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Does Peruvian Soccer Face a New Crisis?

Peru's elimination from the South American U-20 Championship and their failure to qualify for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, after losing in the play-off against Australia, have brought back memories of the period of decline experienced by Inca soccer after the 1982 World Cup in Spain.

Selection Peru Sub 20

Photo: TW-SeleccionPeru

LatinAmerican Post | Arcadio Guzmán Castillo

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Leer en español: ¿El fútbol peruano enfrenta una nueva crisis?

The path of the Peruvian National Team in the South American U-20 tournament ended humiliatingly. The Inca team fell 1-0 against Argentina and closed a languid presentation in this championship that is currently being played in Colombia. Those led by Jaime Serna lost the four games they played, against Brazil (3-0), Colombia (2-1), Paraguay (1-0) and Argentina (1-0).

Peru was part of the "group of death" of this South American. For this reason, it was known that it was not going to be easy to qualify for the final phase. However, there was hope that a better level of play would be shown and there would be more battle on the court to at least score 1 point.

Reasons for a New Failure in the Peruvian National Team

Improvisation was a major factor in this latest setback. Proof of this is that Jaime Serna was officially appointed to take charge of the U20 team at the end of November, which prevented any preparation time commensurate with the demands and level of the Sudamericano. Serna, Juan Reynoso's assistant in the senior team, took over from Gustavo Roverano, who had advanced the preparation of the team and had led it in the Odesur 2022 Games. These were held in October in Paraguay, where Peru was also eliminated after draw with Venezuela and Uruguay, and lose against Paraguay.

Juan José Ore, the former Universitario striker and coach who qualified the Under 17 team to the 2007 World Cup in Korea, in a talk with Radio Ovación, also mentioned the lack of experience of the players. The Peruvian said that many times in the local league priority is given to foreigners instead of giving opportunities to youth players. In addition, he pointed out the lack of interest of the clubs in working adequate and in the long term with the minor divisions.

This lack of experience was evident in the call, in which only one player has managed to leave for foreign soccer. Kluiverth Aguilar moved from Alianza Lima to Lommel SK in Belgium's second division. Three other players play abroad, but because they were born in those countries: Alex Custodio (Zulia, Venezuela); Gonzalo Aguirre (Nueva Chicago, Argentina); and Catriel Cabellos (Racing Club de Avellaneda, Argentina).

Cabellos was one of the few who managed to stand out in the South American Sub 20 by assisting Diether Vásquez's goal, Peru's only score in the tournament.

The lack of competence of the players is reflected in the lack of management of the matches, since Peru looked orderly in the commitments but lacked ideas in the offensive sector. In addition, it showed technical deficiencies to define. In the defensive sector, innocent mistakes were made that resulted in most of the seven goals that the team received.

The Bad Habits of the Peruvian Soccer Player

Juan Reynoso spoke about the deficiencies that the Peruvian player may have to become an elite soccer player at the press conference he held on December 12. According to the new coach, there is a lack of adequate nutrition that means that those selected do not arrive in optimal physical conditions to face the high competition.

Crisis in the Peruvian league for television rights

The results of the youth teams in Peru are also the product of the lack of organization that exists internally in the league and that does not allow proper development of its soccer. The few positive results at the club level are seen more as a product of chance than of structured planning to achieve goals in the medium and long term.

In addition to the social problems in Peru, which led to the delay in the start of the Peruvian league in 2023, there is also a strike by eight teams due to the discrepancy they have with the Federation over television rights.

You can also read: Infographic: Curious Facts of the South American Sub 20 that Will Be Played in Colombia

Melgar Showed the Way in the Copa Sudamericana

Peru is one of the three countries that has not been able to win the Copa Libertadores title, the highest interclub competition on the continent. Only twice have their representatives reached the final: Universitario in 1972, when they fell to Independiente; and Sporting Cristal in 1997, when it had a magnificent generation of soccer players like Norberto Solano and Jorge Soto, but who failed to lift the trophy because a powerful Cruzeiro from Brazil ran through them.

In the Copa Sudamericana the picture is similar. The title of Cienciano del Cusco in 2003, when surprising the powerful River Plate in the final, is already seen as a distant anecdote. However, those performances were not replicated again. It took 19 years for a new club to approach the semifinal phase of the Copa Sudamericana. Melgar de Arequipa last year had a great performance by the Argentine coaches Néstor Lorenzo and Pablo Lavallén.

Melgar went first in his group, beating Racing de Avellaneda, then eliminated Deportivo Cali and Internacional de Porto Alegre. In the semifinals, their aspiration to reach the final was frustrated when they fell to Independiente del Valle, who would later be the champion.

Juan Reynoso and His Great Challenge with the Peruvian National Team

Not making it to the World Cup in Qatar 2022, when they fell in the playoffs against Australia, produced the closure of the successful cycle that Peru experienced with Ricardo Gareca. The Argentine left the Peru team, the return to a soccer World Cup after 36 years. Likewise, he took them to the Copa América in Brazil 2019, something that had not happened since 1975. At that time, Peru lifted the continental trophy for the second time and participated in the World Cups in Mexico 1970, Argentina 1978 and Spain 1982. In their golden years, showed a soccer that will remain in the retina of soccer lovers with players like Teófilo Cubillas, César Cueto, José Velásquez, Hugo “el Cholo” Sotil, among many others.

Now, Reynoso has the challenge of giving a replacement to a generation of players that led the red and white to be once again a leading player in world soccer, with stars like Paolo Guerrero, Jefferson Farfán or Claudio Pizarro. He must ensure that the team does not fall back into the pothole that was experienced in the eighties.