Between 1970 and 1982 a golden generation of Peruvian
footballers qualified for three out of four FIFA World Cups and won
the Copa America in 1975. Teofilio Cubillas was the star of the
side, scoring five goals over two different final tournaments, and
his attacking flair and skill became synonymous across the world
with Peruvian football in the 70s. But, six straight qualification
failures since then have plagued the once-proud side.
The team's recent travails in FIFA World Cup qualifying campaigns have only served to increase the sense of disillusion. In the qualifiers for France 1998, Peru finished in fifth spot and lost out on a place in the finals only on goal difference. However, their bids for a place at Korea/Japan 2002 and Germany 2006 offered no such encouragement, the team finishing in ninth (and penultimate) place on both occasions.
Over the years Peru have had varying degrees of success at football's flagship event. After making their FIFA World Cup debut in 1930, Peru next made an impact on the finals at Mexico '70 where they beat Bulgaria and Morocco to start off the tournament with a surprising bang. The Brazil of Rivelino, Tostao, Jairzinho and Pelé put an end to that adventure, inflicting a 4-2 defeat in the quarter-finals. The Argentina '78 finals also saw Peru emerge from their opening group, as they managed to beat Scotland and Iran and draw with eventual finalists Holland.
Once into the second round - a second group stage - they did not live up to their promise, falling rather dismally to Brazil, Poland and Argentina without scoring a goal. By Spain '82, the magic was pretty much gone, as the team fell at the opening hurdle, drawing with Cameroon and Italy before being crushed by Poland 5-1.
Nobody in Peru could have imagined that this would be their last appearance at a FIFA World Cup that century. Now, after the departure of Julio Cesar Uribe in the wake of the Copa America Venezuela 2007, the baton passes to Jose "Chemo" Del Solar. The former Peruvian international, who came close to qualifying for the FIFA World Cup during his playing days in the 1990s, aims to go one step further in his new role and seal a place at South Africa 2010. It will take some hard work to reach that lofty goal though. After the first four qualifiers, the team are mired in ninth spot and suffering from a decided lack of confidence and slumping morale.