When Peru and Uruguay met in Group C a little over a fortnight ago, neither side would have imagined they would be facing each other again so quickly, especially with a place in the final of the 2011 Copa America awaiting the victors.
A combination of fate and some excellent performances have reunited them, however, for an unexpected duel that should produce no shortage of intrigue and excitement. FIFA.com looks ahead to Tuesday’s surprise showdown in La Plata.
Peru-Uruguay, Tuesday 19 July, La Plata, 21.45 (local time)
Uruguay and Peru both turned in some inconsistent displays in finishing second and third respectively in Group C. Hampered by the absence of the suspended Diego Perez, La Celeste registered a solitary win over Mexico, although they bared their teeth in a typically gritty shoot-out defeat of Argentina in the quarter-finals, a triumph against the odds that recalled their victory over Ghana at the same stage of the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™.
Peru’s run to the semis has been inspired by Juan Vargas and Paolo Guerrero. The duo have more than made up for the injury-enforced absences of Claudio Pizarro and Jefferson Farfan, by spearheading a side that have made a formidable weapon of their tactical discipline. Though the Peruvians have won just two of their four games so far, they turned in an impressive display in the quarter-final defeat of Colombia at the weekend.
Sergio Markarian vs Uruguay
While most of the attention will be focused on Paolo Guerrero and Diego Forlan, the leading protagonist will be sitting in the dugout. Though born and bred in the Uruguayan capital of Montevideo, Peru coach Sergio Markarian has spent a significant part of his professional career in his adopted country, where he was appointed to the national team post last year.
Little wonder, then, that the 67-year-old finds himself torn whenever he comes up against La Celeste, as he told FIFA.com in an interview last October: “It’s always pained me to do it and emotionally it’s a problem for me. Obviously if I have to do it, I’ll do my job and do the best I can for Peru. But I was born in Uruguay, I love the country and I want the national team to do well," said the experienced tactician.
"It’s a source of professional satisfaction for me if I win, but then, after the game, I’ll be left with the feeling that my friends, compatriots and family will be sad. It’s a complex matter for me and it weighs me down.” Will Markarian be experiencing that blend of joy and regret come the final whistle on Tuesday?
Did you know?
Uruguay and Peru have contested only one more important game in the Copa America: the decisive game of the 1939 competition, which took place in the Peruvian capital of Lima, with the home side emerging victorious 2-1.
4 - The number of times that the two countries have met in Copa America matches in Argentina. La Celeste have the edge with two wins, one defeat and a draw, which came in this year’s group phase.
What they said
“Uruguay have grown stronger as the tournament has gone on. That’s what they’ve got: that ability to pull off amazing achievements. They’re a heavyweight side and they're looking strong, but God willing we’ll make the final, even if there’s still some way to go,” Peru coach Sergio Markarian
“It’s going to be a very tricky match, and Peru are going to give as good as they get. But we have no option but to go for more. We have a sort of obligation to ourselves and to the fans,” Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez