Peru: In Search of MagicBy: Juan Mesa
Peru made the podium in the 2011 Copa América. They finished third, yet failure to qualify for the World Cup melted that bronze medal and reminded everybody that Peru’s best years in soccer—the ’70s—are now basically a prehistoric tale.
In Chile 2015, the team of the diagonal red stripe will be playing Brazil, Colombia and Venezuela in group C with recently appointed Argentine star Ricardo Gareca at the helm.
BIGGEST STRENGTH: The beginning of Gareca’s era in charge of Peru coincides with the last chance of a group of brilliant players —Juan Manuel Vargas, Claudio Pizarro, Jefferson Farfán and Paolo Guerrero—to make Peruvians proud and bring back the glory days. They need to build a foundation for the new Peruvian team and leave a legacy.
BIGGEST WEAKNESS: Gareca has had only two months to prepare a competitive team. This is not an ideal state of affairs to sync veterans with newcomers and to design and implement new tactics.
COPA AMÉRICA CHANCES: Copa América brings good memories to Peruvians after winning it in 1939 and 1975. This time around, they are debuting against the World Cup–hurt Brazil, which means the matches against Colombia and Venezuela will be life-or-death affairs. Nobody is betting on such a quickly assembled team to make it very far this time, yet the many Peruvians residing in Chile could give them an extra boost of confidence in tight matches.
FUN FACT YOU NEED TO KNOW:Peru reached the cusp of South American soccer in 1975 when they won their second Copa América. They beat Colombia in the final when the tournament wasn’t played in a specific country. Players like Hugo Sotil, Héctor Chumpitaz and Teófilo Cubillas gave shape to a team often remembered as one of the most magical “ballets” in soccer history.
IF THEY WERE A MOVIE, IT WOULD BE: Space Jam. An evil force must have stolen Peru’s talents.