Wellington (AFP) – New Zealand believe they can spring a massive upset and down Peru to reach the 2018 World Cup finals, even if no one else shares their faith, coach Anthony Hudson said Friday.
The New Zealanders host “Los Incas” in Wellington Saturday for the opening leg of a two-match qualification tie with a berth at the finals in Russia next year up for grabs.
Peru are ranked 10th in the world, while Hudson’s side are 122nd and hail from a nation best known globally for the All Blacks rugby union team.
Hudson said his side had been written off but it was Peru that was desperate to end a 36-year absence from football’s showpiece tournament.
“They’ve had some unbelievable results in the last year against some big teams, the pressure really (is on them),” he told reporters.
“The whole footballing world expects Peru to win, we know that. Everyone in this (media) room expects Peru to win.”
The Englishman said the New Zealanders had the skills to match Peru but could not afford to be overawed by the occasion.
“What we need to do tomorrow is just completely believe in ourselves and not be afraid of the task,” he said.
“Play the game rather than getting carried away with the occasion, stick to the game plan and trust each other.
“That’s the only thing that’s probably standing in our way of getting to Russia. We’re good enough, I’m telling you that now, we’re good enough.”
– ‘Calm and confident’ –
Peru coach Ricardo Gareca acknowledged his team were considered favourites but insisted they would not be taking New Zealand lightly.
“In reality, both teams start from zero and the match is so important for both teams that you just never know,” the Argentine said via an interpreter.
Gareca said Peru’s players were buoyed by their “incredible” welcome at Wellington airport by hundreds of vocal fans.
He was confident the South Americans would cope without captain and goal-scoring talisman Paolo Guerrero, who is serving a suspension over an “abnormal result” from a drugs test.
“Every time the team has been in an adverse situation it has responded… we’re not that concerned about Guerrero not being on the field,” he said.
He said the players had recovered after the 14-hour flight from Lima and were well placed to maintain Peru’s quest to reach the World Cup finals for the fifth time.
New Zealand have made the finals twice before and Hudson said this campaign had been running smoothly.
He said he had a full-strength squad with a strong mentality and good spirit.
“(It’s) why we’re so calm and confident in this scenario, because the preparation’s good,” he said.
“I’m happy with the staff, really pleased with the attitude of the players, they’ve been fantastic.”
The Wellington match will take place in front of 38,500 fans at a sold-out Westpac Stadium, with the return leg on November 15 at the Estadio Nacional in Lima.
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