In a Copa America characterised by tough, closely contested encounters throughout, results have often come down to the tiniest of tactical details, a slice of good fortune or a moment of brilliance. Tuesday’s well-matched and intense semi-final between Uruguay and Peru was no different, with only the goalscoring flair of Luis Suarez tipping the balance in favour of La Celeste.
The Liverpool front-man struck twice in the space of five second-half minutes to seal a 2-0 win for Uruguay, thus securing a place in their first Copa final since they finished runners-up to Brazil at Paraguay 1999. Well aware of the significance of his contribution to the result, Suarez made sure he took home a match-ball as a souvenir.
Heads held high
Despite the defeat, Peru striker Jose Guerrero insisted that he and his team-mates should be proud of their displays on Argentinian soil, “having fought incredibly hard and given everyone a good game”. Surprise conquerors of Colombia in the quarter-finals, Peru went into the semis bolstered by a run of only two defeats in 16 games and just four goals conceded in ten matches. Three of those four had been scored by Suarez, and the former Ajax sharpshooter would prove their undoing once more in La Plata.
“It was a very tough game in the first half,” said Suarez afterwards, who had cut a visibly frustrated figure in the opening 45 minutes to the point of repeatedly questioning refereeing decisions and earning himself a yellow card for a foul in midfield.
“Peru adopted a very defensive approach and it was up to us to try and put away any chances that came our way, but we didn’t get any clear opportunities. We were more ruthless in the second half and managed to score early, which took the wind out of Peru’s sails and worked in our favour,” added the striker, who was withdrawn on 70 minutes in favour of Abel Hernandez.
Nose for goal
The way Suarez helped himself to his quick-fire brace on 52 and 57 minutes proved just how lethal the Uruguayan star can be. The crucial opener came after Peru keeper Raul Fernandez failed to gather a swerving Diego Forlan shot from distance, with Suarez getting to the rebound first before sliding home a low right-foot shot from a tight angle.
The second came from a lightning break which took advantage of the spaces the Peruvians were beginning to leave at the back. Latching onto a superb through-ball from Alvaro Pereira, Suarez coolly rounded the outrushing Fernandez before knocking the ball gently into the open net.
“Our previous game had been very different,” said the man of the match. “We knew that Argentina were really going to attack us and so we had to be prepared for that. In today’s game though, it was us who needed to take the game to the opposition and attack, which is what we did.”
It was by no means easy, however, with the Uruguayans once again extremely grateful to the gifts of Suarez and Forlan. Indeed, the rugged defence and combative midfield that served them so well against La Albiceleste appeared to lack the creativity to unlock the Peruvian rearguard until the forward duo’s timely interventions.
Yet now they are safely through to the final, coach Oscar Tabarez and his charges can sit back and await the result of Wednesday’s other semi-final between Paraguay and Venezuela in Mendoza.