By the time the first ball is kicked at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, it will have been 28 years since Peru's last appearance at the final stages of the competition. For many Peruvians that represents a lifetime, including some in the current squad who were not even born back in 1982.
In a bid to learn from the mistakes of past failures and end that ignominious sequence, the country's FA turned handed the reins to another former national team idol, Jose Chemo Del Solar. Given that Peruvian football currently has a wealth of technically gifted players, many with valuable European experience, expectations were naturally high following his appointment in August 2007.
Yet four games into the current qualifying campaign, the reality has fallen some way short of expectations. Still searching for their first win and currently ninth in the ten-team group, things will need to improve quickly if they are to get their faltering bid for qualification back on track.
Despite the disappointing results to date, no one could fault the team's attitude in their opening two home games, in which they drew with Paraguay and Brazil, two strong favourites for automatic qualification. On both occasions, Del Solar's side showed they could hold their own against teams with a better pedigree and more talented individuals. Along with the return to international duty of Nolberto Solano, those two performances have been the highlights thus far of an inconsistent campaign, and the team will need a lot more of the same if they are to start moving up the table.
Central to Peru's problems has been their profligacy in front of goal, the team managing just two strikes in four outings. The first of these, by Juan Vargas against Brazil, stemmed from a corner and also needed a deflection from Lucio, while the second, by Andres Mendoza against Ecuador, came in the dying minutes of a 5-1 reverse. And if a paucity of goals were not enough to threaten their qualification aspirations, the indefinite suspension of Mendoza, Claudio Pizarro, Jefferson Farfan and Santiago Acasiete for disciplinary reasons could make matters even worse.
In the team's third game of the current qualifiers, at the Estadio Monumental in Lima, the visitors were South American champions Brazil, who were hopeful of exploiting the weaknesses shown by the home side in their opening matches. As it transpired, however, the Seleção found their hosts hugely committed, confident in their game plan and with the stomach for a fight.
Even when the Auriverde got their noses in front courtesy of Kaka, the locals refused to lie down, eventually earning a precious point thanks to a Juan Vargas strike and the vociferous backing of their fans. Over and above the result, the abiding sensation after the game was that Peru really are capable of big performances - when they put their minds to it.
The key men
Given the disciplinary measures taken against Peru's principal European-based players and its effects on the squad, the commitment and endeavour of midfielders Solano and Roberto Palacios against Brazil was especially noteworthy, as has been the skill and drive of Juan Vargas throughout the campaign. There is also optimism surrounding such talented youngsters as Reimond Manco, Nestor Duarte, Gary Correa and Carlos Zambrano, some of whom Del Solar is expected to give opportunities to shortly.
The numbers game
44: The number of months since Peru's last FIFA World Cup qualifying win on the road. It was 1 June 2004 when the team coached by Brazilian Paulo Autuori defeated Juan Carrasco's Uruguay 3-1 in Montevideo. On the score sheet that day were Nolberto Solano, Claudio Pizarro and Jefferson Farfan.
"Starting from now, we'll be seeing more home-based players in the squad, particularly in the friendlies preceding the qualifiers in June. I'll also be including young players as part of the transition between generations. Will I be staying in the job? I'm not going to resign because I believe in my ability and that of my players," Jose Del Solar, Peru coach.