Boca Juniors’ fortress-like Estadio Bombonera has built a formidable reputation over the years, and with good reason. Few visiting teams have managed to take the spoils on the Xeneizes’ fabled home patch, located in an area to the south of Buenos Aires, where the fanatical supporters always form an imposing 12th man.
Yet it was at this very venue, a place where many of the world’s finest players have struggled to perform, that Peru pulled off one of the biggest achievements in their footballing history. We look at the evening, way back in 1969, when the Peruvians sealed their place for Mexico 1970 and left the Albicelestes’ own FIFA World Cup hopes in tatters.
Argentina Vs Peru Stakes
The 1970s would turn out to be a golden period for Peruvian football, with stars such as Teofilo Cubillas making headlines and earning admiration across the globe. Argentina meanwhile, under coach Adolfo Pedernera, were determined to return to planet football’s biggest stage after exiting the 1966 FIFA World Cup at the hands of hosts England.
The duo was joined in Group 1 of the South American qualifying phase for Mexico 1970 by Bolivia, the three teams playing each other home and away in a round-robin format with two points for a win. Only the group winners would travel to Mexico, and going into the final match, Argentina found themselves on two points, two behind Bolivia and Peru.
Pedernera’s charges thus needed to take the points at the Bombonera to guarantee a play-off match on neutral soil, while any other result would send the Peruvians, then coached by former Brazilian legend Didi, to the finals.
Needing a win to keep their qualifying hopes alive, the Argentinians flew at Peru from the outset, only to be denied time and again by visiting keeper Luis Rubinos. “He stopped everything. It was his best-ever performance,” recalled Oswaldo ‘Cachito’ Ramirez, scorer of Peru’s two goals, years later.
Unable to break the deadlock, the Argentinian onslaught gradually subsided, and by half-time, it was the Incas who had wrested control.
The home side retook the initiative after the interval, leaving them vulnerable to the counterattack. And it was the pacy Ramirez who took full advantage to open the scoring, racing beyond the Argentinian defense before firing home.
Roared on by the Bombonera faithful, the Albiceleste fought back, leveling the score with just 12 minutes on the clock through a Rafael Albrecht penalty.
Within two minutes, their hopes were struck another blow by Ramirez, the livewire striker nicking the ball from Roberto Perfumo before hitting his side’s second.
The home side grabbed another equalizer via substitute Alberto Rendo. In a dramatic finale, it appeared Miguel Brindisi had struck a vital third goal, only for the match official to correctly disallow it for a foul on Rubinos.
That was the last action of a thrilling encounter that saw Peru reach their first-ever FIFA World Cup finals. The fans packing the Bombonera ponder one of the most disappointing evenings in the Albiceleste’s history.
Man Of The Match
The night will undoubtedly be forever remembered as the coming of age of Peru’s 22-year-old front-runner Oswaldo Ramirez, his two-goal display guaranteeing him a place in Inca footballing folklore.
“I really believed that I could rid myself of the status I had in the national team at the time, one of unfulfilled promise,” reveals the man who would later be nicknamed ‘El Verdugo de la Bombonera’ [The Bombonera Executioner]. “And that’s what happened: when both the chances fell my way I just knew I’d beat [Mario Agustin] Cejas. It was a case of knowing where to put the ball, and fortunately, it all turned out just right.”
Oswaldo Ramirez’s two goals put Argentina in a bind in the closing stages. Although José Rafael Albrecht and Alberto Rendo both canceled out the lead, La Albiceleste couldn’t pull through.
“My goal was the saddest one I’ve scored in my life, I didn’t even celebrate it. I quickly picked it out the net so we could try for a third goal, which never came. I never saw such disappointment in a dressing room; several of my teammates were crying, and Pedernera was sitting silently in a corner smoking. It was a collective and individual disappointment because it was my last chance to play at a World Cup.” Alberto Rendo, Argentina player.
“Didi’s tactical briefings were dull for two reasons: firstly because he gave them in Portuguese and secondly because he spoke so quietly. I remember that I once fell asleep during one of his many talks! That evening he told me to make the most of my pace, that if I kept trying and trying then I could get a goal. And that’s what happened. He was right.” recalled Oswaldo ‘Cachito’ Ramirez, the Peru striker and man of the match..
What Happened Next
Peru performed extremely well at Mexico 1970, finishing second in Group 4 behind West Germany and only exiting at the quarter-final stage against eventual winners Brazil.
As a result, Argentina failed to qualify for the 1970 World Cup, the only time they have failed to qualify to date, while Peru went on to make three World Cup appearances and win the Copa America title in 1975.
Summary Of The Argentina Vs Peru World Cup Qualifying Match
Date: 31 August 1969
Where: Estadio Bombonera, Buenos Aires
Final Score: Argentina 2-2 Peru
Argentina Goalscorers: Rafael Jose Albrecht (78, penalty), Alberto Rendo (87)
Peru Goalscorer: Oswaldo Ramirez (52 and 80 minute)
Argentina Team: Agustin Cejas, Luis Gallo, Roberto Perfumo, Rafael Albrecht, Silvio Marzolini, Juan Carlos Rulli, Miguel Angel Brindisi, Carlo Oscar Pachame, Angel Marcos, Hector Yazalde and Anibal Roberto Tarabini
Peru Team: Luis Rubinos, Eloy Campos, Orlando de La Torre, Hector Chumpitaz, Rafael Risco, Roberto Challe, Luis Cruzado, Julio Baylon, Pedro Pablo Leon, TeofiloCubillas and Oswaldo Ramirez