Miami GARDENS - This might as well have been a home game for the Peruvian men's national soccer team.
Peru defeats Croatia by a score of 2-0 at Hard Rock Stadium as the teams prepare for the World Cup this summer.
The chants of Peru, Peru could be heard back to the capital of Lima, and for good reason. On this night Peru looked fit and ready for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. Goals by Andre Carrillo and Edison Flores gave Peru, a.k.a. La Blanquirroja, a 2-0 victory over Croatia before a crowd of 46,893 mostly Peruvian fans at Hard Rock Stadium on Friday.
The match had more intensity and physical play than most international friendlies. But this is a World Cup year and there's a chance these teams could meet again in the second round of the World Cup.
With the Peru defense able to contain Croatia's offensive attack, any goal of their own was significant.
So, two was a plus.
Flores scored the clinching goal in the 47th minute after he collected the ball in front of the net after a Carrillo shot was deflected to his feet for the 2-0 lead. Peru coach Ricardo Gareca was pleased where his team stands as the World Cup draws near. "The games will all be loaded with first level players," Gareca said, "but we also have first level plyers."
Between goals, Croatia had a opportunity to equal the score at one. A free kick from 23 yards out by midfielder Ivan Rakitic cut through the Peru wall and was stopped by keeper Carlos Caceda in front of the goal mouth.
"Peru deserved to win," Croatia coach Dalic Zlatko said. "They were more aggressive. We started the game very badly and conceded two goals."
Peru, who is ranked No. 11 in the world by FIFA, took a 1-0 lead in the 11th minute on Carrillo's goal.
The Croatia match was the first of five international friendlies prior to its first World Cup group stage match against Denmark on June 16.
Prior to heading to Russia, they will also face Iceland on Mar. 27, Scotland on May 29, Saudi Arabia on June 3 and Sweden on June 9.
"We need to take lessons from this game," Zlatko said. "We didn't have enough possession and the game was very difficult for us. If we're not able to concentrate more, we'll have problems winning games."
Croatia played the final 16 minute with the man advantage after Peru's Yoshimar Yotin was sent off with his second yellow card of the match.
It's been 36 years since the fans of South American country had reason to be excited about the World Cup. Peru has competed in only four World Cups (1930, 70, 78 and 82).
Croatia, ranked 19th in the world by FIFA, will play Mexico on Mar. 27, Brazil on June 3 and Senegal on June 8 for their final preparations for World Cup competition.
The first group play match is June 16 against Nigeria.