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07 December 2023

Tears in Lima as Peru bow out of World Cup

Photo: AFP


Peruvians were reduced to tears Thursday as their team became the first from South America to be eliminated from the World Cup, having played only two matches and yet to score a goal.

From the Andes' peaks to the Amazon jungles, a nation that rejoiced in their first appearance at a World Cup for 36 years was brought crashing down to earth by a single goal defeat to France.

"We're already out," a crestfallen Fernando Zelada said after watching Peru lose on a giant screen in Lima's Miraflores district.

"Defeat is painful, all the more so because we lost because of a mistake. Nobody really got the better of us. We have to cry about the defeat and suffer it," said Zelada, 49.

"We lost our way with Cueva's penalty. It's as simple as that," wrote journalist Miguel Hidalgo on Twitter, referring to Christian Cueva's miss from the penalty spot against Denmark in the first game which Peru also lost 1-0.

"Our team played too much football, for too few goals," said TV commentator Eddie Fleischman.

In Lima and around the country, thousands of fans wore the team jersey as they watched the match in public squares, shops and restaurants.

In the Amazonian village of Oxampampa, members of the indigenous Yanesha community, their faces painted for the occasion, pounded on drums as they watched the game on television.

"Proud of the boys. We're building for a better times ahead," said the spokesman for Peru's Congress, Mario Bryce.

The country is taking some solace however from the performance of its team, which went down fighting.

"Losing doesn't mean failing," chimed in Peruvian author Jeronimo Pimentel on Twitter. "Peru competed at a high level. It didn't happen for us this time."

'Leaving too soon'

"We are leaving too soon given the way we've played.

"I don't have a sense of defeat, more a sense of being ready for new challenges," said leftist lawmaker Marco Arana.

"Losing this one is unfair, we should be going to the second round, but we weren't able to nail it. Those of us who followed it here and abroad can only cry," said 65-year-old Homobono Vilchez, who had his face painted in Peru's colors and wore a fake Inca crown on his head.

Led by Argentine coach Ricardo Gareca, Peru have a chance to salvage some pride, and score a goal they richly deserve, when they play Australia in their last match.