Belfast Telegraph

Guerrero back from drugs ban and set to boost Peru

 

By Rory Dollard

Peru boss Ricardo Gareca has declared captain Paolo Guerrero ready for the World Cup following the temporary lifting of his drugs ban.

The South Americans play their first match at the finals since 1982 when they face Denmark in Group C today, and Guerrero, their record scorer, is clear to feature in Russia.

He was granted a temporary lifting of his suspension by the Swiss Federal Court, to which he appealed after the ban was extended from six to 14 months.

Gareca said yesterday: "Paolo I think is very, very fit. Whatever happened before, I think now he is training at a very high level and he really is ready to play."

Gareca would not confirm whether the 34-year-old would start the game in Saransk, though, saying: "I always wait until the last second to decide who's going to be in my team."

Having tested positive for cocaine metabolite benzoylecgonine in October, Guerrero - who says it was accidentally consumed in contaminated tea he drank - was handed a 12-month ban, which was then halved on appeal by Fifa.

But after the World Anti-Doping Agency appealed against that decision at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), it was increased to 14 months.

When the Swiss Federal Court made its subsequent ruling it said assessment of the case would only be possible after parties had been notified of the justification for the CAS decision.

The captains of Denmark, France and Australia, Peru's Group C rivals, had backed Guerrero in an open letter to Fifa, and Gareca thanked them yesterday.

Danish skipper Simon Kjaer later said of Guerrero at his side's pre-match press conference: "We just wanted to support him, we gave him support and that was all we could do."

There has been plenty of talk about the considerable, vibrant contingent of Peru fans in Russia, and Gareca said the supporters give his side "special strength and energy". Argentinian Gareca also said Peru facing the likes of Denmark superstar Christian Eriksen "will allow us to grow and learn".

Giving his thoughts on today's contest, Denmark boss Age Hareide said: "Peru-Denmark is an all-important match.

"France is the favourite (to win the group) and if we want a good opportunity to fight for second, points (today against Peru) are very important," he added.

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