Nolberto Solano believes helping Peru prosper at Russia 2018 can make up for the nag of never having played in the FIFA World Cup™. The former winger never made it to the sport’s biggest stage, despite a 15-year international career from 1994.
“Unfortunately that’s football,” rued the 43-year-old on El Enganche. “There are superstars who never made it to the World Cup.
“But there are always revenge stories, and being part of this coaching staff in Russia gives me this possibility.”
Solano was appointed assistant to new Blanquirroja head coach Ricardo Gareca in 2015. The pair guided Peru to a fifth-placed finish in the South American preliminaries – ahead of the likes of Chile, Paraguay and Ecuador – and they subsequently defeated New Zealand to reach their first global finals since Spain 1982.
“The main thing was not to burden the players with something that was not their responsibility,” said Solano in relation to Peru failing to qualify for eight straight World Cups, which he attributes, in part, to them playing as individuals rather than as a team.
“If you don’t form a group, when individually you don’t have a large pool of players, it’s impossible to qualify,” said the former Newcastle United man. “Ricardo Gareca was able to achieve that and convince the Peruvian players that they had potential.
“If there’s no team you don’t get anywhere. Having a team is how we achieved the feat of qualifying.”
Despite having exceeded expectations in reaching Russia 2018, Solano is aware that the supporters are now targeting getting through a Group C also featuring France, Australia and Denmark.
“Now people ask us to get through the first round,” said the man who scored 20 goals in 95 internationals. “That’s football – the fans will always demand more.”
Peru appeared at three of four World Cups between 1970 and ’82, with Teofilo Cubillas becoming the first man to score five or more goals in multiple tournaments – a feat that has since been emulated by Miroslav Klose and Thomas Muller.
The only edition Solano came close to reaching was France 1998, when Ivan Zamorano and Marcelo Salas – the two leading marksmen in CONMEBOL qualifying – ensured Chile beat Peru to a place on goal difference.
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