Peruvians thank Jedinak and other captains for Guerrero solidarity


The mere presence of striker Paolo Guerrero on Peru's national team could have been a big distraction at the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Any Peruvian success in Russia might have been tainted if opponents made a fuss that Guerrero, Peru's all-time leading scorer, had no business playing in the World Cup after failing a drug test last year.

Instead, the situation has been largely diffused by a show of solidarity among players in and outside of Peru, including the captains of the other teams in Group C - France, Denmark and Australia.

"It was an important example of support and solidarity by all captains," Peru defender Alberto Rodriguez said Friday after the Incas' last training session before the their tournament opener on Saturday against Denmark.

"Having him here, of course, it's great and important."

Coach Ricardo Gareca said his side wanted to "express our gratitude to all of the captains" who had written to FIFA earlier this year, supporting a lifting of Guerrero's suspension so the 34-year-old could make what might be the only World Cup appearance of his career.

"It was a great demonstration of solidarity with our national team," Gareca said.

"And this has been very positive for Guerrero."

Denmark captain Simon Kjaer offered a terse response to a question before Friday evening's training about the support for Guerrero.

"Whether he played or not wasn't really essential. We just wanted to support him," he said.

"We gave him support and that was all we could do. I think he will play, that's for sure, and that's fine."

A late-hour decision by a Swiss judge froze Guerrero's suspension in time for him to rejoin Peru and his Brazilian club team Flamengo late last month.

FIFA didn't immediately challenge the ruling because Peru's opponents made their support for Guerrero clear.

Guerrero has proclaimed his innocence all along, claiming a tainted tea cup with coca leaf residue in a Lima hotel was the reason for his failed test.

Now the biggest questions surrounding him seem to be how mentally and physically fit he'll be after a long, emotional legal struggle to be allowed to play.

This is not to mention how he'll handle the pressure of being the most accomplished member of a passionately followed national side playing in the World Cup for the first time in 36 years.

"Paolo is playing very well since playing with the national team," Gareca said.

"I know he's very, very happy and I think he's very well situated.

Gareca added that Guerrero is "very, very fit," and "really is ready to play."

Guerrero scored twice in Peru's recent friendly against Saudi Arabia but is uncertain to see action against the Danes.

"I always wait until the last second to decide the line-up," Gareca said.

Guererro was Peru's top scorer in World Cup qualifying, netting five in the campaign.

Source AAP