Sports Mole previews the Copa America semi-final between two-time defending champions Chile and Peru, including predictions, team news and head-to-head records.
Chile‘s quest to become only the second team in Copa America history to lift the trophy three times in a row sees them face fierce rivals Peru in the semi-finals on Thursday morning.
La Roja go into the Porto Alegre showdown as favourites against a Peru side that has already defied the odds to make it this far, and a match against heavyweights Brazil or Argentina awaits the winners on Sunday.
Prior to 2015 Chile had never before been crowned champions of their continent, but they now stand just 90 minutes away from having the chance to win the Copa America three times in a row.
It is a feat that has only been achieved once before – by Argentina between 1945 and 1947 – and victory over Peru on Thursday would put this Chilean crop of players on the brink of joining that legendary side including Alfredo Di Stefano and all-time Copa America top-scorer Norberto Mendez in the history books.
Reinaldo Rueda‘s side are favourites to at least make the final once again – something they had not done since 1987 before this recent run – but they will be wary of complacency against a Peru side that toppled Uruguay last time out.
Chile themselves were beaten by Uruguay in the group stages and therefore had to settle for second place, despite a confident start to the competition with wins over Japan and Ecuador.
Alexis Sanchez, who has struggled so much at club level with Manchester United, appears to have rediscovered his best form with a couple of goals and the winning penalty during the quarter-final shootout triumph over Colombia.
La Roja are without a goal since that second group game against Ecuador, though, having joined the growing rank of teams to be denied by VAR as both Charles Aranguiz and Arturo Vidal saw strikes chalked off in the previous round.
A faultless showing in the shootout ensured their progress to the semi-finals, and another victory over Peru – however it comes – would show that there is still life in this golden generation following their failure to qualify for last summer’s World Cup.
Chile have already won as many games at this summer’s tournament as they did in the 12 months that preceded it, and they will hope that such a return to form will carry them all the way through to yet another title.
Either hosts Brazil or Argentina – the latter of whom they have beaten in the past two finals – will also stand in their way before that is achieved, but first they must overcome a Peru side that will be ready to pounce on any complacency from the favourites.
Recent Copa America form: WWLW
Recent form (all competitions): DWWWLW
Peru’s journey to the semi-finals has not been entirely unexpected having begun the tournament as the sixth highest-ranked CONMEBOL team in world football, but neither has it been plain-sailing.
Ricardo Gareca‘s side finished third in Group A behind Brazil and Venezuela and only made it into the knockout stages by virtue of Paraguay and Japan – the two other third-placed teams – both failing to win a game in the group stages.
The reward for their unconvincing performances in the groups, which included a goalless draw with Venezuela and 5-0 hammering at the hands of Brazil, was a difficult quarter-final tie with Uruguay.
Peru rode their luck at times as Uruguay saw three goals ruled out during the 90 minutes, but Pedro Gallese‘s save to deny Luis Suarez‘s opening penalty proved decisive as Peru stayed perfect in the shootout.
The chances of La Blanquirroja making the final for the first time since 1975 could hinge on whether they are as easy to break down as they were against Brazil or as stubborn as they were against Uruguay, but one area which certainly needs improving is their attacking record.
Peru have failed to score in three of their four Copa America outings so far in this summer’s competition and did not have a single shot on target in their quarter-final against Uruguay, so to have even made it this far with such a record is an unlikely feat.
Los Incas are no strangers to knockout Copa America football, though; they have made it through to at least the quarter-finals in each of the last eight editions of the tournament and finished third in both 2011 and 2015, incidentally losing to Chile in the semi-finals of the latter.
It is the next step up to reach the showpiece event which has proved so elusive for them over the years, though, making the final on only two occasions in their history.
Peru have won both of those finals, which bodes well should they overcome Chile, but to do so would require significant improvement in a number of areas for a side looking to win back-to-back matches for the first time since June 2018.
Recent Copa America form: DWLW
Recent form (all competitions): WLDWLW
Rueda has not made too many changes to his starting XI during this summer’s tournament, and he is unlikely to shuffle his pack much here either.
Sanchez is again expected to be the dangerman for the favourites, with Eduardo Vargas, who also has two goals to his name, joining him in attack.
No fewer than six of the current Chile squad boast more than 100 caps for their country, including all of the back four.
Peru’s team has been far less settled over the course of the tournament, but their unexpected victory over Uruguay last time out could lead to them naming an unchanged side.
Jefferson Farfan is the only doubt for Gareca’s side having missed that Uruguay shootout win through injury.
Captain Paolo Guerrero is set to lead the line once again on what would be his 98th international appearance.
Chile possible starting lineup:
Arias; Isla, Medel, Maripan, Beausejour; Aranguiz, Pulgar, Vidal; Fuenzalida, Vargas, Sanchez
Peru possible starting lineup:
Gallese; Advincula, Zambrano, Abram, Trauco; Yotun, Tapia; Carrillo, Cueva, Flores; Guerrero
Head To Head
Chile have dominated the recent history between these two bitter rivals, winning 12 of the last 14 meetings across all competitions – including the 2015 semi-final.
Thursday’s clash will be the 21st time they have met in the Copa America, with Chile winning eight of the previous 20 compared to six victories for Peru.
Peru did win the most recent contest between the two sides, though, running out comfortable 3-0 winners during a friendly in October.
We say: Chile 2-0 Peru
It is quite remarkable that Peru have even made it this far having won – and scored in – just one game inside normal time throughout this summer’s tournament. The semi-final is surely where their progress will come to an end, though, and we are backing Chile to make it into a third straight final fairly comfortably.