Peru beat Australia 2-0 on Tuesday to sign off their Group C campaign at the 2018 FIFA World Cup with a victory and clinch their first win in the competition for more than four decades.
Andre Carrillo volleyed in to put the South Americans ahead after 18 minutes, and captain Paolo Guerrero doubled their lead five minutes into the second half.
France and Denmark drew 0-0 in the other Group C fixture on Tuesday to take first and second in the pool, respectively, as they proceed to the round of 16 in Russia.
No World Cup Country Needs a Reliable Striker as Desperately as Australia
Australia will end the 2018 World Cup as arguably the limpest attacking team as far as product goes. Even Saudi Arabia—mocked early on after their 5-0 defeat to Russia—managed to score a goal from open play in three group games, something the Socceroos did not.
With a 38-year-old Tim Cahill still making 30-minute appearances off the bench and Luzern striker Tomi Juric the man handed starting duties, it's clearer now more than ever how badly the team needs a capable presence in that position:
Even the Cahill of four years ago, when he was a spry 34 years of age, would have trumped the selection under Bert van Marwijk on Tuesday.
Australia need to search from across the pitch for their goals as a result, with Kruse on one flank and Hertha Berlin winger Matthew Leckie on the other, though commentator Kevin Hatchard isn't convinced by the latter, either:
Urawa Red Diamonds striker Andrew Nabbout would have started in attack if he was fit, though Juric actually has the superior Australia record (eight in 36 caps). Not that a player need be wholly judged on the club they play for, but the lack of pedigree among Socceroo strikers is telling when dissecting the lack of goals in the team.
Then again, Match of the Day previously posed the question as to who would want to be the next leading man for Australia:
This should be a very conscious issue for coaches in the country and one that Van Marwijk must make clear to whomever might take over in the coaching role after the World Cup: Finding strikers is a cause of national concern.
Of course it's still only football, but if those fabled glory days of Cahill and Mark Viduka are to be relived—dare say it, even bettered—finding their heirs should be a top priority.
Daniel Arzani Should Be Centerpiece for Future of Australian Team
Daniel Arzani has been a much-talked about figure in making his World Cup debut in Russia. The 19-year-old was the youngest player taking part at this tournament and a focus of Australian amazement after a promising season at Melbourne City.
His 20-minute cameo against Denmark alone might have been enough to convince some he needed a promotion to the starting XI, a notion only encouraged with 10 or so impressive minutes against the French:
But Van Marwijk stuck with what he knew against Peru, and before Arzani could even have a say on matters following his 58th-minute introduction, the game looked dead and buried at 2-0:
There was a moment in the 67th minute, not long after he's come on as a substitute for Robbie Kruse, where Arzani hit a half-volley on the turn and momentarily made you think: "This is it. This is where Australia start."
Of course that turned out to be wildly premature, and the hit whistled a foot or so over Pedro Gallese's crossbar, but the fact is Australia finally had someone at least attempting the marvellous. It also took the introduction of a teenager at two goals down for the Socceroos to have their first shot from outside the box.
Prior to the Peru game, OptaJason offered more insight on why such a rare talent deserved to be dunked in at the deep end and handed his chance with so much at stake:
There's something pure about football that only certain people, regardless of age or country of origin, can interpret. United States starlet Christian Pulisic can read it, Jamaican youngster Leon Bailey gets it, and Mali senior international Amadou Haidara is of the same breed, players to whom this all just comes naturally.
Of course Aaron Mooy, 27, is probably the best player on the team, and captain Mile Jedinak—scorer of two penalties in Russia and Australia's only goals of the tournament—is essential, but this is the future of Australian football.
Arzani didn't get to show his best in a 30-minute outing on Tuesday and was time and again frustrated by the Peru defence, but this team defending a two-goal cushion could keep out some of the best in the world.
He may only be 19 and at the start of his journey, but the sooner the Socceroos embrace him as the talent for this team to be built around, the sooner they can expect to produce more players of his calibre.
Peru Will Rue Missed Opportunities in Group Stage
Peru can feel more aggrieved than any eliminated team thus far at this World Cup to be leaving so soon, knowing full well that a couple more moments of cool earlier in the competition would have sent them through.
Talk of history and Peru's return to the World Cup after 36 years has embodied their journey, but perhaps in hailing the achievement of Ricardo Gareca's men in making it to the tournament, they forgot to perform once they got there.
Peru's supporters demonstrated, even in what was a dead-rubber for them, what it meant to break their deadlock in Russia and make their mark after eight successive failed bids to make the World Cup, via Fox Soccer (U.S. only):
The lines were incredibly close throughout their run in Group C, but back-to-back defeats against Denmark and France—both by 1-0 scorelines—remind just how close they came to making the round of 16.
Against the former, writer Carl Worswick pointed out it was a missed Christian Cueva spot-kick that will be remembered most, from a game where they had almost double the number of shots their opponents did, per WhoScored.com (17 to the Danes' 10):
Carl Worswick @cworswick
FT Peru 0-1 Denmark. Cruel on Peru who went agonisingly close many times but couldn't find a way past Schmeichel. Cueva was Peru's main creative spark and probably best player but will instead be remembered for his awful first-half penalty miss. Massive win for Denmark though.
Goal's Ives Galarcep bemoaned a similar lack of clinical touch following their loss to France on Thursday, where Pedro Aquino hit the woodwork and Peru controlled a majority of the possession:
It was telling that Gareca's warriors impressed most in their last outing, when all pressure was off and the stakes at their lowest. Granted, Australia don't pose the same threat as their other group foes, but this looked more like the counter-attuned, wily Peru that got to the World Cup in the first place.
Tournaments like this aren't decided on one match but more so a collection of moments. If Peru can sustain their current success in future World Cup competitions, they're sure to gain the experience necessary to thrive more when those moments come back their way again.
Neither team will carry on in the competition after Tuesday's result confirmed Australia would join Peru in departing at the first stage.
This article will be updated to provide more information on this story as it becomes available.
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