63 mins There are 30 minutes remaining to score. Peru are still somewhat disjointed, which means one of two things: they get it together and score, or Australia capitalise and do it themselves. Sounds rather simple when you put it like that. Things are getting more tense, as Leckie gives Advincula a push and the latter retaliates in a mini-altercation.
60 mins Mooy is at the corner flag. Australia do like a set piece. Not this one though – Gallese gets the crucial touch. Peru mark time, passing along the back line, then back to Gallese, before opting to attack down the left. A couple of balls into Australia’s area are sent straight back out but they continue to come, switching to the right as Advincula lurks.
57 mins Instructions come from Arnold as Peru take a throw-in and dash through the middle diagonally to the left. A speculative shot is dealt with by Irvine, but in doing so the midfielder’s boot on Tapia. Peru appeal for a yellow. It does not arrive. But they are back in dangerous areas again as Peña crosses and Gonzales is one on one with Ryan, clattering into the goalkeeper as he gathers in the nick of time.
53 mins Arnold is up this time, pacing. Can’t imagine how nervous he must be. If Australia lose this is the end of his tenure, and the team will have missed out on the World Cup for the first time since 2002. Not pretty reading. Let’s not go there yet though because Mooy has just let rip a pile-driver that is wide of the far post but not by a mile.
51 mins Mooy has a look-in now as he swoops on Peru’s box. He is stopped before he really gets started but has the right idea. Another swift turnover and Peru has a corner, which is thwarted by Irvine. Peru come again and this time Rowles is the man standing in the way. Peña is gesticulating towards his teammates.
48 mins No changes as yet! As few as 45 minutes stand between one of these sides and the 2022 World Cup. The winner will take the penultimate spot in the finals, with New Zealand still to play Costa Rica tomorrow. Australia have the early possession, passing around at the back before hoicking the ball long. Peru are quick on the uptake and straight into transition, working it back to Australia’s penalty area in the blink of an eye.
I’d love to be a fly on the wall in both dressing rooms (two flies?). Can imagine Gareca would be relieved the score is still nil-nil given how passive Peru were during the first half. Lapadula fashioned their only chance against a Socceroos side which were the better. Their defence has been diligent, now just to find the clinical touch. Will Garca make changes to find some spark?
What do we make of that? All in all, a bright start for the Socceroos, who have had more sights on goal than Peru with five shots to two. Duke had a couple of them, but shot wide twice. In all, Australia look … capable.
45+1 mins Advincula absolutely tears down the right with Leckie in chase, and Australia find their goal under a quick, nerve-wracking bit of pressure. But all is square after the first stanza.
44 mins Hrustic takes a free-kick from quite far out. The direction is good but Zambrano has a head on it to clear the danger. Boyle crosses again, Carrillo deals with it. Boyle is relentless, and yet we aren’t seeing the best out of him so far this match. Same for Irvine, who has been one of the standouts of this campaign but relatively quiet today.
41 mins Cueva caresses the ball at the touchline, sweeps it back in at the last moment as Boyle applies the pressure. Irvine, who has ghosted into the box and is free for the header, inexplicably diverts it wide of the back post. That could easily have been a goal. Gallese takes his time with another goal kick.
38 mins Peru are taking an age to restart play from goal kicks. Gallese has the ball at his feet again and is literally just standing there. True to predictions they would try to slow down the game, suck out the tempo.
36 mins Gareca must have been expecting more from Peru by now because he hops up from his seat and barks some directions, hands on hips. Frustration. About 10 minutes until the end of this half and the stalemate continues, with only half-chances for each side.
33 mins Rauco opts for the direct route this time and punts the ball long. Behich has it in hand but Australia will have to watch their movement off the ball. They are still attacking, though, and Boyle is on yet another dribbling run to the top of the box, where he is sandwiched between two opponents. One of them, Gonzales has lunged in. That is brutal. He wins the ball but VAR have a check. Play on.
30 mins Cueva is inching forward through the middle, checking his options. He passes out to the right. It is dealt with. Australia are holding their own thus far, though there is a sense that one small slip-up will offer Peru the opening they need. The latter are moving the ball around smoothly, as if they are waiting for their moment.
26 mins Duke is fortunate to avoid a yellow card as he crashes in late on Peña. Peru get the free-kick.
22 mins Boyle is dribbling beats two defenders and makes a clean cross. There is no one waiting in front of goal. For Peru, Advincula is putting on a show on the right flank. He is awfully fun to watch.
19 mins Mooy sashays through the midfield and releases Boyle at the top of the area but his shot ricochets straight off a defender. Duke has obviously been included for his physicality and ability to hold up the ball. The Socceroos have been playing direct while Peru play out from the back.
16 mins Interesting that Arnold has retained Atkinson at right-back after his baptism of fire against the UAE. Peru are pressing hard, trying to keep their opposition contained. Ryan makes an uncharacteristic error. Down the other end, Leckie whips in a corner but Leckie’s contact isn’t enough. We are 15 minutes in and the Socceroos have had a few look-ins on goal but nothing that registers.
13 mins Early yellow card for Atkinson for holding back Cueva. They have a free-kick. Trauco does the honours and it’s nice, but Gonzales’s first touch is heavy. Lucky for Australia.
Btw, this got me too.
10 mins Trauco beats his man and embarks on a lovely one-two with Gonzales inside Australia’s third but the latter defend well. A few turnovers of possession here as both teams try to find their rhythm. A couple of heavy challenges already and here Trauco is a touch late on Boyle.
