Hosts Brazil will meet Copa America surprise package Peru for the second time in two weeks in the grand final at the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro this Sunday. The two countries previously met in the last round of the group stage in a match which Brazil dominated from start to finish and which ended with an emphatic 5-0 victory for the Brazilians.
Peru will hope that the final will be a completely different match to that five goal trashing and their coach Ricardo Gareca publicly said that managing to overcome the huge adversity which came as a result to that defeat was a testament to the quality of his team.
However, Peru will not only have to prove that they have put that defeat behind them, but they will also have to try to ignore their past Copa America inferiority when compared to Brazil. This is because the Peruvians have only managed to win the tournament twice in their history and their last victory came all the way back in 1975. What’s more, that was also their last Copa America final appearance as they haven’t managed to go past the semi-finals before this year.
The Brazilians on the other hand, have 8 Copa America titles next to their name and are a regular participant in Copa America finals even though they were eliminated in the group stages in the last edition in 2016.
However, after managing to triumph in the Superclasico de las Americas over arch rivals Argentina, the Brazilians will be absolutely flying into this final. They are playing on home soil and one couldn’t look past them when trying to predict who the winner of Copa America 2019 will be.
Impenetrable Brazilian Defence
It is not often that a Brazilian team is lauded for its defensive talents, but that has to be the case with this squad. The back four of Dani Alves, Marquinhos, Thiago Silva, and Alex Sandro absolutely nullified any threat that the Argentineans were hoping to make and if anything managed to get past them there was the imposing Alisson Becker behind the defence to protect the Brazilian goal.
The Brazilians haven’t conceded a goal in the tournament so far and it looks like the understanding between the back four is perfect. Becker is in particularly imposing form as he hasn’t conceded a goal in his last 9 matches for both club and country and those matches include the Champions League semi-final against Barcelona and the final against Tottenham.
There were lots of people who wondered whether Tite made the right selections in midfield ahead of the tournament, but seeing how players such as Casemiro, Allan, and Arthur nullify opposition attacks and swiftly transform defence into attack there has to be little doubt that the manager was right.
The perfect example of this was Brazil’s performance against Argentina and the contribution that their two defensive midfielders, Arthur and Casemiro, had on the game. Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero were given little breathing space in that match and whenever they received the ball they were surrounded by Brazil’s dynamic midfield duo.
Messi, in particular, had to deal with the two players breathing down his neck at all times and it is little wonder that he was complaining that the game was too physical and that the referee should have been stricter towards the Brazilians.
That sounds like sour grapes considering that that’s exactly how Brazil were playing in all of their previous games and if Messi thought that he was going to get a different treatment, he was quite delusional.
Great Understanding up Front
The fact that the Brazilians have excellent defensive and midfield units shouldn’t mean that their attack is in any sense deficient. Players such as Roberto Firmino, Gabriel Jesus, Everton, and Willian have had an excellent tournament so far.
Roberto FIrmino has been particularly impressive and has managed to accumulate two goals and three assists which is an excellent achievement considering that Gabriel Jesus has been playing an even more advance role than him in some of the matches.
The Liverpool forward scored an all important goal in the semi-final against Argentina and is also doing the YouTube rounds with that no-look goal against Sunday rivals Peru.
A Resilient Peru Side
Like for like, the Brazilians are far superior to Peru in every department. However, if there is one thing that Peru have got going for them it is their combative spirit. Their compact and aggressive midfield and defence are the reason why the Peruvians are in the final and one should expect to see a similar approach from them once again.
The semi-final match against Chile was a good example of this. The Chileans are known for being very aggressive and for never holding back any punches. However, the Peruvians were obviously aware of this and went toe-to-toe with them. The match ended with 34 fouls in total with both teams being guilty for half of them. Peru fought in that match like their lives depended on it and it was that set-up which took them to the final.
The Brazilians will come out with a similar combative approach as Chile did in the semi-final and they will almost certainly be matched by Peru in that regard. This means that fans hoping for a high goal scoring thriller might end up disappointed as the match looks as one of those typical Copa America finals in which both sides try to keep their shops shut.
Bet on Peru to Win
Taking Their Chances
Another thing which has become synonymous with this Peruvian team is the fact that they have regularly taken their chances. Peru’s whole approach is centred around the team staying compact and tight and then taking their chances when they come. The second part of this approach is crucial and it is where they have managed to surprise even their strongest critics.
Peru had only three shots on goal in their quarter-final and semi-final matches combined and managed to turn all of those shots into goals and progress to the final. Players such as their captain Paolo Guerrero and winger Edison Flores were crucial in this regard as they took their chances when they came and didn’t hesitate for one second.
Overcoming Adversity and Some Tough Opponents
Peru’s five-goal loss at the hands of Brazil was the heaviest that any side suffered in the tournament. However, it was also a defeat which managed to galvanize a team expected to progress to the quarter-finals and not much else.
Lots of people probably thought that the five-goal trashing would have destroyed the Peruvians confidence, but Ricardo Gareca’s men had other ideas. They went into the match against heavy favourites Uruguay with a point to prove and they certainly did that even if they had to do that after the penalty shootout.
The fifteen-time Copa America winners had in-form strikers such as Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez in their ranks and still came up empty-handed. That victory gave the Peruvians some much needed self-confidence and that was evident in their match against Chile.
As we already mentioned, that match had 34 fouls in it, but there was a big difference behind the reasons for those fouls. Chile’s fouls came as a result of the team being frustrated from the opponents completely nullifying their plan, while Peru’s fouls were part of their strategy to win the game.
Peru bossed that matched from start to finish and had Chile right where they wanted them for most of those 90 minutes. That couldn’t have been done if they were down on their confidence and only a team believing in themselves could achieve that.
A Tough-Fought Victory for the Brazilians
That dedication to achieving their game plan should worry the Brazilians, but only slightly. They have much better players in their ranks and are also at least on par with the Peruvians when it comes to being aggressive and staying compact.
A tough match is definitely to be expected, but Brazil should be able to win the match in regular time unless something freakish happens. Peru, for their part, should be happy to have gone this far in the tournament especially as they have eliminated the two strongest performers after the hosts in the knock out rounds. Miracles frequently happen in football, but Brazil probably won’t let one happen here.