Peru open their qualification campaign for the 2014 World Cup with a home tie against Paraguay followed by a trip to Chile three days later, but their Uruguayan coach Sergio Markarian is already looking forward to their third match of the process, away to Ecuador in the altitude of Quito, and putting together a plan in preparation for playing 2,850 metres above sea level.
Because Brazil qualify for the 2014 World Cup automatically as hosts, South America’s qualification group is now comprised of just nine teams, which means that one team gets to sit out the action in each round of fixtures.
For Peru, this break comes in the third round of fixtures, giving them ample time to prepare for the trip to Quito in round four days later. Markarian intends to use this time wisely by congregating his players in Arequipa on the 9th November, six days before the clash with Ecuador.
Arequipa sits at an elevation of 2,335 metres above sea level and should provide the ideal conditions for Peru’s players to acclimatize to an altitude similar to the one they will face in Quito. I can attest from personal experience that stopping off in Arequipa for four days prior to travelling onwards by land to Cusco (3,399 metres above sea level) greatly helped my own acclimatisation, and I heard numerous stories of travellers who had travelled direct by air into Cusco struggling with the altitude when they arrived.
Markarian intends to have his players play two practice matches against the local side Melgar as part of the acclimatization process. The team will then fly to Quito the day before the match, travelling directly from the airport to the stadium to check out the pitch conditions before venturing on to their hotel for dinner and rest ahead of the match the following day.
Peru’s previous best result in Quito was a 1-1 draw in 1977, while their worst result was a 5-1 thrashing in 2007. Peru have also never won a World Cup qualifier in La Paz, Bolivia (3,640 metres above sea level) and Markarian sees picking up points in these matches, along with the likely venue of Bogota (2,650 metres above sea level) for their away match against Colombia, as vital to their chances of qualifying. “If we gain all nine points at altitude we would have a great chance of playing in the World Cup,” he commented early this month.