Peru eager to make more Copa America history and other talking points

Andy West 11:42 06/07/2019
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Peru reached their first Copa America final since 1975 after beating defending champions Chile 3-0 on Thursday.

Edison Flores, Yoshimar Yotun and Paolo Guerrero all found the back of the net to put an end to Chile’s dream of a third consecutive crown, a feat only achieved once by Argentina in the 1940s.

Peru will now face hosts Brazil in the championship match in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday, bidding to win their first title since 1975.

Here’s a look at the key talking points from the semi-final.

Peru exploit fast start

Against all expectations, the early exchanges were dominated by a Peru team which had been expected to spend the game mounting a rearguard action by sitting deep and only attacking on the counter.

It took only two minutes for Ricardo Gareca’s team to create their first opening as Paolo Guerrero found Christian Cueva, who should have done better than fire wide from 15 yards. But Peru continued to call the shots and went ahead after 20 minutes when pacy left wing Edison Flores made a dangerous burst into the box to win a corner and, after Peru failed to clear the subsequent set-piece, Flores coolly converted an angled drive.

Those opening 20 minutes set the tone for the rest of the game, with Peru able to play with confidence and focus while Chile had been knocked out of their stride. La Roja’s disarray was illustrated by horrendous collective defending for Peru’s second goal just before the break, when goalkeeper Gabriel Arias came miles out of his goal but failed to clear and the back line stood and watched while Yoshimar Yotun fired home from the edge of the box.

That left Chile with too much to do, as Peru made the most of their fast start to secure a famous victory and wrapped it up with an injury time strike from Guerrero.

Peru making history

It’s fair to say that Peru had not done a huge amount to earn their place in the semi-final, having only scored in one of their previous four games in the competition and sneaking into the last four with a penalty shoot-out victory over Uruguay, who had three goals disallowed for offside.

But that was certainly not the case in this semi-final, which saw Peru deliver an outstanding performance from front to back, claiming a convincing and fully merited victory to march into their first Copa America Final since 1975.

Peru have only ever won two major titles, taking Copa America in 1939 and 1975, and they will be massive underdogs heading into Sunday’s final with hosts Brazil. But they have been in that position throughout the tournament, regarded as huge outsiders to advance to the final after being placed in the same half of the knockout draw as Colombia, Chile and Uruguay.

They have lasted the course, however, with everyone from goalkeeper Pedro Gallese to centre forward Guerrero contributing fully to their semi-final success. And the confidence of their display against Chile suggests they will have play with a liberating sense of having nothing to lose in Sunday’s showpiece. Brazil, beware.

Sanchez fails to spark Chile

Trailing 2-0, Chile were frustrated by two key moments either side of the half-time whistle: firstly Jose Fuenzalida fired a smart snapshot which Peru keeper Gallese did well to tip over the bar, and then Eduardo Vargas met a right-wing free-kick with an excellent header which was only repelled by the left upright.

If either of those chances had gone in, the complexion of the game would have been completely changed and a Chilean comeback may have been on the cards. But those big moments went against the reigning champions, who can have no complaints about their exit following a surprisingly disjointed display.

In particular, Chile will be very disappointed with the lack of impact made by their iconic forward, Alexis Sanchez. The Manchester United man cut a frustrated figure throughout the game, with the fact that his best moment was a cheeky attempt to score direct from a corner revealing everything about his lack of overall impact.

After a dire season in England, this Copa America was Sanchez’s big chance for salvation. A strong start to the competition suggested he would do just that, but he failed to stand up to the test in Chile’s biggest hour of need, prompting further doubts over his future as a top-level performer.

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