In today's Opponent Watch, we take a look at Peru's remarkable footballing turnaround, France register a minor triumph and a Premier League star is ruled out.
Peru’s fitness coach Nestor Bonillo says a formula of new training methods and rise in professionalism fostered by Argentine coach Ricardo Gareca has prompted the South Americans’ dramatic recent improvement.
Peru are set for their first FIFA World Cup™ appearance in 36 years and enter Group C with considerable momentum having maintained a 14-match unbeaten streak on the tournament’s eve.
It’s a stark contrast to the decades of underachievement that came before Gareca’s appointment in 2015.
When the 60-year-old took over the reins in 2015 he was tasked with snapping an era of complacency that had festered among the Peruvian playing ranks for too long.
"There wasn't any real consciousness of nutrition, resting, hydration... of having the profession in their heads 24 hours a day,” Bonillo admitted.
"We started to put together a database on the players... how many metres the players ran, the intensity, we compared what happened when there was a shorter interval between matches, or we played a different altitudes.
"That allowed us to take decisions we couldn't take earlier when we didn't have this."
Peru open their campaign on Sunday 17 June against Denmark and finish up with a clash against the Caltex Socceroos on 27 June.
FIFA World Cup™ fever is appears to be truly setting in with France selling more jerseys across the globe than any other side, according to Reuters.
“It's dramatic. Stocks have run out all over the world. We can't meet demand. We're ahead of Brazil in numbers of jerseys sold," Head of France Football Federation Noel Le Graet told France’s BFM TV.
"As soon as a jersey turns up in any of our shops across the world, it's snapped up.”
It comes a week after Nigeria captured the attention of football fans over the world with the African side’s official home and away kits reportedly selling out within three minutes of going up for sale on Nike’s online store.
Tournament over for West Ham star, Manchester United man a doubt
Argentina’s FIFA World Cup™ chances have been dealt major blow with attacker Manuel Lanzini tearing his right anterior cruciate ligament in a training session yesterday.
It’s a cruel stroke of fate for the West Ham playmaker, who also missed the 2016 Olympic Games because of a knee injury.
Argentina have also lost their first-choice gloveman Sergio Romero to injury.
The 2014 runners-up will open their campaign against Group D rivals Iceland on June 16 before matches against Croatia and Nigeria.
Meanwhile, South American rivals Brazil are sweating on the fitness of Fred after the midfielder sat out training on Friday.
The 25-year-old is nursing an ankle injury following a collision with Real Madrid midfielder Casemiro earlier in the week.
Fred, who signed for Manchester United from Shakhtar Donesk on Tuesday, is expected to miss Brazil’s opening match against Switzerland on June 17.
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