YEKATERINBURG, Russia - Peru coach Ricardo Gareca put a brave face on his team’s premature World Cup exit, saying his side had left a positive image but that he was sorry for their huge army of traveling fans.
Making their first appearance in the finals for 36 years, Peru were eliminated after two games on Thursday after losing 1-0 to France, having previously been beaten by the same score by Denmark.
It was a deflating end for the tens of thousands of Peruvians who traveled to Russia from Europe, the United States and Peru to witness the return of the team and their iconic shirt to the world stage after a painfully long absence.
“The public were incredible and that is what really hurts, that we were unable to pay back this fervor, which the team awoke, and this multitude of people who followed us,” the Argentine told reporters.
“I said before the tournament that everyone would be surprised with they their passion, and their love for the team. We will do the impossible to try and give them a goal or a win to celebrate in our final match (against Australia).”
Entertaining and ambitious in both their games, Peru were let down by an age-old following in front of goal.
“We had control of a lot of the game and we had our chances but we couldn’t turn them into goals,” said Gareca.
“We tried from all sides... we had a one-on-one, a shot from distance... we tried by every means. In two games, we created more than 10 goal chances, which in World Cup is a good number ... although today we didn’t have the depth we had against Denmark.”
Gareca said he was pleased that, after such a long World Cup absence, Peru had played on equal terms with two European teams.
“Obviously, we hoped it would turn out differently but, in general terms, the team gave everything they had on the pitch in both games,” he said. “I can’t reprimand the lads for anything.”
“We showed that the team can compete at this level, and that was our intention - to see how far we have progressed and where we are....”
“We always have ambitions for better things and, in time, this will make us stronger,” he said. “I think Peru have left a positive image.”
Writing by Brian Homewood in Moscow, editing by Pritha Sarkar