Qualifying for the World Cup necessitates the use of cool heads. In the scorching heat of the Qatar summer, this is easier said than done.
Because of the high heat in the Gulf state during this time of year, the 2022 World Cup was originally scheduled for June and July.
Peru, on the other hand, will face Australia in a winner-takes-all play-off on Monday at the Al Rayyan Stadium, during a time of year that was previously deemed unsafe for the competition to take place.
Despite the promise of an air-conditioned arena, Peru’s assistant coach, Nobby Solano, is dissatisfied.
“The game starts at 9:00 p.m., and they claim the stadium is air-conditioned, so it will be nice and cool when we play,” he says. “However, until this weekend, we’ve been training in Spain because it’s simply too hot to train in Qatar during the day.”
“We’re being asked to play in the same conditions that the World Cup was ruled out of being possible to play in.”
“I’m not sure that’s helpful for either us or Australia in a game of this magnitude, with so much on the line.” “Of course, it’s the same for both teams.”
For the first time since 1982, a win for Peru would ensure the country’s qualification for back-to-back World Cups.
They warmed up for their vital encounter against New Zealand by defeating them 1-0 in Barcelona, with Gianluca Lapadula scoring the game’s only goal. On Tuesday, the All Whites face Costa Rica in their own World Cup play-off in Qatar.
Meanwhile, Australia is well aware that the match against the South Americans represents a significant stumbling block in their quest to reach their sixth World Cup in a row.
Peru upset the Socceroos 2-0 in the last tournament in Russia, and the two teams have a history together.
“It’s a difficult game because both teams are under a huge amount of pressure to get to the World Cup in Qatar,” says Solano.
“It’ll be difficult. Australia still have four or five players from the last tournament but a lot will depend on the mentality of the players.
“We couldn’t have asked for a more difficult draw.” When you reach this point, it’s always difficult.
“I guess the main difference will be having to play the play-off in Qatar. Why isn’t it being played in Europe? It’s a massive distance for both teams to travel but that’s the draw. We can only focus on the things we can control.
“It would be wonderful to get to the World Cup again. Remember, it was 36 years between us getting to Russia and having played in the tournament in Spain in 1982.
“The fans had to wait so long. Qualifying in South America is not easy, so just getting to this stage is a big achievement. To find ourselves one match from another World Cup, that’s huge for us.
“It’s an opportunity that we don’t want to waste – we can’t throw this opportunity away because you never know what’s around the corner. I know it will be tough. Australia will be direct, our style is very different.
“That result in Russia is completely in the past. Everything will depend on how strong we are – in the head and on the pitch. We have to make sure we don’t make mistakes because any errors could cost us a place at a World Cup.”
Solano will go into the match with a spring in his step having watched his beloved Newcastle United sprint away from the threat of relegation in the second half of a Premier League season which saw only Manchester City and Liverpool pick up more points in the second half of the campaign.
Having been at the club when Newcastle last played in the Champions League back in 2002-03, the former winger knows what it’s like to rub shoulders with the European elite.
And he believes Eddie Howe can get the club back to that level. Although he warns that it might take some time.
“The fans will need to be patient but qualification for Europe should be the aim,” says Solano. “Just getting into the Europa League will be tough, because the Premier League is so strong.
“But I think Eddie has shown that he’s the kind of manager who can build a squad and create the same kind of feeling that Bobby Robson did.
“You saw in the second half of the season just how united the team was. It might take some time but I think they’re definitely on the right path.”