June 19, 2013
Messi-management foremost in Peruvian minds
Peru's mission to stall Lionel Messi and the Argentine juggernaut at home in their World Cup qualifier on Tuesday may see the team seek inspiration from a famous victory over their South American rivals in Lima 27 years ago.
In 1985, Luis Reyna's tight marking of Diego Maradona was key to an upset 1-0 win over Argentina, and Peru will ponder a similar stopping job against another diminutive and sublimely gifted forward in Messi at the Estadio Nacional in Lima (0125 GMT Wednesday).
Peru look set to give defensive midfielder Edwin Retamoso the daunting task of tracking Messi. "If the Prof (coach Sergio Markarian) gives me the chance, I won´t let him down," Retamoso was quoted by Argentine media as saying.
Argentina, with three wins in a row in the qualifiers after Friday's 3-1 home victory over Paraguay when Messi took his tally to 10 goals in six games, lead the South American group with 13 points from six matches.
Peru, looking to reach the finals for the first time since 1982, are seventh with six points.
"We told the players that if we beat Venezuela we'd reduce the pressure and now we make a new start fighting for what we really want," Peru's Uruguayan coach Markarian told reporters.
Peru ended a run of four defeats with a 2-1 home win over Venezuela on Friday, recovering from a goal down to score twice through winger Jefferson Farfan.
Striker Paolo Guerrero, who like Farfan has three goals so far in the qualifiers, is doubtful with a foot injury.
Holding midfielder Javier Mascherano comes back from suspension for Argentina while his understudy Rodrigo Brana serves a ban after a second booking against Paraguay.
Colombia, reinvigorated by a 4-0 rout of Uruguay on Friday, visit second-placed Chile in Santiago (1930 GMT) hoping to climb further up the standings from fifth place three points behind Argentina.
The Colombians will be relying on strikers Radamel Falcao and Teofilo Gutierrez carrying their goal scoring form from the heat of Barranquilla on the Caribbean to the cold of the Chilean capital.
"That's the best I've seen Colombia play in a while," Chile's Claudio Borghi said as he prepared for a duel of Argentine coaches with Colombia's Jose Pekerman.
"They had a totally attacking formation ... But I don't think they'll play the same way on Tuesday because the match will be faster," he told reporters.
Ecuador are third in the group after winning their four home matches, including Friday's 1-0 victory over Bolivia settled by a penalty converted by Felipe Caicedo.
They will need to improve their away form if they are to withstand the expected onslaught at the Centenario in Montevideo (2130) from a Uruguay side stung by their heavy defeat in Barranquilla.
Striker Luis Suarez returns for Uruguay after serving a suspension. Coach Oscar Tabarez told reporters: "He gives us a lot, he's in perfect condition and keen to change the course of things."
Bottom team Paraguay need to beat Venezuela in Asuncion (2325) if they want to maintain their hopes of reaching a fifth World Cup in a row in neighbouring Brazil in two years' time.
Bolivia, who have a bye and are above Paraguay only on goal difference, could find themselves back at the bottom at the end of the day.