As Peru’s president promised, the South American country will have its soccer-dedicated holiday on Thursday.
Peru beat New Zealand 2-0 on Wednesday to win a two-leg intercontinental playoff and earn the 32nd and last spot at the World Cup in Russia next year. It will be Peru’s first trip to the World Cup since Spain in 1982.
“It is a wait of 35 years. We didn’t deserve to be away from the World Cup for so long,” said Christian Cueva, who set up both goals. “All Peruvians should take this Thursday to celebrate as never before.”
After a 0-0 draw in New Zealand on Saturday, a more vibrant Peru showed up at the Estadio Nacional and denied New Zealand a third appearance at the World Cup.
Despite the absence of their main striker Paolo Guerrero, who is serving a FIFA doping ban, the Peruvians controlled the match from the start.
Striker Jefferson Farfan opened the scoring in the 28th minute from the edge of the box burying the ball into the New Zealand net. In tears, the Lokomotiv Moscow forward showed the shirt of his boyhood friend Guerrero to the crowd.
Defender Christian Ramos netted the second in the 65th from Cueva’s corner.
A still tearful Farfan said after the match that his team had “to endure a lot of nonsense until we got here.” Before being banned, Guerrero scored six goals for Peru in South American qualifiers.
“I dedicate this to Paolo, I promised him we would deliver,” Farfan said.
The draw for the World Cup finals will be on Dec. 1 at the Kremlin in Moscow and groups will be formed with one team from each of the four pots. Peru will be in a pot of second-seeded teams alongside Spain, Switzerland, England, Colombia, Mexico, Uruguay and Croatia.
Peru coach Ricardo Gareca thanked the team’s psychologist for the playoff victory, which followed a fifth-place finish in South American World Cup qualifying.
“He was very important for us at this turbulent moment,” Gareca said.
Peruvian President Pedro Paulo Kuczynski used Twitter to ask for moderation in the festivities on the holiday on Thursday.
“Thanks to our warriors for giving us this joy,” he wrote. “Let’s celebrate with responsibility.”