Peru, dreaming of a first triumph in 36 years, will try to halt a resurgent Colombia tomorrow in their Copa America quarter-final meeting. "Now we have Colombia. A tall order but we have to have faith we can get past them. Go Peru," said Peruvian striker Paolo Guerrero, who plays his club football with Hamburg, on his Twitter account as Sergio Markarian's Blanquirroja target a shock.
Recent meetings between the two have been tight affairs - they parted 1-1 in a Bogota friendly last November and FIFA World Cup™ qualifiers ended 1-0 to the Colombians on their home patch and 1-1 in Peru. If the Peruvians, two-times champions, are to beat the 2001 champs, they will have to keep in check in-form striker Radamel Falcao, who yesterday revealed he had signed a two-year extension through to 2015 with Porto.
The forward, who broke the European goalscoring record for a single campaign when he netted 17 times en route to UEFA Europa League glory, also had his buyout clause raised to €45m from €30m - though the likes of Chelsea remain admirers. "It doesn't matter who scores as long as we go through," Falcao insisted on learning of the draw after his side won Group A to finish above hosts Argentina while Peru were one of the two best third-placed finishers.
It's a tall order but we have to have faith we can get past them. Go Peru.
With the Colombians yet to concede a goal and with Falco on fire after two goals against Bolivia, Hernan Dario 'Bolillo' Gomez's side would appear slight favourites. "The most important thing is that the team functions effectively - we came here with a goal and we have achieved it (in getting past the group stage)," said Wigan striker Hugo Rodallega.
Peru are keeping Juan Vargas wrapped in cotton wool as the Fiorentina wideman is carrying a leg muscle injury he suffered ahead of the tournament, although he expects to start. "We are hugely up for this one," Peru defender Antonio Rodriguez told journalists after Markarian put them through their paces.
Markarian says he thinks his men can make it "through to the semis," he told Cable Magico Deportes broadcaster. "But I'd like to come back on July 25," he joked, that being the day after the final.
Peru finished bottom of the last FIFA World Cup qualifying session and came to the Copa minus injured forwards Jefferson Farfan and Claudio Pizarro, but Markarian has managed to instill some self belief. "Peru are good players - we just have to believe in ourselves," said Vargas.
The winner of the encounter will take on either Argentina or Uruguay on 19 July at La Plata. On Sunday, Brazil face Paraguay and Chile take on Venezuela in the other quarters.