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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 16 July 2018

Peru sign off 2018 World Cup in style as Australia add to Asian misery

Goals by Carrillo and Guerrero earn the South Americans a first World CUp win in 40 years. Ian Hawkey reports from inside the Fisht Stadium

Andre Carrillo, right, celebrates scoring Peru's opening goal against Australia at the World Cup. Max Rossi / Reuters
Andre Carrillo, right, celebrates scoring Peru's opening goal against Australia at the World Cup. Max Rossi / Reuters

And then there was one. Australia joined the trio of Asian-zone nations making their gloomy way home at the first hurdle of this World Cup.

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) now hangs its reputation on Japan, who at least have a strong chance of progressing to the knockout stage.

In the end, whatever the Socceroos did against Peru would not have lifted them into the top two of Group C. France and Denmark ensured that. But Australia were also beaten fair and square by a delighted Peru in hot, humid Sochi.

Australia were industrious but ultimately insipid, and at times you imagined they could have played on into next week without breaking what is an ignominious record in Russia: Australia have not scored a goal in open play for a while now, dating back to before the World Cup kicked off.

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They converted penalties in both their previous matches here, the loss to France and the draw with Denmark, and the standards in terms of finishing and creative approach work on Tuesday were set by the South Americans.

It was a fabulous day for Peru, even if their 25,000-plus supporters, an army of song and laughter wherever they go, knew their World Cup would be short several days ago, when they suffered a second narrow defeat in their opening two games.

What they do have now, though, is a first World Cup win in 40 years, and a first World Cup finals goal since Guillermo ‘The Tank' La Rosa netted in a 5-1 defeat to Poland in Spain on June 22, 1982.

Andre Carrillo scored it, a handsome volley after Paulo Guerrero had controlled a fine long pass from Miguel Trauco. Guerrero glanced up and saw Carrillo lurking in space about 15 yards from goal. Carrillo’s volley was elegantly struck and nicely placed to give Australian goalkeeper Mathew Ryan, who had no fewer than 27 family members watching from the grandstands, no chance.

Peru, who knocked New Zealand out in the play-off rounds, completed their Trans-Tasman double with a goal from Guerrero in the second half, the striker and captain gyrating athletically to snap a shot past Ryan following Cueva’s nimble work.

Poor Australia. A proud sporting nation is suffering right now, what with a series of record-breaking defeats in ODIs for their cricketers in England, beatings on home rugby pitches against Ireland.

They were very ordinary here, too, and the tricks that Australia’s Socceroos have sometimes been able to pull off in the past to compensate for a shortfall of talent failed them here. The great Tim Cahill came on with just over half an hour left, but there was no fairytale rescue act for the 38-year-old.

Australia sweated and worked, of course, but there is a lack of finesse about this team. Mile Jedinak planted his studs almost in the neck of Cuevas early on, not with malice but with a lack of adroitness.

Tom Rogic initiated some good moves but Peru goalkeeper Pedro Gallese was truly threatened only once, when Anderson Santamaria made an excellent clearance of a cross, under pressure from Mathew Leckie.

Peru's players saluted their fans at the end. The World Cup will miss these supporters, and their beaming smiles.