Yussuf Poulsen atoned for a penalty by scoring on a rapid-fire counter in the 59th minute as Denmark spoiled Peru’s return to the World Cup after a 36-year absence with a hard-earned 1-0 victory Saturday in Saransk.
Poulsen, who was spared when Christian Cueva sent his attempt from the spot well over the crossbar after he hauled down Edison Flores late in the first half, broke forward on a 3-on-3 counterattack with playmaker Christian Eriksen. The Spurs midfielder slid the ball to his left, where Poulsen raced into the box and beat Peru goalkeeper Pedro Gallese inside the near post from 10 yards.
Denmark keeper Kasper Schmeichel preserved the clean sheet with two world-class saves, one coming shortly after the goal when he got his left hand to a shot by Flores. Minutes after Peru captain Paolo Guerrero nearly scored on a backheel that rolled agonizingly wide of the right post, Schmeichel then got his right foot on an attempt from 15 yards by Jefferson Farfan.
The win lifts Denmark into second place in Group C, behind France on goals scored, while Peru is third ahead of Australia on the same tiebreaker.
After being absent from football biggest stage for nearly four decades, Peru looked determined to make up for all that lost time as the South American team played with vigor and often used its pace to repeatedly break out of its own end. Yoshimir Yatun sent an early notice of the Incas’ intent early, trying from 30 yards that Schmeichel comfortably stopped.
Peru continued to make trouble, with Andre Sisto forcing Schmeichel into a diving save in the 12th minute on a curling effort aiming for the lower left corner. Denmark defender Andreas Christensen made a well-timed tackle at the top of the penalty area to swipe the ball away from Luis Advincula.
Things continued to go against the Danes as central midfielder William Kvist was foced off just after a half-hour due to a rib injury suffered in a collision with Farfan. Denmark finally grew into the game at that point, with Eriksen blasting a free kick into the wall and Poulsen narrowly missed getting his foot to a cross sent by Thomas Delany.
Referee Bakary Papa Gassama consulted VAR in awarding Peru a penalty after he determined Poulssen clipped Flores. Cueva, though, stutter-stepped during his run-up to the ball and appeared to lose his stride before sending a right-footed shot into the crowd instead of on frame.
Going back to the second leg of its playoff with Ireland in which Denmark fell behind in the sixth minute before roaring back to win 5-1 behind a hat trick from Eriksen, Schmeichel has not conceded a goal in 534 minutes and in five matches this calendar year.
Guerrero, who had been reinstalled to Peru’s roster after his ban for failing a drug test was suspended shortly before the World Cup, appeared as a substitute in the 62nd minute. The Flamengo striker is Peru’s all-time leading scorer with 34 goals.