Ralph Hannah –
Chile vs Peru – The defending champions froze on a bitterly cold evening in Porto Alegre as Peru reached their first Copa America final since 1975.
Chile vs Peru Goals: 0-1 (Edison Flores, 21′) 0-2 (Yoshimir Yotún, 38′) 0-3 (Paulo Guerrero 90+1′)
The Incas, were definite underdogs heading into this clásico having lost 12 of their last 14 to Chile including 7 of the last eight competitive matches. The Peruvians did have a couple of stats in their favour though, they won their last semifinal in Brazil in 1975, and the only other game between these two on Brazilian soil was in 1949, Peru won 3-0. History would repeat itself tonight.
Gareca’s side began with verve and intent, inside three minutes Carrillo with a great pass into Paolo Guerrero who squared the ball to Christian Cueva, the Santos man shooting wide. Those three and Edison Flores would continue to trouble Chile for the rest of the first half as the holders never seemed comfortable despite having 65% possession.
The problem was the threat caused by Peru’s multidimensional attack; they had bags of pace with Carrillo who would switch wings. Cueva had the ability to find Guerrero in the channels, or the veteran was happy to hold up the ball in tight spaces. One such moment was on 20 minutes, as the Internacional striker played in Flores who dragged his shot wide, helped by a deflection. Moments later he didn’t make the same mistake, Vidal lost an aerial battle to Tapia with the ball falling free in a wide area, and the resulting cross reached Flores at the far post via Carrillo’s inadvertent headed assist to be smartly turned in at the back post.
Peru kept breaking in numbers and Flores would find himself on the right, Guerrero in the middle or wide – it was incredibly fluid. When they had to defend the blanquiroja was disciplined and followed a clear plan. Let their rival have the ball in deep areas, crowd them in the middle to move it wide and then pack the area crossed the ball.
On 38 minutes the second goal arrived, once again it was Andrés Carrillo careering down the right, and inexplicably goalkeeper Gabriel Arias tried to beat him to the ball near the corner flag. The winger picked out Yotun with a great cross and the midfielder controlled well and finished into an empty net, his third goal for the national team.
Injury to Flores early in the second half saw Gareca begin to close up the game quicker than he may have liked, always a danger that sitting back too much could allow Chile back into the game. The Roja did have several chances, forcing Gallese into action six times in total, including a late penalty save but other than a Vargas header of the post the result never looked in doubt.
Peru kept the same plan, the precision pressing in key areas and packing the box, it left plenty of space on the edge of the area which Chile exploited, but it only offered them the chance to shoot from a distance. Meanwhile, the counterattack was always a huge danger, Yotun should have made it 3-0 on 60 minutes as Carrillo carried the ball and fed Guerrero who found Cueva in the box, rather than shoot he laid a first-time pass to the number 19 who ballooned his effort over.
Erick Pulgar, who had been so good against Colombia, had a torrid night which was epitomised by his yellow card on 74 minutes, the right-back Luis Advincula had hared down the wing dragging the Bologna midfielder into areas he didn’t want to be in yet again and frustrated he chopped him down. It was a similar story for Vidal, also excellent in the Quarter Final, who was nutmegged late on in a smart passing sequence that had the Arena do Gremio chorusing “Olé!” – the Barcelona midfielder cut that out with a cynical foul.
In stoppage time a glorious night was complete for Peru as Paolo Guerrero got the wrong side of Medel receiving a through ball from Tapia before rounding Arias to score his 13thgoal in the Copa America. An embarrassing evening for the champions got worse on 95 minutes as Eduardo Vargas attempted a Panenka penalty only to see Gallese stand up to it and make the save.
Peru go into Sunday’s final looking to avenge the 5-0 defeat to Brazil in the group stages as they try and win their third Copa America. The last time they beat Brazil away was a friendly in 1985, could this history-making squad rewrite more lines in this already incredible story?
Chile vs Peru – Formations
Arias – Isla, Medel, Maripan, Beausejour – Pulgar, Aranguiz, Vidal- Fuenzalida, Sanchez, Vargas
Head Coach: Reinaldo Rueda
Gallese – Advíncula; Zambrano, Abram, Trauco – Tapia, Yotún, Cueva – Carrillo, Flores, Guerrero
Head Coach: Ricardo Gareca
Ralph Hannah is Londoner, who has lived in Luque and is now located in Miami, with a keen interest in Paraguayan football history and statistics. A frequent traveller throughout Latin America he attends games throughout the region and has written for a variety of publications and set up the first English-language blog on Paraguayan Football. When not in the Defensores del Chaco he’s looking after his two daughters. Follow Ralph on Twitter @paraguayralph.