The bleak face of Yoshimar Yotún, after trying to train normally without any success, is the image that marked the last training session of the Peruvian team prior to this afternoon’s duel against Australia for the World Cup playoff. The coach Ricardo Gareca already said it: they are going to wait for him until the last. But the chances are running out and solutions have to be found. Christofer Gonzáles would be the chosen one.
That the player with the second most appearances in the history of the national team, and the only one who reached 50 victories, is not here, obviously it is a sensitive loss. His experience in knowing the best moment to press or his wisdom in handling the ball cannot be bought in the market. He is not acquired in a couple of games. That midfielder, a key piece for the team, will once again be out of the photo of the starting eleven in a playoff. In 2017 he was a substitute by technical decision.
But if Ricardo Gareca has achieved something throughout these almost eight successful years, it is that he knew how to have more than eleven highly competitive players. Today, ‘Canchita’ Gonzales, the possible replacement to accompany Renato Tapia and Sergio Peña, in that triangle in the midfield so fundamental for the ‘Bicolor’, should be one more example.
Yotún would be the only casualty for the match against the Australians. Pedro Gallese; Luis Advíncula, Carlos Zambrano, Alexander Callens, Miguel Trauco; Renato Tapia, Sergio Peña, Christofer Gonzales; André Carrillo, Christian Cueva and Gianluca Lapadula will be the starting eleven that will seek to make history and place Peru in Qatar 2022.
It will be the great chance for ‘Canchita’, who at the end of the Qualifiers made his wish clear: to score the goal that qualifies Peru for the World Cup. Although he dreamed it to mark Paraguay on the last date, his longing could only be delayed for a few more dates. “My destiny is to score the last goal in the game against Paraguay. I imagine something fantastic, a very special moment after that game, something I’ve dreamed of since I was very young, ”he declared for Movistar. Today can be the day of the dream come true.
What can ‘Canchita’ give us?
Talent never lacked him; dare maybe. If something was demanded of Christofer Gonzales in the Peruvian team, it was to show confidence to go forward and not play simply with passes to the sides. Something that, already 29 years old, has been improving with the passing of the games. Today, ‘Canchita’ lives closer to the area. And his numbers support it: in 17 games this year with Cristal he has already scored 8 goals, he is two away from his best scoring record (10 in 30 games in 2021).
In days when his name sounds like a signing for a couple of Argentine teams, the midfielder could be facing the game of his life. He is no longer the substitute from the last Qualifiers that he barely played 20 minutes in two games. He is now the player who entered the Qualifiers the most times -eight games, three of them for Yotún-, and started five times. He is a solution from the bench, also from the start.
In this process, ‘Yoshi’ only missed against Bolivia in Lima due to suspension. It’s a sensible low, yes. But Gonzales is one of the players who have the trust of the coaching staff for difficult games. Three of the five times he was a starter, they were visiting (against Bolivia, Brazil and Argentina), and in Lima he played against “Canarinha” and the Bolivian team. In this last meeting he replaced ‘Yoshi’.
‘Canchita’ did a special job with Edison Flores, another of the possible letters. But for now, it is known that it will be the man from Cristal who will start. Accustomed to taking over the left wing in his club, with a lot of arrival in the rival area, the attacker must now have the wisdom to know when to attack and when to stay so as not to leave his side uncovered and accompany Renato Tapia in the mark.
Against New Zealand, in Peru’s last friendly match before the playoff, he came on in the second half to replace Sergio Peña and showed that he is a player who likes the opposing goal and knows how to look for spaces to attack.
I, Ronald Payne, am a journalist and author who dedicated his life to telling the stories that need to be said. I have over 7 years of experience as a reporter and editor, covering everything from politics to business to crime.