For long, Peru has been looked at as an underdog when it comes to international soccer. In the upcoming Copa America Centenario, there won't be any exception. For this edition of the world's oldest international tournament, the Blanquirroja bets on a new generation of talents to make a statement in the United States, as they've left behind veteran stars like Claudio Pizarro, Jefferson Farfán, Carlos Zambrano, Carlos Lobatón, Luis Advíncula and Juan Manuel Vargas.
Against all odds in Group B
Although Group B is not considered the "Group of Death", it's still going to be hard for the Incans to go up against teams like Ecuador and Brazil. However, the debut match will be against Haití in Seattle. An opponent which they consider as "accessible," after the friendly matches they had against Trinidad & Tobago in Lima and El Salvador in Washington DC. The Peruvian team defeated T&T 4-0 and beat El Salvador 3-1 last Saturday.
For these matches, Peru hopes to win by putting their trust in progressive players like main forward Paolo Guerrero. The man that became the top goalscorer at two Copa Americas in a row. Guerrero was top scorer five years ago in Argentina, scoring five goals. The second occasion was last year in Chile, where the Flamengo player scored four goals this time. In both tournaments, Guerrero had a hat-trick.
Young "white and red" blood
As it was announced before, Peru's head coach Ricardo Gareca decided to bet this time on the new talents and leave behind the veterans. In this fresh group, there are many faces that are making a remarkable campaign in the local league.
Some of the players that are on the roster are the stars in the leading team in the tournament: Universitario de Deportes. With an offensive ideology, midfielders like Edison Flores, Andy Polo and Raúl Ruidíaz are just a few members in the Incan playing base.
On the other side, there is also the international legion made up by players like Feyenoord Rotterdam midfielder Renato Tapia, Toluca's Christian Cueva, Sporting Charleroi Cristian Benavente and PSV Eindhoven forward Beto da Silva. In spite of their "low profile status," the team will try to make a statement in the continental tournament.
The steep path in Group B
After winning big time against Trinidad & Tobago and El Salvador in their friendly matches, Peru will kickstart the Copa America Centenario dream in Seattle against Haiti on June 4th. Gareca's boys will try to make a great debut at CenturyLink Field and continue with the plan of generational change, that for the moment, is working out well.
After that, the Incans will travel to the heated zone in Glendale, Arizona, where the Blanquirroja will face Ecuador at University of Phoenix Stadium on June 8th. A match in where a bitter rivalry will be the main role of this story. Last time Peruvians and Ecuadorians faced each other was back in Lima three years ago for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers. On that occasion , the locals defeated the Tricolores by 1-0 with a goal scored by veteran Claudio Pizarro. Peru looks forward to this game if they want to get into the quarterfinals.
Last but not least, Peru will have the last match of the group stage in Foxborough, Massachusetts. There, they will face Brazil at Gillette Stadium on June 12th. Their last two matches against Dunga's ended badly for the Incans. In Copa America 2015, Peru lost by 2-1 against the Verdeamarela and five months later, they had a humiliating 3-0 defeat when they were visitors in Salvador de Bahía. At the home of the New England Revolution, the Peruvian team will try to stop the losing streak against the Brazilians.
Final Peru roster
Pedro Gallese (Juan Aurich), Carlos Cáceda (Universitario), Diego Penny (Sporting Cristal)
Christian Ramos (Juan Aurich), Renzo Revoredo (Sporting Cristal), Aldo Corzo (Deportivo Municipal), Alberto Rodríguez (Sporting Cristal), Luis Abram (Sporting Cristal), Jair Céspedes (Sporting Cristal), Miguel Trauco (Universitario) Yoshimar Yotún (Malmö FF).
Renato Tapia (Feyenoord Rotterdam), Armando Alfageme (Deportivo Municipal), Óscar Vílchez (Alianza Lima), Adán Balbín (Universitario), Christian Cueva (Toluca), Alejandro Hohberg (Universidad César Vallejo), Cristian Benavente (Sporting Charleroi), Andy Polo (Universitario), Edison Flores (Universitario).
Raúl Ruidíaz (Universitario), Beto da Silva (PSV Eindhoven), Paolo Guerrero (Flamengo).