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“In 2018 we could have done against France what Saudi Arabia did against Argentina”

Are you watching the World Cup?

I don’t watch football. Except this World Cup because I still have that pain of not being able to be in Qatar. It was our dream, that of our family, of all Peruvians. But, well, you have to think about what’s coming, be positive. We have another Qualifier ahead of us and we have to work to be well.

—It strikes me that you don’t watch football. Have you never done it?

No. I’ll tell you an anecdote. When I came to train Cristal, I would see the first team players like Carlos Lobatón, Erick Delgado, Luis Alberto Bonnet, and my mom would tell me to take a picture with them. I knew them, I knew who they were. But I never took a single photo of myself, I’m not like that. I didn’t like watching football. I love playing it, yes, but I don’t sit down on a Sunday to watch a game. I try to share with my daughters, my wife, my family. I entertain myself in other things.

—The advantage of not watching football is that you are not aware of who you are facing? You recently marked Karim Benzema, for example.

Sure, because you don’t push yourself. I think I’m playing against someone from my neighborhood. And I talk to you sometimes about players that you see on the Play Station. But if I focus so much on one player, I think that’s where the nerves start. That’s why I try not to see them and feel like I’m playing against any team.

—Does the chat of the national team talk about the World Cup?

No. Nothing from Qatar 2022 is played in the group. As I told you, we are hurt because I think we had everything to be in this World Cup.

—Saudi Arabia gave the surprise beating Argentina. Could Peru have done the same against France in 2018?

Yes. I think that in 2018 we were able to do it because we were very good. But due to our lack of experience, things didn’t go so well for us. There are teams that give the bump like Saudi Arabia against the favorites. This is football and many things can always happen.

—In fact, Peru’s debut in Qatar 2022 could have been against France. How many memories come to mind of that game in Russia?

I keep thinking a lot about the shot I had, which hit the post. If he entered, the story would be another. I start to think about that, about what would have happened if Christian Cueva scored the penalty against Denmark. But, well, things are done and I try to see the present, look ahead. I know that we are going to have another opportunity because soccer always gives revenge.

—What mistakes were made in the playoffs so that Peru is not in Qatar today?

I think we overreacted. It happened to us that we felt that we had everything safe and they took it out of our pocket. Before playing we believed that we were already in the World Cup, that Australia was an easy team. That took its toll on us because we were confident we didn’t go to the World Cup. When we play against any other team, we always did it in the best way, as if it were a final.

—And against Australia they did not play it as a final…

No, not really.

—In any case, they are like the generation that took us to a World Cup and now they will have their third chance to do it again, taking into account that the quotas will be increased in 2026…

Of course. But how nice it would have been if we were in Qatar! Let them talk about Peru as the team that entered a World Cup, another and the third. Now, the next World Cup is more accessible, there will be more opportunities. But we have to focus on playing a final in every game and I’m sure we all have that in mind.

—What do we need to be that Peru that you yearn to always go to the World Cups?

You have to step on the ground again. We have to go back to what we were before, simple and humble. Feeling that we have not achieved anything to just focus one hundred percent on going to another World Cup. We have the equipment to do it, but we have to step on the ground, not feel as if we were Brazil. We are Peru. There are good players here to achieve it.

—Is it the most difficult thing for a footballer to “step on the ground” again?

In fact yes. Sometimes we live in a bubble and we are wrong when we see people down. It’s hard to go back, but when you want something and you understand it, it makes you want to go back. We want to go to another World Cup and we will fight to achieve it.

—As a group, how have you managed to turn the page of the repechage and join a new process with your hopes intact?

We are still hurt, that’s why we try to talk less about it (the World Cup). But we do talk and talk about the fact that we are already in another era with a new coach. So we have to prepare for the next Qualifiers and start off on the right foot.

—What is the balance you get from the first four games of the Reynoso era?

Very good. The teacher has very good ideas, he works very well. He is going to help us a lot. It’s just a matter of the group being complete and being able to adapt faster and have days of training with him.

—What changed with the arrival of Juan Reynoso?

The change is that we all start from scratch and there are opportunities that we will seek to take advantage of. From there, the work is similar because Professor Ricardo did things well in the national team and Juan is on the same path.

—How is Juan Reynoso in training?

He is a good technician, passionate about what he does. That energy that he has infects us. And as a person he is a great person, he helps us a lot.

—One of Reynoso’s changes is that he plays with a double five in the middle. Is it comfortable for you to play with a companion?

Because I’m in the national team, I even play as a goalkeeper, ha ha ha. But I feel good playing alone, although if the teacher thinks that it is best to put two men in the middle, we also have the ability to adapt.

—Reynoso made several youth debut in friendlies. How do you see them? Are there good signs for the next World Cup?

It is very good that there is this opportunity to count on the ‘chibolos’ now that there are friendlies. They are very good players. We always tell them to take advantage of the opportunity they are being given, but not to feel like they are part of the team forever. They have to work and push themselves in every training session.

Source: Elcomercio

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