- Edison Flores has scored three goals in Peru’s last five FIFA World Cup™ qualifiers
- Peru now lie four points off the play-off place
- Gareca, Guerrero and Aalborg inspiring his rich vein of form
A diligent student of Peruvian football, Edison Flores likes nothing better than to learn from the country’s former greats on YouTube. In checking out videos of Teofilo Cubillas, Juan Jose Munante and the Peru side that excelled at Mexico 1970, the 22-year-old attacking midfielder tries to pick up what he can from his famous predecessors.
“I really enjoy watching the old videos and how they played in World Cups,” explained Flores, who is helping to fire hopes of Peru’s return to the FIFA World Cup™ after a 36-year absence. “I watch the players from the 1982 World Cup, the qualifiers for 1986, the 1970 World Cup: [Juan Carlos] Oblitas, Teofilo, Munante, [Geronimo] Barbadillo... There were a lot of great players around then and they’re an inspiration for me. I ask my family too. I ask what was so good about them that they were able to reach the World Cup and what it was that they had, so I can follow their example.”
Nicknamed El Orejas (“Big Ears”), Flores spoke to FIFA.com about his fascination for Peru’s golden era from the Danish city of Aalborg, where he has been based since last August and where he has been working on his game in a bid to bring the good times back for his country. Things have certainly been working out for Flores lately. The winger has struck three goals in Peru’s last five Russia 2018 qualifying matches, helping to secure vital points for Ricardo Gareca’s side as they attempt to make up lost ground.
Peru lie seventh in the CONMEBOL table, four points off Argentina, who occupy fifth place and the play-off berth. It was only four games ago, however, that the Peruvians were eight points adrift. “We’re happy because we’re right in contention now, and we’re in control of our own destiny after beating Uruguay in our last match,” explained Flores, who scored the winner in his side’s 2-1 defeat of Los Charrúas.
Revealing the extent of Peru’s ambition, he added: “We’re fighting for a qualification place, but we know it’s going to be tough. If we do manage to get fifth and make the play-off, it’ll be great, but the way we’re looking at it is that we have to win our last four matches if we want to qualify. We’ve got some very tough games coming up, but that’s the way it is and we have to be ready physically, mentally and in a footballing sense.”
(Delighted with the goal, the win and for the team, and for being able to give you something to shout about in these difficult times. Thanks for the support.)
The qualifiers resume in August, with Peru set to face Bolivia at home, Ecuador and Argentina away and Colombia at home in their final four matches. Though a testing end to the competition, the fast-improving Peruvians can approach it with confidence, especially as they have now climbed to 17th place in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking, an all-time high.
“We’re on a high at the moment and we have to keep it going,” said Flores. “The more time goes by, the better we get to know each other and the coaching staff, all of which helps us to find out what we can all do for one another.”
Though Flores will be focusing on Aalborg for the next few months, the World Cup, which has been a personal goal of his since he was eight, will never be far from his mind: “I remember the first World Cup I watched: Korea/Japan 2002. Brazil were such a great side! Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Roberto Carlos, Ronaldinho… They were great to watch. I was very little but I had all these dreams, and that’s when I said that I wanted to play in one.”
The old videos of Peru’s glory years have had just as much of an impact on him, however: “There’s a free-kick by Teofilo that really sticks in my mind. He puts it to the side of the wall and it goes in. You don’t see many free-kicks like that.”
(Just like you in the stands, we’re giving our all on the pitch. Thanks for pushing us on!)