SARANSK, Russia (Reuters) - Peru coach Ricardo Gareca put a brave face on his team’s 1-0 defeat at the hands of Denmark in their opening World Cup Group C match on Saturday and said the result did not reflect a true picture of the match.
Cheered on by thousands of fans in Saransk’s Mordovia Arena, Peru played with great verve for much of the game but ended up rueing a dreadful penalty miss from Christian Cueva which would have put them ahead just minutes before halftime.
Cueva had to be consoled by team mates and was visibly upset as he left the pitch at the break.
“At halftime, we told him he had to keep playing strong and stay in the match,” the Argentine Gareca said.
“Of course, people make mistakes, there are always mistakes, and we have to turn things around. He has the personality to turn it around. After the penalty, he stayed in there, he was asking for the ball. I think he recovered.”
A 59th minute goal by Yussuf Poulsen secured the points for Denmark in what was billed as a decisive match in the fight to qualify for the knockouts, given that France are firm favourites to top the group.
“It was a very competitive game. In my view, Peru did as much as possible to win the game and score,” Gareca said.
“I have nothing to say to my players. They did their best. I really can’t complain. I think in general terms the result doesn’t really reflect what happened on the pitch.”
The coach also had no regrets about not starting with Paolo Guerrero, Peru’s captain and top goalscorer, whose reprieve from a doping ban just before the start of the tournament came as a big boost to the Incas.
Guerrero had an immediate effect when he came on minutes after the Danish goal and came close to scoring on several occasions.
“That’s the decision we made. This team has been playing together well (without him),” he said.
Peru had by no means lost hope, he added.
“We have to come to terms with this defeat so let’s put this match behind us and see how we can face France in the best possible manner.
“I don’t think Peru deserved to lose but we can’t cry over spilt milk. We have to recover quickly to face France.”
Peru, who are making their first appearance the finals since 1982, play France on June 21 then Australia five days later.
Reporting by Angus MacSwan; editing by Ian Chadband