Doha, Qatar – Peru’s football fans were left in tears after their team missed out on World Cup 2022 qualification following a 5-4 loss on penalty kicks to Australia.
Substitute goalkeeper Andrew Redmayne saved the final penalty from Alex Valera to send Peru packing, much to the disappointment of the vocal 10,000-strong support in the crowd at Ahmad bin Ali Stadium on Monday evening.
Daphne Beraun, a Peruvian who had travelled to Doha from London, told Al Jazeera that her side “deserved a win”.
“We just could not finish the chances we had,” Beraun said minutes after Peru got knocked out, the side’s first loss to Australia.
Enzo Veramindi, another Peru supporter, said both teams were more or less equal but wished his side had chosen better penalty takers.
The Australian fans, meanwhile, said the win left them “ecstatic” despite being the second-best in the stands throughout the game.
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“It was just wonderful. We just felt so privileged to be here,” 67-year-old Ross Finch, who attended the match with his 59-year-old wife Maggie, told Al Jazeera.
“We have been in a few World Cups now … but this time we just did not get it together in time and were very worried about qualifying.”
Australia, who are headed to their fifth consecutive World Cup, complete Group D which also features France, Denmark and Tunisia in the tournament that kicks off on November 21.
‘Home game’ for Peru
As kickoff approached on Monday, it was apparent that the stadium, one of the eight venues hosting the upcoming World Cup, will be dominated by Peruvian fans.
One Australian spectator before kickoff described it as a “home game” for the South American nation.
Peruvians from across the globe attended the do-or-die game, coming from places including the United States, Peru’s capital Lima and Qatar’s neighbour, the United Arab Emirates.
In Lima, and other Peruvian cities like Cuzco, thousands of fans had lined up the streets to watch their team compete, a task made easier by the government which had declared a national holiday on Monday.
However, what many were hoping to be a second consecutive World Cup qualification, turned out to be a bitter experience.
“I think Peru played horrible, like really bad,” Samuel Chamochumbyi, a marketing graduate and business owner from Lima, told Al Jazeera.
“The team is good … but today they were horrible. Their attack was almost nothing. If you look at the statistics, they had maybe one shot on target,” adding if the match goes to penalties “it was like roulette … anything can happen”.
Nevertheless, for fans like Beraun, the loss is unlikely to translate into a loss of support for their team going forward.
“They [Peruvians] will always support their team. I mean look how many people showed up here … they all came from so far,” she said.
Australia’s coach Graham Arnold said “no one in Australia gave us a chance” and that he was “quite speechless” after the win.
“The mentality of the boys since they came into camp here was fantastic. And I can be so, proud and happy for the players.”
Mark Mead, an Australian residing in Doha, said the result was “fantastic”, adding that up until the last penalty he was not sure if the Socceroos could pull it off.
“It was 50-50 throughout the game,” Mead added.
The Australian, who has been living in Doha for eight years, said he will be attending Tuesday’s World Cup playoff game between Costa Rica and New Zealand as well, also scheduled to take place at the same venue to decide the final team for the 32-team tournament.