualifying win since June 2004 last week, coming from behind to see off Paraguay 4-1 in Asuncion. Los Incas even trailed at half-time.
Christian Cueva was outstanding, working tirelessly to organise his team-mates in midfield. The Sao Paolo star provided an assist for their second goal and scored the third, adding to the twin threats of centre-forward Paolo Guerrero and Jefferson Farfan when Peru go forward.
With Ricardo Gareca’s group being awarded a 3-0 victory against Bolivia because their opponents fielded an ineligible player, the six points garnered from those two away days has propelled Peru right back into contention for a top-five finish.
Los Incas have not reached a World Cup finals since 1982 but now they’re just four points behind third-placed Colombia. Gareca claimed the Paraguay result involved was testament to the work the players have been putting in on the training ground and back in Lima, they’ll be confident in claiming a result.
Peru beat Brazil 1-0 in their last meeting, sending Brazil crashing out of the Copa America in the summer. And their 12-year record in home World Cup qualifiers also suggests they shouldn’t be written off (W11-D10-L5).
Peru missing key defensive cogs
But Gareca’s without key defensive midfielder Reinaldo Talia and left-back Miguel Trauco for this encounter and without a bulbous squad to select from, the absences could hit the hosts hard.
Brazil cruised to victory at Ecuador and Venezuela under Tite but look a little too short at 4/6 (Bet365) to extend their winning streak. So instead I’ll support the visitors to score Over 1.5 Goals at 4/5 (Bet365).
The Samba Boys have scored at least twice in eight of their 11 away days since the World Cup – a stat that tallies nicely alongside Peru’s defensive record. Los Incas have leaked two or more goals in three of their five 2018 World Cup qualifiers in Lima.
Peru v Brazil – Brazil to score Over 1.5 Goals (4/5 Bet365)