Before the 1970 World Cup, Peruvian football had very little exposure and impact on the global game.
They had participated in the very first World Cup in 1930, and had also performed well in the 1936 Olympics, before becoming kings of the continent in 1939.
However, it wasn’t until 1970 the world really got their first glimpse of Peruvian football after they had edged out Argentina in qualifying.
Their iconic red diagonal sash on white shirts made a real impact in the first World Cup to be televised in colour, and their football was great to watch too — full of flair and skill.
Leading the way was a quite brilliant forward named Teófilo Juan Cubillas Arizaga aka El Nene (The Kid).
Cubillas made an instant impact with Alianza Lima at just sixteen years of age. He was top scorer in his first season in 1966 at just 17, and became top scorer in the Peruvian league again in 1970.
Cubillas was fairly small, yet quite strong and had extremely quick feet. He was a fantastic free-kick taker and capable of scoring some unique goals.
El Nene and his national team started the 1970 World Cup in Mexico against Bulgaria in optimistic mood, but it took them a while to adjust to the style of the Europeans. With forty minutes to go they found themselves 2-0 down.
Then, the South Americans finally got going — scoring two goals in five minutes to bring the scores level with over half an hour to play.
Cubillas completes the comeback for La Blanquirroja in the 73rd Minute to win the match for Peru with this excellent solo effort:
What Happened Next?
Cubillas scored two more in a 3-0 victory against Morocco, but Peru couldn’t handle Gerd Muller in their last group game.
Cubillas did manage to get on the score sheet again though as the West Germans registered a 3-1 victory leaving Peru second in the group.
That set up a meeting against the best side in the competition and perhaps World Cup history – Brazil.
A Seleção were simply too strong for their fellow South Americans, but Cubillas and Co did their best to give them a game.
The match finished an entertaining 4-2 to Brazil and the Peruvians proved a hit with the locals, too.
El Nene won South American Footballer of the year in 1972 before he made the move to Europe. Peru won the Copa America in 1975 and would impress again at the 1978 World Cup – where Cubillas would score five more goals on the biggest stage.
He played a further 3 matches at the 1982 edition without scoring. His record in the FIFA World Cup is an impressive 10 goals in 13 matches.
This was as good as it got for Peru who have struggled since the glory days of the 1970s.
2017 saw them finally qualify for their first World Cup since Spain 1982 so hope is on the horizon again.
They’ll kick off their campaign on the third day of the tournament in Russia against Denmark in what is sure to be a momentous occasion for the Andean nation.
See what Teofilo Cubillas is up to now with this interview on FIFA TV:
This one from 2012 also has some insight and a few clips of his playing days: