Like most of his countrymen, Flores’s club credentials (he’s currently signed to Aalborg BK in Denmark) aren’t terribly impressive. That hasn’t prevented him from consistently showing up in the right place at the right time for his country in high-pressure moments. While he’s earned the nickname El Orejas in honor of his noticeably large ears, Flores is also one of the easiest Peru players to spot on the pitch because of the way he moves all over it, making an impact on the game as both with the ball and without it. At only 24 years old, he’s already shown enough promise to be one of the cornerstones of Peru’s future, and there’s also nothing stopping him from being their man of the present, too. Inconsistency and injuries have plagued Flores in the past, but a continuation of his qualifying hot streak should be enough to at least lift Peru out of the group stage.

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Paolo Guerrero

Guerrero comes to Russia having experienced a cruel roller coaster of “will he or won’t he” in the build-up to the tournament. If he leads Peru to success, opposing supporters will surely get riled up over whether or not he should have been allowed to compete. That’s because during the World Cup qualification process, the 34-year-old Guerrero tested positive for a chemical byproduct of cocaine. That drug test got him a one year suspension from FIFA, which sidelined him for the play-in round against New Zealand and was set to keep him out of the World Cup.

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But the saga was only getting started. Guerrero officially challenged the suspension by claiming the positive test came not from him snorting coke but from him drinking a kind of tea that included coca leaves. That excuse might’ve seemed dubious coming from one of the team’s most notorious partiers, but it appeared to have worked all the same. Guerrero’s appeal was successful, which got his suspension reduced and made him eligible for this summer’s tournament in Russia.

Yet in a gut punch of a twist, the World Anti-Doping Agency appealed his appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport and got the reduced six-month ban extended to 14 months, which once again made him ineligible for the World Cup. Then, a Swiss tribunal lifted that ban, freeing Guerrero once more to represent his country. Barring some wacky turn of events in the coming days, Guerrero will indeed be out there with his teammates ready to make Peru proud.

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While teammate Jefferson Farfán served as Peru’s more-than-capable replacement striker for the two play-in games against New Zealand, the load he had to carry is much lighter now that Guerrero is in the squad.

Guerrero is your classic finisher, the target man on the end of his midfielders’ assists. Even if he’s not the one generating scoring opportunities, the chances don’t go to waste when they’re handed to him. As a veteran of the Bundesliga, Guerrero is much more familiar with high-level competition than most of his countrymen. He’s been playing in Brazil most recently, but any decline in his talents has been mostly gradual, as his style of play requires confidence and smart execution more than it does athleticism. If Guerrero doesn’t score at the World Cup, something will have seriously gone wrong for Peru.

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How They Play

Gareca started World Cup qualifying with a 4-4-2 formation, but Peru switched after six games to a 4-2-3-1. This new formation clogs the midfield and relies on one scorer up top (usually Farfán or Guerrero) to finish his chances. Peru aren’t especially comfortable with long bouts of possession, and that midfield generally works to swarm opposing players and force quick counterattacks. The majority of their goals come almost immediately after turnovers high up the pitch. In CONMEBOL qualifying, Peru made an astonishingly low average of 1.75 passes before their goals.

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The high pressing the team employs also works as a cover for a somewhat shaky defense. Peru are vulnerable on both set pieces and attacks on their fullbacks from the wing. Beating them requires patience, discipline, and the ability to spread the field.

Group C Fixtures

All times Eastern

June 16, 12 p.m.: Peru vs. Denmark at Mordovia Arena

June 21, 8 a.m.: France vs. Peru at Ekaterinburg Arena

June 26, 10 a.m.: Australia vs. Peru at Fisht Stadium