Featured Image: Associated Press
Well, that was ugly.
Peru’s 2-0 loss to Ecuador on Thursday at Estadio Nacional was one the worst performances in the Ricardo Gareca era. From start to finish, la Blanquirroja were passive, especially in the final third. It played right into Ecuador’s hands, who deserves their plaudits for earning a well-deserved win.
Was the lack of chance creation down to the absence of Christian Cueva? Did Raúl Ruidíaz throw a wrench into Gareca’s plans? Perhaps, but there were an endless number of errors that need to be corrected for Tuesday’s friendly in Arequipa.
Here are three thoughts from the match.
No playmaker, no party
Gareca admitted that the team was lacking a central presence and played right into Ecuador’s hands. The players said as much in the mixed zone as well. As Renato Tapia said, “we’re intelligent. We know where we went wrong.”
There were some progressive, line-splitting passes from Tapia and Yoshimar Yotún, only for the attacks to fizzle out. Jefferson Farfán was the enganche, yet he constantly drifted to the wings. It was also a risk to start Farfán because he only had three matches and an average of 58 minutes per game under his belt after returning from injury.
Ruidíaz finished the match with just 11 touches – only three were in Ecuador’s penalty area – and it’s easy to see why. He was constantly surrounded by as many as four defenders.
Even when Cristian Benavente – a proper creative playmaker – entered the match, he fell into the same trap as Farfán. He didn’t attempt a single forward pass and continually meandered to the wings.
It’s worth wondering whether Gareca instructed Benavente to keep targeting the flanks, because Peru’s shape was very right-side heavy. As seen below, most of the passes circulated through every player except for the central attackers.
This attacking setup led to just 0.13 expected goals (xG) off a total of three attempts. For reference, Peru had 0.33 xG via 12 shots versus France at the World Cup. Ruidíaz’s omitted header would’ve counted for a lot, but it was telling that Alejandro Dominguez worked up more of a sweat jogging to and from the tunnel.
Peru has usually struggled against teams who sit back. But their struggles were enhanced by the over-reliance on the wings, the lack of a creative playmaker (Christian Cueva, anyone?) and long passes to a 5-foot-6 Ruidíaz. Carlos Gruezo, Gabriel Achilier and Arturo Mina must’ve been thrilled with this.
A rough night for Carríncula
We’ve grown accustom to André Carrillo and Luis Advíncula – A.K.A. “Carríncula” – delivering monster performances for Peru. While they were initially lively, Carríncula were far from their best.
Let’s start with Carrillo. One of his major weaknesses is his decision-making with shooting and passing. This was a recurring theme, especially in the first half.
The amount of chances Carrillo had to hit Advíncula on the overlap or to send in a low cross to Ruidíaz were endless. Instead, he held onto the ball and the moves broke down.
Peru were quite sluggish with their attacking movement and Carrillo embodied this on Thursday night. This might be a symptom of his current league, though. When I watch Carrillo’s matches in Saudi Arabia, he has ample time on the ball and the skill to beat multiple defenders because their positioning is so poor and they don’t always jockey against opposing attackers.
Carrillo thrived against Chile’s Eugenio Mena and American left-back Ben Sweat, although the latter isn’t exactly up to standard. But with anotehr month of matches under his belt with Al-Hilal, Carrillo might’ve become too comfortable.
On to Advíncula. This was a rough night for the Rayo Vallecano defender. The early substitution of Jefferson Montero likely contributed, because when Ayrton Preciado replaced Montero, the momentum of the game swung in Ecuador’s favour.
Preciado was one of the few players who could match Advíncula’s strength, pace and movement off the ball. The 24-year-old was integral in creating Ecuador’s opener thanks to the latter attribute. He made the run past Advíncula before feeding Antonio Valencia for the goal.
Then, once Advíncula was aware of Preciado’s threat, the defender began to track him. It still wasn’t helpful.
This sequence below was especially cunning from Preciado. Advíncula closes him down, but then he drops off and immediately launches a fantastic ball over the top of Advíncula and Christian Ramos.
In the end, Advíncula finished with 18 lost possessions and just nine duels won out of 33 (27 per cent success rate).
Those numbers are far below his standard. Advíncula averaged just under seven losses and had a 40 per cent success rate on duels before Thursday night.
Should Farfán and Ramos start future games?
Perhaps Advíncula would benefit by having Miguel Araujo next to him instead of Christian Ramos.
Ramos anchored the back line that guided Peru to the World Cup and became one of Gareca’s most trusted players. He can still be a valuable member of the squad, just not as a starter, especially with Araujo waiting in the wings.
Araujo is quicker, both mentally and physically, as we’ve previously seen against some of the world’s top strikers. It’s not easy to contain Luis Suárez, Edinson Cavani, Lionel Messi and Radamel Falcao, but that was no problem for the Talleres defender.
At the very least, Ramos should not start against faster sides. Ecuador has Antonio Valencia, Enner Valencia, Jefferson Montero, Ayrton Preciado and Renato Ibarra, who continually beat Ramos on the dribble. However, there were moments when the midfield was easily bypassed, so Ramos deserves some slack.
At 29 years old, Ramos still has value, but it’s time to start blooding Araujo. He’s ready to make the jump. Hopefully Gareca feels the same.
Jefferson Farfán’s situation is a bit different. He was definitely not match fit for Thursday’s game. At 34, it’s much more difficult to recover from a long injury layoff, so it was a huge risk to start Farfán.
But at his age, Farfán won’t be in the conversation for much longer. It’s possible that we could wave goodbye to Farfán after next summer’s Copa América. That is why it’s imperative for Cristian Benavente to carve out some opportunities. Otherwise, Benavente will be 25 and barely established within the national team. That can’t happen.
Perhaps Tuesday’s match against Costa Rica is the start of a proper run of games for Benavente.