Full-time match report:
When the referee blew the whistle for the full-time, Peru's Christian Cueva dropped to his knees at the Mordovia Arena in Saransk. His team were going home empty-handed despite playing a feisty match against their higher-ranked opponents, Denmark. And, Cueva had a fair share of blame in that.
Just before the half-time, Cueva had earned a penalty, but, with a nervous look on his face, he blasted the penalty well off the target. In the second half, Denmark's Yussuf Poulsen scored, winning his team the match, denying Peru their first World Cup win in 40 years.
Denmark took just eight shots in the entire match as compared to Peru's 15. It wasn't deliberate either. They just weren't in control of the game for large parts of the match.
In the first half, the South Americans pressed relentlessly and gave no time to the Dens on the ball. The only clear chance of the half came to Peru through the penalty which was awarded after a VAR consultation by referee Bakary Gassama.
Denmark started to look like they were settling down late in the first half after Peru surprised them with their intensity and energy. That was all before Cueva's penalty miss. However, Peru continued to attack but were wasteful in the final third.
In the 60th minute, Denmark broke away on a three-on-three counter. Star-man Christian Eriksen, who had been keep silent till then, ran across the field to the Peruvian box before laying off the ball to birthday-boy Yussuf Poulsen who celebrated his 24th birthday with his debut World Cup goal by slotting the ball past the keeper Pedro Gallese.
Peru vs Denmark (Photo: Reuters)
Minutes later, Peru introduced captain and their record scorer Paolo Guerrero to sharpen their attack. Guerrero had been able to travel to Russia after having his drugs-related ban overturned. It was an inspirational story at a personal level. But, try as he might, he couldn't inspire his team to the win, who had chances, took their chances but just couldn't get over the line.
Denmark next play Australia, who gave France a hard time earlier in the day while Peru will face Les Blues next. While Denmark had squeezed a win here, they will need to be more convincing. As for Peru, they can have their own complaints after failing to secure a point despite playing well. But that should serve as extra motivation for their next games, which won't be easy either.
Minute 86 -- Denmark's Thomas Delaney gets a booking as he lands a hefty tackle on Guerrero to prevent a potential counter-attack from Peru.Minute 81 -- Denmark's young centre-back Andreas Christensen is replaced by Mathias Jattah-Njie Jorgensen
Minute 67 -- In Denmark camp, Pione Sisto is substituted for forward Martin Braithwaite.
Minute 63 -- Peru's Edison Flores makes way for his captain Paolo Guerrero, who is greeted with a loud cheer from the fans.
-- Peru attempted eight shots in the first half against Denmark, by eight different players.(Source: OptaJoe)
-- Christian Eriksen has been involved in Denmark's last three international goals; scoring one and assisting the other two goals for Yussuf Poulsen.(Source: OptaJoe)
-- Christian Eriksen's assist was his 17th goal (12) or assist (5) in his last 14 international games for Denmark.(Source: OptaJoe)
GOAL!!!Minute 60: Yussuf Poulsen scores after a Denmark break-away. In a three-on-three break, Christian Eriksen takes the ball to the Peruvian box before laying it off to Poulsen who is one-on-one with keeper Pedro Gallese and slots the ball past him.
-- Four penalties have been given today; since 1966, only once has there been a single day with more penalties given (6 - 24th June 1998).(Source: OptaJoe)
-- This World Cup (3 from 5 converted) has already seen more penalty shots missed or saved than the World Cup in 2014 (Source: OptaJoe)
Half-time analysis: It has been all Peru at half-time at the Mordovia Arena in Saransk although the match still remains scoreless. The situation is so because of Peru's Christian Cueva, who was brought down inside the box by Yussuf Poulsen, blasted the resulting penalty-kick well off-target. The Peruvians have dominated the first half taking seven shots as compared to Denmark's four. But it's their general play that has been real impressive.
The South Americans are pressing relentlessly and giving no time to the Dens on the ball. The only clear chance of the half came to Peru through the penalty which was awarded after a VAR consultation by referee Bakary Gassama.
Denmark started to look like they were settling down late in the first half after Peru surprised them with their intensity and energy. However, that might have been disrupted by the penalty that came near the half-time.
Denmark still have an entire half to turn the game around but, going by the first half, it's the Peruvians who look more likely to open the scoring.
Minute 20 -- Denmark have 62 per cent possession of the ball, but it's the Peruvians who have looked more threatening. The Dens are beginning to settle though.
Minute 10 -- Peru have started on the front-foot with the South Americans taking 3 shots in the first 10 minutes. They are giving moving the ball quickly and giving the Danes little time on the ball. As a result, Denmark are yet to take a shot
- Top scorer (11) and assist provider (3) for Denmark during the 2018 World Cup qualifiers, Christian Eriksen was directly involved in 56% of his team’s goals. Six of his 11 goals came from outside the box. (Source: Opta Joe)
-- It’s Peru's first appearance at the World Cup since 1982, which is the biggest gap of years (36) between participations for any of the 32 teams qualified for the 2018 tournament. (Source: Opta Joe)
Denmark: Kasper Schmeichel (GK), Simon Kjær (c), Andreas Christensen, Jens Stryger-Larsen, Henrik Dalsgaard, William Kvist, Thomas Delaney, Christian Eriksen, Pione Sisto, Yussuf Poulsen and Nicolai Jørgensen. (4-5-1) (Coach: Åge Hareide)
Peru: Pedro Gallese (GK), Miguel Trauco, Christian Ramos, Alberto Rodriguez, Luis Advincula, Yoshimar Yotun, Renato Tapia, Edison Flores, Christian Cueva, Andre Carrillo, Jefferson Farfan. (4-5-1) (Coach: Ricardo Gareca)
Peru will take on Denmark in a Group C match which will be their first FIFA World Cup encounter after a gap of 36 years at the Mordovia Arena here on Saturday.
