With El Padre suspended, Peru turns to Magic Reyna against New Zealand

Peruvian captain Paolo "El Padre" Guerrero was handed a 30-day preliminary suspension by the PFF on Friday after tests came back positive for a banned stimulant in the wake of Peru's scoreless World Cup qualifying draw in Argentina on October 5th.

Doctor Julio Segura spoke with Peru's Radio Nacional on Friday, explaining that "at the national team, we are aware of what anti-doping control is... So, we don't use any substances that produce doping [results]. It's a shame what happened with Paolo, but I am sure there was no problem from our side."

The ban, barring any last minute developments, means he will miss Peru's first leg against New Zealand in Wellington on November 11th, and the return match in Lima, four days later. The winner of the Inter-Confederation playoff will secure a place in next year's World Cup.

The ban comes as a huge blow to Peru, who has been hoping to reach the World Cup for the first time since 1982.

Guerrero, a 33 year old centre-forward for Brazil's CR Flamengo, has scored 32 goals in 83 appearances for Los Incas, and he has been a big part of getting Peru to this stage.

 Yordy "Magic" Reyna

Yordy "Magic" Reyna

Despite some fitness concerns, Peruvian manager Ricardo Gareca has tapped Vancouver Whitecaps FC's Yordy "Magic" Reyna as Guerrero's replacement.

The 24 year old has two goals for in 19 appearances for the national team, though most of those were off the bench. His two goals in 683 minutes, or seven and a half games, is a far more respectable return.

Reyna's last action for Los Incas came in last month's 1-1 draw with Columbia, a match in which Guerrero scored the tying goal from a direct free kick.

While an opportunity for Reyna, the suspension has reached as far as the Presidency, with Pedro Pablo Kuczynski saying, "this seems terrible to me, but fire and foremast we have to understand what happened" with Guerrero.

”Everyone in Lima takes some kind of anti-histamine because of the awful climate here in winter,“ Kuczynski added. ”Maybe he took an anti-histamine and it would be unfair if he was punished for that.

“However, we are going to look at the facts and I hope they are favourable and that he can play, because right now he’s out.”

New Zealand manager Anthony Hudson was buoyed by the decision. "It is something where we are analysing their team, everything they do seems to revolve around him," Hudson said of Guerrero's absence.

"He is such a big player. If he was in the Premier League, he would be one of the top strikers because he has all the attributes.

"He is very similar to a Diego Costa type. He's very physical, very good with his feet, and he has a keen eye for goal."

But he was mindful of being overconfident, reflecting that Reyna's inclusion, "could actually improve their team."

With a World Cup berth on the line, Reyna aims to do to the All Whites what he failed to against Seattle. On November 11th and 16th, we'll find out how he did.