Peru hopes to crack New Zealand defense for World Cup berth

Peru assistant coach Nestor Bonillo, center, talks with Peru's players during a practice in Lima, Peru, Monday, Nov. 13, 2017. Peru will face New Zealand in Lima on Nov. 15, in an intercontinental World Cup playoff. (AP Photo/Martin Mejia)

LIMA, Peru (AP) Peru coach Ricardo Gareca is expecting New Zealand to think only of defending in the second leg of their playoff on Wednesday as the visitors try to reach next year’s World Cup in Russia.

With the teams having played out a 0-0 draw on Saturday in the first leg in Wellington, Peru is the heavy favorite to advance.

Peru is trying for its first berth since 1982, and its fifth overall. New Zealand has only qualified twice, the last time coming in 2010 in South Africa.

”I’m sure they’re going to stay back,” said Gareca, an Argentine who has transformed Peru’s national team. ”Knowing this, we’ll have to be patient and pass the ball around.”

It hopes to join four other South American teams that have already qualified for next year’s tournament: Brazil, Argentina, Colombia and Uruguay.

Peru will have to advance without its top striker Paolo Guerrero, who was suspended after failing a doping test. He also missed the first leg.

Jefferson Farfan, who will be called on to score in Guerrero’s absence, said Peru would have to ”search for any way to get through the defensive fence.”

New Zealand coach Anthony Hudson accepts that Peru is the favorite, but he cautioned ”we’re not here on vacation.”

The streets in the Peruvian capital are all decked out in the red and white of the team’s colors. The Peruvian football federation has also announced it will allow a Peruvian flag to be displayed before 50,000 people in the National Stadium in downtown Lima.

It’s reported to be 100 meters long and took fans weeks to stitch together.