Peru had appeared in the FIFA World Cup for the last time in 1982 and in their comeback match, they face an opponent who is also making a comeback after missing out on the 2014 edition.
A victory in the first game will go a long way to guaranteeing the winner's place in the knockout phase since unheralded Australia are expected to struggle.
The South American nation, coached by Ricardo Gareca, overcame Chile, Ecuador and even Paraguay to qualify for Russia after finishing fifth in the South American group and then overcoming New Zealand in the intercontinental play-off.
Peru conceded only seven goals in eight matches in 2017 -- which speaks volumes of their strong defensive structure and hard work.
Peru will head to Russia with their talismanic captain Paolo Guerrero after almost missing him due to a doping ban. The 33-year-old, who has been capped 86 times by his country, scored six goals in qualifying.
His hopes of playing at the World Cup appeared to have been dashed by the doping ban, which was overturned after the captains of France, Denmark and Australia -- the other teams in Group C -- appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
Watford's Andre Carrillo and Lokomotiv Moscow's Jefferson Farfan have been picked to spearhead the attack.
Goalkeeper Pedro Gallese and defender Alberto Rodriguez also made the cut despite still recovering from injuries. Both were key starters during the team's World Cup qualifying campaign.
Although lacking in individual brilliance, Peru will be hoping their ability to adapt to different conditions serves them well in Russia. The players have already shown through qualifying that they can handle everything from the altitude of the Andean mountains to the heat of the Amazon jungle.
Their opponent Denmark boasts of depth and, in Tottenham Hotspur playmaker Christian Eriksen, world class talent, even if there are question marks over the team's attack.
Denmark coach Age Hareide is likely to adopt a 4-3-3 formation, continuing the formula used in his team's 5-1 thrashing of Ireland last November.
On that occasion, Eriksen was the star of the show, bagging a hat-trick as the team secured a place in Russia.
The Spurs No. 23 will be joined in Denmark's midfield by Werder Bremen's Thomas Delaney, who enjoyed an impressive 2017-18 season in the Bundesliga.
Celta Vigo's Pione Sisto is another ace up Hareide's sleeve. The 23-year-old was something of a revelation in La Liga last season with nine assists and can be used as an attacking midfielder, winger or second striker.
The defence also looks solid with a centre-back pairing of Andreas Bjelland and captain Simon Kjaer. In goal is Kasper Schmeichel, the son of Manchester United great Peter Schmeichel.
However Denmark's attack does not look quite as impressive. Options include Nicolai Jorgensen, Niklas Bendtner, Andreas Cornelius and Kasper Dolberg.
One of the advantages for Denmark is their taller players against the Peruvians.
Peru's 23-man squad in full
Goalkeepers: Pedro Gallese (Veracruz), Carlos Caceda (Deportivo Municipal), Jose Carvallo (UTC).
Defenders: Aldo Corzo (Universitario), Luis Advincula (Lobos Buap), Christian Ramos (Veracruz), Miguel Araujo (Alianza Lima), Alberto Rodriguez (Atletico Junior), Anderson Santamaria (Puebla), Miguel Trauco (Flamengo), Nilson Loyola (Melgar).
Midfielders: Renato Tapia (Feyenoord), Pedro Aquino (Lobos Buap), Yoshimar Yotun (Orlando City), Paolo Hurtado (Vitoria Guimaraes), Christian Cueva (Sao Paulo), Edison Flores (Aalborg), Andy Polo (Portland Timbers), Wilder Cartagena (Veracruz).
Forwards: Andre Carrillo (Watford), Raul Ruidiaz (Morelia), Jefferson Farfan (Lokomotiv Moscow), Paolo Guerrero (Flamengo).
Coach: Ricardo Gareca
Goalkeepers: Kasper Schmeichel (Leicester), Jonas Lossl (Huddersfield), Frederik Ronow (Brondby), Jesper Hansen (FC Midtjylland)
Defenders: Simon Kjaer (Sevilla), Andreas Christensen (Chelsea), Mathias Jorgensen (Huddersfield), Jannik Vestergaard (Borussia Moenchengladbach), Andreas Bjelland (Brentford), Henrik Dalsgaard (Brentford), Peter Ankersen (FC Copenhagen), Jens Stryger (Udinese), Riza Durmisi (Real Betis), Jonas Knudsen (Ipswich), Nicolai Boilesen (FC Copenhagen)
Midfielders: William Kvist (FC Copenhagen), Thomas Delaney (Werder Bremen), Lukas Lerager (Bordeaux), Lasse Schone (Ajax), Mike Jensen (Rosenborg), Christian Eriksen (Tottenham), Daniel Wass (Celta Vigo), Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (Southampton), Mathias Jensen (FC Nordsjaelland), Michael Krohn-Dehli (Deportivo La Coruna), Robert Skov (FC Copenhagen)
Forwards: Pione Sisto (Celta Vigo), Martin Braithwaite (Bordeaux), Andreas Cornelius (Atalanta), Viktor Fischer (FC Copenhagen), Yussuf Poulsen (RB Leipzig), Nicolai Jorgensen (Feyenoord), Nicklas Bendtner (Rosenborg), Kasper Dolberg (Ajax), Kenneth Zohore (Cardiff)
Coach: Age Hareide