Buenos Aires: Peru’s mission to stall Lionel Messi and the Argentine juggernaut at home in their World Cup qualifier on Tuesday may see the team seek inspiration from a famous victory over their South American rivals in Lima 27 years ago.
In 1985, Luis Reyna’s tight marking of Diego Maradona was key to an upset 1-0 win over Argentina, and Peru will ponder a similar stopping job against another diminutive and sublimely gifted forward in Messi at the Estadio Nacional in Lima.
Peru look set to give defensive midfielder Edwin Retamoso the daunting task of tracking Messi. “If the Prof (coach Sergio Markarian) gives me the chance, I won’t let him down,” Retamoso was quoted by Argentine media as saying.
Argentina, with three wins in a row in the qualifiers after Friday’s 3-1 home victory over Paraguay when Messi took his tally to 10 goals in six games, lead the South American group with 13 points from six matches.
Peru, looking to reach the finals for the first time since 1982, are seventh with six points. “We told the players that if we beat Venezuela we’d reduce the pressure and now we make a new start fighting for what we really want,” Peru’s Uruguayan coach Markarian told reporters.
Peru ended a run of four defeats with a 2-1 home win over Venezuela on Friday, recovering from a goal down to score twice through winger Jefferson Farfan. Striker Paolo Guerrero, who like Farfan has three goals so far in the qualifiers, is doubtful with a foot injury.
Holding midfielder Javier Mascherano comes back from suspension for Argentina while his understudy Rodrigo Brana serves a ban after a second booking against Paraguay.