Peru captain Guerrero ‘really is ready’ for World Cup clash after drug ban fight
Guerrero will resume the battle to clear his name after the tournament.
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 on Saturday.
And Guerrero, their record scorer, is clear to feature at the tournament in Russia.
He was granted a temporary lifting of his suspension on May 31 by the Swiss Federal Court, to which he appealed after the ban was extended from six to 14 months.
Gareca said at a press conference on Friday: “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 – 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 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 and France and Australia, Peru’s other Group C rivals, had backed Guerrero in an open letter to FIFA, and Gareca thanked them on Friday.
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 star Christian Eriksen “will allow us to grow and learn”.
Giving his thoughts on Saturday’s contest, Denmark boss Age Hareide said: “Peru-Denmark is an all-important match.
“France is certainly the favourite (to win the group) and if we want a good opportunity to fight for second, points tomorrow are very important.”