Yekaterinburg (Russia) (AFP) – Peru are contesting their first World Cup in 36 years — and their legions of fans who travelled to Russia are determined to make the most of it.
A generation of football fans from the South American country have never seen their nation play at football’s top table.
That is until now, and Peruvians — many wearing the national side’s distinctive red-sash shirts — have swarmed over to Russia.
Ahead of Thursday’s must-win Group C clash with France in Yekaterinburg, thousands of Peru supporters were highly visible in the city, singing, dancing and taking selfies with bemused locals.
In contrast, there were expected to be just 2,000 French fans in Yekaterinburg Arena.
With the pressure on Peru, having lost their opening game 1-0 to Denmark, fan Hector Cabral said: “It is 36 years since we competed at a World Cup, it is understandable that there are so many of us.”
Like many of the Peru fans in Russia, Cabral now lives outside the country of his birth and was with his family having travelled from his Los Angeles home.
Another, who gave his name as Alonso, made the trip halfway across the globe from Bogota, Colombia.
“We did Bogota, Paris, Moscow, but the most tricky bit was getting to Saransk (east of Moscow) for the Denmark game.
“There were not enough flights, no more spots on the trains, we had to take a car,” he laughed.
Yekaterinburg was another journey — the most eastern city at this World Cup and a more than two-hour flight from Moscow.
France will be favourites on Thursday, but Peru’s fans were talking a good game and relished vastly outnumbering France’s contingent.
Their enthusiasm is understandable — prior to Russia, Peru made the World Cup just four times.
Their last appearance was at Spain 1982, when they exited at the first hurdle.
Alex, in Russia with his brother, said: “Peru is like a big family, we are all brothers and sisters.
“Against Denmark, 90 percent of the stadium was Peru colours.
“And tomorrow there will loads more of us than the French.”