7 mins Ryan is already bellowing at his teammates from in goal, raising his finger to his temple in a “use your heads” manner. Mooy has the ball, he passes to Leckie, who backheels it first time and Australia make inroads down the left. No final ball, though.
5 mins Duke is outside the box with his eyes in the air and on a long ball over the top which is hurtling towards him. He attempts a speculative shot which sails wide. Peru are in transition now, all the way down to Australia’s goal third and Lapadula beats Rowles and whips in a cross which comes to nothing in the end.
2 mins Here we go. Atkinson takes an early throw-in and the ball ends up at Gallese’s feet. He punts it back to halfway mark and gathers again when Australia work it back towards Peru’s goal.
Lots of fans in the stadium. Tell you what, though, Peru have the numbers and the team will be buoyed by this. The players are coming out of the tunnel now for the anthems, and this is only the second time they will play each other, after Australia lost to Gareca’s side in the group stage of Russia 2018. Carrillo was one of the scorers in that game.
The location of this match is interesting because Australia have played a lot of their qualifying games in Qatar and are very used to the conditions. They have been based there for the past two weeks – the longest time they have spent in camp together for the good part of four years.
This is not the case for Peru, and assistant coach Nobby Solano has had a crack at Fifa over the decision.
“The game is kicking off at nine o’clock and they’re saying that the stadium is air-conditioned, so it will be fresh when we play,” he said. “But we’ve been training in Spain until this weekend because it’s just too hot to train in Qatar during the day.
“We’re being asked to play in the same conditions that it was decided that the World Cup wouldn’t be possible to be played in. For a game of this size, with so much at stake, I’m not sure that’s really good for either us or Australia. Although it’s obviously the same for both teams.”
Lots of people up in Melbourne!
Kick-off is not too far away now. For those who are awake (very) early in Australia, here’s David Squires. Everyone needs a bit of Squires at 4am.
For Australia the story is different. Where Peru endured a torrid start to qualifying before coming good towards the end, the Socceroos started well and came undone during the third stage with a number of poor results which have put the team – and particularly Arnold – under pressure.
Here’s a bit more background on the Peru team under Ricardo Gareca, known as ‘The Tiger’. Garca has transformed the national team since taking over in 2015, qualifying them for their first World Cup in 36 years at Russia 2018 and can now do it again.
I had a message from a Peruvian supporter over the weekend, which highlights just how big this game is for Peruvian football.
“The difference is that Perú has a whole country (33m people) behind supporting our team for this match,” he wrote. “The meaning of soccer to us is very different than for Australians and that will reflect on Monday. Keep in mind that for us to be here, we had to face Brasil, Argentina, Colombia, Chile, Uruguay, etc. Some of those were not able to make it. Imagine what that means.”
Kye Rowles, who just this week signed with Hearts, keeps his spot in central defence ahead of Trent Sainsbury, who was dealing with a knee injury. And Mitchell Duke gets the nod, with Mat Leckie moving to the wing in place of Craig Goodwin.
In Peru’s XI is 90-game goalkeeper Pedro Gallese, a legend in Peru and a veteran of the 2018 campaign. Christian Cueva is the most skilled with the ball and André Carrillo ia world-class right winger. Also watch out for Gianluca Lapadula, an attacker who was born in Italy to a Peruvian mother, has starred for Peru since 2020.
Peru coach Ricardo Gareca, meanwhile, has said the one-off format of the tie will make for a much different contest to what both Peru and Australia faced while qualifying for the 2018 World Cup. If you haven’t been following this time around, the home-and-away-leg format is no more and has been replaced by one knockout match in neutral territory.
“This is a key match and the fact that we’ve already played inter-continental playoff, I don’t think it’s that important,” Gareca said. “Every game is different and what we want to do is to keep on growing, we’ve known each other for seven years in our national team.
“We have experienced very tough situations, we cope with them, we know that’s the way forward is a tough one but this is what we want to do. We’re all ready for this, we’re all ready for this type of match.
“From that point of view, apart from the fact that we have a broad experience, so does Australia. We are both in the same situation and we hope to make the most of this opportunity.”
There has been some tough pre-match talk from Socceroos boss Graham Arnold, warning Australian footballers have made technical improvements.
“You’ve got to be ready for anything that Peru, individually, throw at us,” Arnold said. “I just really believe in our players. It’s a one-off game and it’s a final. That’s crystal clear to everybody. That is fine. I think the Peruvians will be surprised by the improvement of the Australian footballers technically.”
He also said the South American style is “an attractive style of game, they’re very technically individually very good”.
This is going to get technical.
Well, this is it. The match to end them all. The sudden-death, intercontinental playoff. It is, as one journalist put it during the pre-match press conferences, “the final”. More specifically, it is the final before the finals, with the latter on the line. The winner takes all and books a ticket (back) to Qatar for the World Cup in November. For Australia, that would constitute a fifth consecutive World Cup.
Who will win? Peru are heavy favourites. If we look at Fifa rankings, which are not always the most accurate indicator, Australia are ranked 42nd and their South American counterparts 22nd. If we focus instead on results, Peru beat Venezuela and Colombia en route to finishing in fifth place in Conmebol behind Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Ecuador. Australia, meanwhile, placed third in their group and last week defeated the United Arab Emirates in their first Asia playoff. There is more to say on all of this, so let’s get going.
Kick-off in Qatar is at 9pm local and 4am AEST.