What the Socceroos must do to beat Peru
IT WOULD be a rather painful irony if a remarkable show of solidarity by Socceroos captain Mile Jedinak came back to bite his team in their clash against Peru on Tuesday night.
Jedinak's signature in May on a letter of support for Chilean captain Paolo Guerrero in his battle against a drugs ban was influential in a court ruling the veteran could play in his first World Cup at 34.
The ban, for inadvertent consumption, was widely seen as unfair, ahead of Peru's first appearance at the World Cup since 1982.
But on Tuesday night, Bert van Marwijk's side will have to be rather less generous in their treatment of Guerrero. They must starve him of the ball and the ability to link with Peru's attacking trident behind him.
If the equation is quite simple for the Socceroos as they seek a place in the second round - beat Peru, ideally by several goals, and hope Denmark lose to France - how they go about that is less straightforward.
Guerrero is the talisman of the side - as Peru's record scorer, including five goals in qualifying under coach Ricardo Gareca - but winger Edison Flores is the future.
The 24-year-old, nicknamed "The Ears", will attack the Australian fullbacks. The defensive shield of Aaron Mooy - quietly outstanding in the two games so far - and Mile Jedinak will be crucial here.
France isolated Guerrero effectively in their first game, forcing the Peruvian captain to forage for the ball miles from the French goal.
The Australian system developed by Bert van Marwijk is ideal for this - blocking the avenues of attack by staying compact and close together.
Then, when the Socceroos attack, they will look to get their speedsters in behind the Peruvian defence. Centre back Alberto Rodríguez is 34 and with a long history of injuries his speed on the turn is suspect, an area Australia can exploit.
But the great intangible is how Peru plays now, knowing their World Cup campaign will finish at the end of the game, in the wake of narrow defeats to Denmark and France.
The players are bitterly disappointed not to have made it into the second round to reward their quite phenomenal support, and have already warned Australia that they feel an obligation to those fans - tens of thousands of them, who have travelled to Russia by land, sea and air - to reward them with a victory.
Thus playing the occasion becomes crucial. The more intense and emotional the atmosphere, the more the game becomes open and the less Australia has control.
This will not be a crowd to silence entirely, but by intelligent possession and managing the tempo of the game, the Socceroos can take some of the emotion out of the contest.