Peru looks to divine intervention to keep Guerrero in World Cup

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Lima – Peru’s national soccer team is hoping that heaven will smile on captain and top striker Paolo Guerrero’s bid to convince FIFA to set aside a suspension and allow him to play in next month’s World Cup, defender Luis Advincula said Monday.

“May God decide what happens,” Advincula said, urging fans to join him in saying an Our Father for Guerrero to be granted authorization to join the national squad.

The defender hoped that all goes well for his teammate at the meeting he is scheduled to have this Tuesday in Switzerland with FIFA boss Gianni Infantino, where Guerrero will seek a lifting of his doping ban so he can play in Peru’s first World Cup since 1982.

“If there’s a chance of hope, we’re all going to cling to it. May God let his meeting with the president of FIFA be positive so he may play in the 2018 Russia World Cup, which is what all Peru wants,” Advincula said.

After Monday’s training session, Advincula acknowledged that “obviously there’s anxiety” on the Peruvian team to know whether Guerrero will be able to accompany them to the World Cup, but added that he will try to take it as calmly as possible.

Midfielder Paolo Hurtado said that they are hoping “the problem will be solved.”

Nonetheless, he noted that the Peruvian squad has been united for a long time, even before Guerrero was suspended, adding that “it’s a very strong group, ready for anything.”

Guerrero, 34, was originally suspended for a year after a routine doping test in October 2017 detected a cocaine metabolite, but FIFA, soccer’s world governing body, subsequently reduced the penalty to six months and the player returned to action May 6 with the Brazilian club Flamengo.

The Peruvian appeared before the Lausanne, Switzerland-based Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) earlier this month to argue that the suspension was unjustified, maintaining that the cocaine metabolite entered his system via yerba mate made in a pot that previously contained coca leaf.

At the same time, the World Anti-Doping Agency asked CAS to increase the length of Guerrero’s suspension to two years.

Last Monday, CAS extended Guerrero’s suspension to 14 months in all, keeping him off the field until January 2019.

FIFPro, the union representing the world’s professional footballers, asked FIFA to review the case and Infantino agreed to meet with Guerrero.

In the practice session at the Videna facility in Lima, Peru coach Ricardo Gareca worked with 20 of his 23 players.

The squad is training to challenge Scotland on May 29 in a friendly in which Peruvian fans will bid farewell to the team that will represent them in the World Cup.