Peru waited 36 years to return to the World Cup stage. But it will need to wait a few more days for its first World Cup goal of the 2018 competition.
Despite waves of pressure and superb chances, Peru was denied by Denmark and goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel, who rode a Yussuf Poulsen goal to a 1-0 victory in Saransk on Saturday.
Peru captain and all-time leading scorer Paolo Guerrero, who had his doping ban frozen in time to participate in the World Cup, came off the bench and nearly scored on a couple of occassions, including an audacious back-heel attempt that missed by inches.
Peru had an early penalty shout denied–and not checked by VAR–but continued to pressure from the outset. Its best early chance came five minutes in, when Luis Advincula fired a speculative blast from distance, though he narrowly missed the frame.
Orlando City's Yoshimar Yotun followed in the eighth minute with a powerful shot from the edge of the area, but he hit it right into the gut of Denmark goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel.
Peru kept peppering from long distance, with Edison Flores following suit in the 11th minute with a chance that whizzed over the crossbar.
Denmark found the going tough in the attacking end, but nearly broke through with a long-range bomb of its own. New Borussia Dortmund signing Thomas Delaney had a go from 30 yards in the 26th minute, but, like Flores's, it flew just over the bar.
Peru finally had a chance from close range, with Jefferson Farfan on the receiving end of a through ball that put him on goal. Simon Kjaer's heroic slide tackle got enough of a touch on the chance to put it out for a corner kick and keep Peru off the board.
Denamrk had a golden chance in the 39th minute, when it earned a foul just outside the Peru box. Eriksen, a free kick specialist, had his chance hit right into the wall, but the rebound fell right to injury substitute Lasse Schone, who fired a low, bouncing drive at goalkeeper Pedro Gallese.
Just as halftime was set to hit, Peru was given an assist by VAR. Christian Cueva had his trail leg taken out in the box, and video replay confirmed as much, as a penalty was granted after a quick look. Cueva couldn't convert, though. He powered his penalty kick way over the bar, keeping the score 0-0.
Peru was left to rue that miss at the hour mark, when Denmark scored the breakthrough goal. Eriksen finally found himself in space on the counter attack, spreading the ball left to Poulsen. The RB Leipzig forward beat Gallese by the near post, giving Denmark a 1-0 lead.
On the other end, Schmeichel made a sensational save almost immediately after, pawing away a chance that would've drawn Peru level.
Guerrero came off the bench after the goal and nearly made an immediate impact. He had a clear header form the center of the box in the 64th minute, but he directed it right at Schmeichel, who made the clean catch.
After two Peru players whiffed on a chance by the left post, Poulsen played hero on the defensive end in the 71st minute. A dangerous cross toward that post from the right could have been headed in, except for the attacker tracking back and heading it to safety.
Guerrero nearly struck again in the 80th minute, and in audacious fashion. With his back to the goal, he attempted to steer a back-heel shot on frame, only to miss the post by inches.
Peru continued to pound Denmark with pressure, and it appeared Farfan had found the equalizer when at cut-back cross found him in the center of the box. But Schmeichel recovered, making a heroic kick save to take away the gaping net and keep Peru off the board.
Here were the lineups for both sides:
Here are the rosters for both teams:
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)
Manager: Ricardo Gareca
Goalkeepers: Kasper Schmeichel (Leicester), Jonas Lossl (Huddersfield), Frederik Ronow (Brondby)
Defenders: Andreas Christensen (Chelsea), Simon Kjaer (Sevilla), Mathias Jorgensen (Huddersfield), Jannik Vestergaard (Borussia Monchengladbach), Henrik Dalsgaard (Brentford), Jens Stryger (Udinese), Jonas Knudsen (Ipswich)
Midfielders: Christian Eriksen (Tottenham), Lasse Schone (Ajax), Lukas Lerager (Bordeaux), Michael Krohn-Dehli (Deportivo La Coruna), William Kvist (FC Copenhagen), Thomas Delaney (Werder Bremen)
Forwards: Andreas Cornelius (Atalanta), Kasper Dolberg (Ajax), Martin Braithwaite (Bordeaux), Nicolai Jorgensen (Feyenoord), Pione Sisto (Celta Vigo), Viktor Fischer (FC Copenhagen), Yussuf Poulsen (RB Leipzig)
Manager: Age Hareide