Peru will be at the World Cup this summer for the first time since 1982, an absence of 36 long years for one of international football's most iconic and cult-followed teams.
Peru famously dazzled in 1970, inspired by the performances of Teofilo Cubillas, a player earmarked as the next Pele by the legendary Brazilian himself. After Copa America glory in 1975, further World Cup appearances came in 1978 and 1982 before the drought then set in.
For so many football fans, seeing Peru at a World Cup is a new experience and the team will be hoping to live up to its former billing. With Paolo Guerrero's suspension frozen and the nation's captain able to play in Russia, hopes are high for La Blanquirroja. Here's a closer look at Peru entering the World Cup.
How They Qualified
Peru booked its place in Russia via an intercontinental playoff against New Zealand after finishing fifth in the competitive South American qualifying section. That put Los Incas above reigning Copa America champion Chile and World Cup regular Paraguay.
Peru actually endured a nightmare start to the campaign in 2015 and 2016, losing four of its first six qualifiers. It took a retrospectively awarded win over Bolivia in September of 2016 and an unbeaten 2017 to turn Peru's fortunes around. A 0-0 draw in Argentina in the penultimate game proved crucial, with one more point against Colombia enough to secure a playoff berth.
After a 0-0 draw in New Zealand in the first leg of the intercontinental playoff, goals from veteran star Jefferson Farfan and defender Christian Ramos secured a 2-0 aggregate win.
When qualifying started in 2015, Peru was ranked 50th in the world by FIFA. Before its place in Russia was confirmed, it had risen to 10th.
A challenging but competitive and open group at least gives Peru a chance of doing well.
The key for Ricardo Garea's team is to get off to a winning start in the opening game against Denmark in Saransk on June 16. That is because it faces Group C favorite France five days later in Ekaterinburg, where even a draw would be considered a shock result.
If Peru has three points after those first two outings, a final game against Australia, currently ranked 29 places lower by FIFA, will provide an excellent chance of reaching the last 16.
Possible Route to the Final
Peru's most likely progression from the group stage would be as runner-up behind France. That would set up a last-16 clash with the winner of Group D, which is most likely to be Argentina.
As already mentioned, Peru drew 0-0 in Buenos Aires during qualifying, while they also earlier held La Albiceleste to a 2-2 draw in the reverse fixture in Lima. It would be a shock still for Peru to go through, as Peru hasn't beaten Argentina in 21 years, but in a one-off knockout game, anything could happen.
Peru might expect to face Spain if it makes it to the quarters, while a semifinal would likely entail an encounter with Germany. However, reaching the latter stages would appear to be a distant dream.
Goalkeepers: Pedro Gallese (Veracruz), Carlos Caceda (Deportivo Municipal), Jose Carvallo (UTC)
Defenders: Aldo Corzo (Universitario), Luis Advincula (Lobos Buap), Christian Ramos (Veracruz), Miguel Araujo (Alianza Lima), Alberto Rodriguez (Atletico Junior), Anderson Santamaria (Puebla), Miguel Trauco (Flamengo), Nilson Loyola (Melgar)
Midfielders: Renato Tapia (Feyenoord), Pedro Aquino (Lobos Buap), Yoshimar Yotun (Orlando City), Paolo Hurtado (Vitoria Guimaraes), Christian Cueva (Sao Paulo), Edison Flores (Aalborg), Andy Polo (Portland Timbers), Wilder Cartagena (Veracruz)
Forwards: Andre Carrillo (Watford), Raul Ruidiaz (Morelia), Jefferson Farfan (Lokomotiv Moscow), Paolo Guerrero (Flamengo)
(4-2-3-1) Gallese; Advincula, Rodriguez, Ramos, Trauco; Tapia, Yotun; Carillo, Cueva, Flores; Guerrero
Firstly, Peru will be hoping to show well after being absent from the world stage for so long. A place in the last 16 isn't out of the question, but with France top dog in Group C, a lack of quality compared to Denmark could see Peru fall short.
After managing to get out of South America's qualifying cauldron, though, nothing at the World Cup will be too daunting for Gareca's side, which likely has its potential capped in the last-16 range.