TEMUCO: Brazil-based striker Paolo Guerrero scored a hat-trick as Peru swept aside Bolivia 3-1 to set up a Copa America semi-final showdown with fierce rivals Chile on Thursday.
Flamengo forward Guerrero, who has spent the past three years in Brazil after spells in Germany with Bayern Munich and Hamburg, pounced in the 20th and 23rd minutes to snuff out Bolivia’s campaign.
The 31-year-old completed his hat-trick in the 74th minute, strolling clear of the Bolivian defence after a mistake from midfielder Danny Bejarano to finish nonchalantly. Marcelo Martins then scored a late consolation from the penalty spot for Bolivia.
The result sets up the mouth-watering prospect of a semi-final next Monday between tournament hosts Chile and Peru, the latest instalment of a ferocious footballing rivalry.
Matches between the two neighbours, known as the “Clasico del Pacifico”, are laced with a historical enmity that dates back to the 1879-1883 War of the Pacific.
Chile and Peru also fought a long-running legal battle over the two nations’ disputed maritime border.
Peru will head into Monday’s showdown brimming with confidence after easing past Bolivia.
The match was effectively settled during a devastating three-minute spell midway through the first half when Peru’s superb counter-attacking unstitched the Bolivian defence.
“We’re getting better and better,” said Guerrero, who is closing in on Teofilo Cubillas’ all-time scoring record for Peru of 26 goals. “Not many people had much confidence in us before this tournament but once again we’re showing that we’re a good side.”
Peru, who also reached the semi-finals of the 2011 Copa America, dominated from the outset and could have been out of sight by the break. After Guerrero’s early double, his striking partner Jefferson Farfan grazed a post with a low shot and then rattled the crossbar with a curling free-kick.
Bolivia’s best chance came from a Moreno header which Peru goalkeeper Pedro Gallese did well to parry. The Bolivians rallied slightly in the second half and had a good appeal for a penalty turned down after Gallese appeared to bring down midfielder Pablo Escobar as he headed goalwards. There was no way back for Bolivia after Guerrero completed his treble, however.
Paraguay, Brazil wary of each other
With La Albirroja set to take on Dunga’s men, Paraguay defender Bruno Valdez warned his teammates that the Selecao will still be dangerous even without captain and talisman Neymar.
Paraguay will square off against the Samba Boys in Concepción on Saturday, but the Barcelona forward will play no part after he was suspended for the rest of the tournament.
“Brazil without Neymar is different, but we know that they still have great players,” he said. “But we are calm, and working to get the result.”
The respect, though, is mutual and Brazil will also not be underestimating their opponents. “I think Paraguay are a strong team with a very tactical coach,” said Dunga. “They showed their strength against Argentina, a favourite, and have grown a lot in the last few matches. The final phase is a tournament apart, there is no room for a wrong move.”
Published in The Express Tribune, June 27th, 2015.
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