African pair Senegal and Morocco drew blanks as the two World Cup-bound teams were held to 0-0 draws on Thursday, while Peru captain Paolo Guerrero was cleared to play at the finals after winning a last-minute reprieve from his doping ban.
Senegal’s preparations began with a limp stalemate away to Luxembourg although talisman Sadio Mane sat out the game, having only joined the squad this week after the Champions League final where he scored for Liverpool in their loss to Real Madrid.
It was the third successive draw for the Lions of Teranga since they qualified for next month’s tournament and they now head to the Austrian Alps to train.
They will also face fellow World Cup qualifiers Croatia and South Korea before heading to Russia where they play Colombia, Poland and Japan in the group stage.
Morocco were held goalless by Ukraine in Geneva as they prepare to start their campaign against Iran before facing Spain and European champions Portugal in their World Cup group on their first appearance at the finals since 1998.
‘The first preparation match was the best means to review that and repeat the fundamentals,’ Morocco coach Herve Renard told reporters. ‘The important thing is to keep our way of working. We will be ready on June 15.’
Peru were probably the happiest of the 32 finalists on Thursday after veteran Guerrero was cleared to take part in the finals in the latest twist in a long-running saga which has kept the Andean nation on tenterhooks.
Guerrero completed a six-month ban imposed by FIFA in May but days later the suspension was increased to 14 months by the Court of Arbitration for a Sport following an appeal by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).
However, on Thursday, the Swiss Federal Tribunal agreed to temporarily lift the doping suspension while it considers his appeal against the ban, freeing him to play for Peru at their first World Cup finals for 36 years.
‘The President of the court took into account the setbacks of all types that the appellant, already aged 34, would suffer if (he) was prevented from participating in a competition that will be the culmination of his career as a footballer,’ it said in a statement.
Guerrero tested positive for a cocaine byproduct following the World Cup qualifier away to Argentina in October.
He has said benzoylecgonine, a metabolite of cocaine was found in his system because of a herbal infusion he drank that was contaminated with coca leaf, an ingredient in cocaine widely used as a non-narcotic traditional remedy in South America.
CAS recognized that Guerrero ingested the substance unintentionally and was not attempting to gain an advantage.