Humble beginnings for Los Incas
Peru entered this tournament to gain experience. Peruvian head coach Ricardo Gareca left out multiple big stars from the national team for the tournament. The likes off: Jefferson Farfán, Claudio Pizarro, Juan Vargas and Carlos Zambrano were left off the 23-man-roster.
Gareca instead decided to bring Christian Ramos, Alberto Rodriguez, Pedro Gallese, Yoshimar Yotun, Christian Cueva and Paolo Guerrero to lead the team through a difficult group. Nations like Brazil, Ecuador, and Haiti were waiting for the Peruvians.
To show how inexperienced Peru was entering the tournament, Ramos, Rodriguez, Gallese, Yotun, Cueva and Guerrero made up for 264 of the 386 total caps that were on the team when they kicked off the Copa America. This roster was expected to finish in third and be heading back to Peru after the group stages.
How Peru stunned the world
However, after Peru beat Haiti 1-0 in their opener on June 4th at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, Washington there was some hope that they might advance.
A victory in their second match against Ecuador on June eighth in the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona automatically placed them in the quarterfinals. The Peruvians got off to a dream start with a 2-0 lead by the first 15 minutes of the match.
However, Peru began to fall apart and the Ecuadorians started the comeback. Ecuador's Enner Valencia got things going by cutting the lead in half in the 39th minute.
In the second half, Ecuador completely took over the match and attempted to go for the three points. However, the match ended in a 2-2 draw and Peru second round lives were now in trouble.
The only way Peru were going to the quarterfinals was by beating Brazil. Peru had only defeated the Samba Kings a total of three times out of a possible 42 matches.
The last victory against the Brazil was on April 28th, 1985. Peru escaped Brazil with a narrow 1-0 win in a friendly. However, the last time Peru beat the Brazil in a competitive match was in the 1975 Copa America.
It was no surprise that before the game took place on Sunday at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts, Brazil were the favorites to advance. The Samba Kings started the match on fire bombarding Los Incas defense.
The Peruvians did not register their first shot on target till the second half. However, through a bit of luck, La Blanquirroja was able to win the game 1-0 by a handball from Peru's Raul Ruidiaz.
How the group ended
Peru's fourth overall victory against Brazil placed them in first with seven points. Ecuador finished in second with five points.
As for the Brazilians, that defeat eliminated them from the Copa America. They finished in third place with four points. In last of the group, was Haiti with zero points and a negative 11 goal differential.
The Samba Kings sent home
The Brazilians entered as one of the favorites to win the tournament. Even without Neymar they were expected to at least reach the semifinals. However, the once exciting and vibrant attack of Brazil was gone.
The skill was there with players like Philippe Coutinho, Willian, and Lucas Moura. On paper, it seemed like the Brazilians had a lethal attack as they finished with seven goals. Brazil was tied with Argentina and Chile for the most goals scored in the group stages.
However, all seven of their goals came against Haiti in their second match. When it came time to facing fellow CONMEBOL rivals Ecuador and Peru were kept scoreless. The chances were there but nothing resulted from them and now they are eliminated from the Copa America. In result, Brazil's head coach Dunga was fired by the Brazilian Federation on Tuesday.
Who Peru and Ecuador face in the quarters
The Peruvians will be traveling to New Jersey to face Colombia for the 62nd time on Friday at MetLife Stadium. As for the Ecuadorians, they will be heading to the state of Washington to take on the host nation, the United States on Thursday at CenturyLink Field.