Featured Image: AP Photo
Peru’s European tour ended the same way it began, as la Blanquirroja suffered a late 2-1 defeat at the hands of Germany at the Rhein-Neckar-Arena on Sunday.
Once again, Peru opened the scoring via Luis Advíncula before Julian Brandt equalized just three minutes later. German debutant Nico Schulz buried the winner in the 85th minute to wrap up the victory.
Here are five thoughts from the match.
Be patient with the Ruidíaz experiment
As the long-time president of the Raúl Ruidíaz appreciation society, I’ll be the first to admit that Raúl Ruidíaz wasn’t active enough in the final third against Germany.
To Ricardo Gareca’s credit, he had the team keep the ball on the floor to accommodate Ruidíaz. The 28-year-old tends to latch onto low crosses or through balls around the box. Despite this, Ruidíaz was not very involved and managed just 16 touches in 90 minutes.
Now, in defence of Ruidíaz, this was only his sixth start for Peru under Gareca. He’s never started consecutive matches for the national team, either.
Until Ruidíaz is a regular starter, then we can’t properly judge him.
Additionally, Ruidíaz generated 0.59 expected goals (xG) from four shots during the game (if you’re unfamiliar with xG, here’s an explainer). That’s his highest total for Peru, even the Iceland friendly in New Jersey, where he managed to score.
In fact, the one quality chance in the box that fell to Ruidíaz really should’ve been buried.
However, that’s encouraging, and this is exactly how Ruidíaz should be deployed. Hopefully Gareca starts the diminutive forward regularly over the next few months.
What is wrong with Yotún?
While I’m a staunch defender of Ruidíaz, I’m starting to wane on Yoshimar Yotún.
I will credit him for showing some improvement against Germany, but there are still too many mistakes from a midfielder of his calibre.
Firstly, Yotún only misplaced six of his 54 passes, but every single one was generated by Germany’s high press. The first mishit led to a direct scoring opportunity.
This one was just brainless.
This example below is my one knock on Yotún over the past few months. If this was 2017, he would’ve hit this first-time to the overlapping Miguel Trauco. Instead, he takes a touch, allows the two German defenders to close him down, which leads to a giveaway.
To top it off, Yotún committed more losses in his own half (5) than any other Peruvian player versus Germany. This is partially due to Joachim Löw’s gameplan in thwarting the midfielder, but a player with Yotún’s experience has to know that he won’t be afforded nearly as much time on the ball at this level.
This might just be a simple lapse in form given the six-game sample size. However, there’s a sense that he hasn’t been the same player since last summer. If this is the beginning of a decline, then the likes of Jairo Concha and Jesús Pretel need to develop quickly.
In defence of Santamaría
Anderson Santamaría had been faultless in a Peru shirt since March.
That ended on Sunday in Sinsheim. Santamaría committed two errors that led directly to Germany’s goals, although a subsequent snowball effect occurred in both situations.
But let’s not forget that when defenders commit errors, it usually results in a goal. Apart from those sequences, Santamaría was faultless. He only misplaced one of his passes (a long attempt to the head of Farfán) and won eight of his 10 defensive duels. That’s excellent considering Germany pressed Peru’s back line and their forward line is quite dynamic.
Also, Miguel Araujo deserves a huge shoutout for, once again, impressing against quality opposition.
There was one downside for the defence, though. Peru’s xGA (expected goals against) was 2.37, which does prove that Germany’s two-goal output is fair based on the quality of their attempts. By comparison, the xGA versus the Netherlands was 1.41.
The one caveat is the midfield failed to dictate the tempo of the game, so that meant the defence was under duress. Credit Araujo and Santamaría (not to mention Gallese) for consistently dealing with the danger.
Hopefully this partnership is allowed to prosper over the next few games, because this could be the centre-back duo of the future.
Partidazos for Advíncula, Gallese
One of Peru’s bright spots versus Germany was (surprise, surprise) Luis Advíncula.
The right-back completed 29 of his 32 passes, six interceptions and seven ball recoveries. Advíncula predominantly faced Timo Werner and Marco Reus, who took turns switching from the left to the middle. The Peruvian full-back was up to the task, though, containing both players whenever they moved to the flank.
Meanwhile, Pedro Gallese delivered a monumental performance in goal with seven saves, keeping Peru in the match until the final minutes. It was very reminiscent of Gallese’s display against Argentina at La Bombonera in October. This time, however, la Blanquirroja failed to wrap up a result.
Regardless, those two deserve a tremendous amount of plaudits.
Is it time to drop Christian Cueva?
Because of the missed penalty versus Denmark, many viewed Christian Cueva’s World Cup as a disappointment. In reality, Cueva was exceptional.
However, since Cueva flattered to deceive in these friendlies, it has led to some calls for Gareca to drop the playmaker from the lineup altogether.
Those claims might be drastic. Cueva has been a substitute to begin the season with Krasnodar and is struggling for fitness. Playing devil’s advocate, that should mean another player (Cristian Benavente, anyone?) should have been granted an opportunity as the No. 10 in these friendlies.
But let’s be honest, Cueva is like a son to Gareca. Few coaches have been able to connect as deeply with Cueva like the Argentine has over these past three years. Playmakers like Cueva, who rely on dribbling and swift movements, tend to experience sharp changes in form. Sometimes you have to take the good with the bad.
For now, let’s remain patient as Cueva continues to build match fitness. If by the end of the year he’s still underwhelming, then those worries will be justified.
ALL STATS AND CHARTS VIA WYSCOUT.