Erratic Peru looking for a winning start in their opener
A middle-of-the-road South American team, Peru occasionally shine.
But with the home advantage and several teams – notably Brazil – sending only reserve squads, Peruvians are hoping the Copa America could be one of those brighter moments.
A good start against Bolivia in tomorrow’s opening day of the tournament will lead the host nation to believe they can win the title for the first time since 1975, but erratic form in World Cup qualifying this year has tempered expectations.
After dropping a 2-0 shutout to Colombia at home in March, Peru last month went on to trounce Uruguay 3-1 in Montevideo, only to fight Venezuela to a lacklustre 0-0 draw back in Lima.
When Peru are on song, play is marked by well-controlled drives led by winger Nolberto Solano and strikers Claudio Pizarro and Jefferson Farfan. But when Peru’s game is off, they play slow and are apt to get lost in a lazy, short passing game spent too long in their own half.
Beside Solano and Pizarro, who play for Aston Villa and Bayern Munich respectively, Brazilian coach Paulo Autuori has called four other players back to Peru. They are defender Miguel Rebosio from Real Zaragoza, winger Roberto Palacios from Atletico Morelia, and forwards Andres Mendoza from Brujas FC and Flavio Maestri from Sporting Club Vitoria.
Farfan, a 19-year-old striker from home club Alianza Lima, signed a contract with PSV Eindhoven late last month and will leave the Peruvian league after the Copa America.
Between the posts, Peru are counting on the sure hands of veteran goalkeeper Oscar Ibanez, a naturalised Peruvian from Argentina.
The cool-headed goalkeeper played a key role in Peruvian club Cienciano’s Cinderella rise to an upset victory over River Plate in last year’s Copa Sudamericana.
But it is the seasoned Solano – noticeably absent during Peru’s hapless loss to Colombia in March – who is regarded as the key to putting the offence into its groove.