Uruguay and Peru will battle to complete the line-up for the Copa America semi-finals on Saturday night, and the former are huge favorites after mounting a convincing campaign so far.
Peru backed into the knockout stages as they suffered a 5-0 thrashing against Brazil in the last group game, and the obvious expectation is that Luis Suarez and co will comfortably get the job done in Salvador de Bahia.
Can anything stop them? Let’s take a look with our pregame talking points.
Suarez and Cavani shining bright
It does not take a genius to pinpoint Uruguay’s greatest asset: the strike pairing of Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani is perhaps the most consistently productive in international football, with the two veteran goalpoachers possessing an excellent mutual understanding and a complementary skill set which allows them to cause major problems for any defence.
The proven old duo have been in fine form so far in Brazil, both scoring twice during the group stages to propel their team into first place in Group C, showing their threat by combining for a noteworthy average of 10 shots on goal per game (5.7 for Suarez and 4.3 by Cavani).
Now they must be licking their lips at the prospect of taking on a porous Peru defence which looked hopelessly out of its depth in the 5-0 hammering by Brazil, and Suarez will have fond memories of facing Peru on the Copa America stage after netting both goals in a 2-0 win en route to the title in the 2011 semi-final. It would be foolish, surely, to bet against Suarez getting on the scoresheet again this weekend.
Cavani and Suárez have scored a combined 106 goals for Uruguay.— Warriors of Uruguay (@UruguayanHeroes) June 26, 2019
The hitmen from Salto are determined to fire Uruguay to their 16th Copa América title. pic.twitter.com/DVx2LTwtyy
Midfield conundrum for Tabarez
The places of Suarez and Cavani in attack are guaranteed, and the same kind of reliable continuity is provided at the other end of the field by the outstanding central defensive partnership of Diego Godin and Jose Maria Gimenez, who have developed a telepathic understanding during their many years together at Atlético Madrid.
But there is a certain amount of doubt in midfield, where experienced coach Oscar Tabarez could be without Arsenal midfielder Lucas Torreira after a bout of illness. If the impressive youngster is unable to play, it would probably open the door for another rising star, Fede Valverde of Real Madrid, who delivered a bright performance in the closing group stage victory over Chile.
In fact, Valverde could be pushing for a start even if Torreira is able to start, with Nahitan Nandez doing little to catch the eye during the group stage. And with Juventus starlet Rodrigo Bentancur also forming part of the midfield, Tabarez has the luxury of being spoilt for choice as he looks to shape the starting eleven to fire Uruguay all the way to the title.
Can divided Peru replace Farfan?
Considering their leaky defence and the potent attack at Uruguay’s disposal, it looks highly unlikely that Peru will be able to defend their way to a goalless draw and a penalty shoot-out as Paraguay managed against Brazil on Thursday night.
Instead, Peru will have to score…but the question of who will do so is a tricky one following the withdrawal of star forward Jefferson Farfan, who has been ruled out of the remainder of the competition after suffering a knee injury in the mauling against Brazil.
Coach Ricardo Gareca will probably opt to pair veteran skipper Paolo Guerrero with Andre Carrillo despite rumours of a bust-up between the two – in the aftermath of the Brazil loss, audio emerged supposedly from a WhatsApp group with Guerrero lamenting the indiscipline of Carrillo, forcing the captain into making a hasty claim that morale is high and everyone is pulling together.
With a dodgy defence, internal divisions and their key forward missing, surely Peru will find Uruguay too hot to handle? Anything else would be a major surprise.
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