Peru has emerged from group play with two shaky victories over Brazil and Haiti to advance to the elimination stage in the Copa America Centenario.
After an unimpressive victory over Haiti an tying Ecuador, Peru seemed doubtful to advance past the group stage of the Copa America centennial tournament in the United States. But a bizarre turn of events led the “La Blanquirroja” to victory over Brazil on Sunday in a historic elimination of the soccer giant.
Peru defeated Haiti 1-0 on June 4 thanks to a Paolo Guerrero header off a perfect center pass from Edison Flores. However the Peru squad failed to build a larger lead which would earn more points in the group stage against a team whose world FIFA ranking of 71 made it one of the three worst teams in the tournament.
After their unimpressive start against Haiti, Peru faced a strong team in Ecuador on June 8. Peru shocked their stronger rivals with two early goals by Christian Cueva and Edison Flores as the Incas went up 2-0 in just 15 minutes. However Peru could not hold the lead as Ecuador’s Enner Valencia and Jefferson Montero scored in the 39th and 48th minutes. The game ended in a 2-2 tie.
Heading into its last group stage match, Peru needed a win over the mighty Brazil, something it had not done in 31 years. Ranked by FIFA as the seventh best team in the world before the tournament, Brazil defeated Haiti by six goals but only tied Ecuador. Brazil’s tournament performance had also failed to impress, but it only needed a tie against the 46th-ranked Peru to advance to the quarterfinals.
The game was largely uneventful until the 75th minute, when Raul “The Flea” Ruidiaz scored on a centering pass from Andy Polo. The goal bounced off Ruidiaz’s forearm and thigh, or maybe only his forearm, in what was clearly an illegal play. Brazil’s players pleaded with the referee to disallow the goal. But after a brief conference with video analysts, the goal was allowed to stand.
Peru went on to defeat Brazil 1-0 to advance to the Copa America Centenario quarterfinals. The news is a significant accomplishment for a newly overhauled national selection which scratched many longtime veterans in favor of younger players. Only six of the team’s players compete in leagues outside Peru.
Brazil was eliminated in group play for the second consecutive tournament. Brazil would go on to fire team manager Carlos Caetano, commonly known as “Dunga,” over the team’s third lackluster tournament performances in as many years.
Now ranked 48th, Peru will face the third-ranked Colombia on June 17 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
UPDATE: Colombia defeated Peru to advance to the semifinals on penalty kicks after a game which saw 90 minutes of regulation and 30 minutes of extra time finish in a scoreless tie.
Watch Ruidiaz’s controversial “handball” goal below.
History-man Guerrero sinks Haiti (Andina)
Dunga Out as Brazil Manager Following Copa America Fiasco (Wall Street Journal)