Peru is set to face New Zealand in a two-legged play-off after drawing Colombia on the final matchday of CONMEBOL World Cup Qualifying. The winner of the play-off fixture will automatically qualify for the FIFA World Cup in Russia next summer.
Orlando City SC midfielder Yoshi Yotún started and played 71 minutes in Tuesday night’s pivotal match for Peru. Yotún was one of two MLS players included in Peru’s roster against Colombia; Vancouver’s Yordy Reyna being the other. Reyna appeared in the match as a second-half substitute.
Colombia’s James Rodriguez gave los Cafeteros the lead in the 56th minute and, had the game ended 1-0 in favor of the Colombians, Peru would have been eliminated.
20 minutes after conceding, Peru earned a free kick in a dangerous position just outside the Colombian penalty area. Paolo Guerrero - Peru’s all-time leading scorer with 33 goals in 86 caps - stepped up and seized the opportunity with pure class. Guerrero curled his free-kick around the Colombian wall and beat Colombia keeper David Ospina on the near post.
Yotún and his teammates celebrated as Peru found the crucial equalizer and were able to see out the 1-1 result. With the draw, Peru occupied the fifth-place spot level on points with Chile, but holding the slight edge on goal differential (+1 to Chile’s -1).
Final CONMEBOL World Cup qualification standings:
|Brazil - q||41||+30|
|Uruguay - q||31||+12|
|Argentina - q||28||+3|
|Colombia - q||27||+2|
|Peru - p||26||+1|
|Chile - e||26||-1|
|Paraguay - e||24||-6|
|Ecuador - e||20||-3|
|Bolivia - e||14||-22|
|Venezuela - e||12||-16|
q - Qualified for 2018 FIFA World Cup
p - Qualified for intercontinental playoff vs. New Zealand
e - Eliminated from World Cup qualification
Widely referred to as the most difficult qualifying group, CONMEBOL demands both talent and consistency to move on. Peru have proven, with players like Yoshi Yotún, Paolo Guerrero and Yordy Reyna performing at a high level, that they are worthy of World Cup competition. Now, all that stands in the way of La Blanquirroja is a New Zealand side that won’t falter easily. It may take some magic from Yotún to unlock the sturdy New Zealand defense, but only time will tell.
Intercontinental World Cup Play-Off
Leg 1: New Zealand vs. Peru
November 6, 2017
Leg 2: Peru vs. New Zealand
November 14, 2017