Peru advance to semis, Chile loom
SALVADOR, Brazil, June 30, (RTRS): Luis Suarez missed in the shootout as fifteen-time Copa America chavmpions Uruguay suffered a galling quarter-final exit on Saturday to Peru, losing 5-4 on penalties after they had three goals ruled out in a 0-0 draw after 90 minutes.
Suarez spurned the first penalty in the shootout as his shot bounced off the chest of Peru goalkeeper Pedro Gallese, completing a frustrating evening for Uruguay’s all-time top scorer, who also had an effort ruled out for offside.
Every other player converted their spot kicks and Edison Flores sealed unfancied Peru’s place in the last four by blasting past Fernando Muslera.
Peru will face neighbours Chile in the last four, with tournament hosts Brazil meeting arch rivals Argentina in the other semifinal clash.
“I am very proud. I am speechless,” Peru striker Paolo Guerrero told reporters after scoring in the shootout.
“Lots of people said we don’t have the desire, some people tried to destabilise the squad but we showed what we are capable of on the pitch, we showed we have fighting spirit and courage.
“People said before Uruguay were the favourites but being favourites means nothing in football, especially in South America.”
Uruguay dominated the play during the game but Giorgian de Arrascaeta, Edinson Cavani and then Suarez all had goals chalked off for offside which were each verified by VAR checks.
They became the third team in this tournament to lose a quarter-final tie on penalties after a goalless draw after Paraguay were beaten by Brazil and Chile beat Colombia on spot-kicks.
There is no extra time in Copa America quarter-finals in the event of a draw, although 30 minutes will be added on in the semifinals and final if necessary.
Uruguay defender Diego Godin lamented his side’s inability to convert their chances.
“We were just missing a goal, we kept looking for it but it didn’t come and if we had scored it would have been a different game,” he said.
“We played well, but unfortunately we’ve been knocked out. We couldn’t score and they struck their penalties better than we did.”
Uruguay won the Copa America for a record 15th time in 2011 but they have underachieved in their last three appearances, losing to Chile in the last eight in 2015 and exiting in the group stage in 2016.
Meanwhile, Lionel Messi has not been at his best at the Copa America but Brazil defender Thiago Silva says his side will not take their eyes off the Argentina captain for a minute in their semifinal on Tuesday.
“He is the best player in the world and he still could spring to life,” Silva told a news conference on Saturday ahead of the first Copa meeting between the sides since the 2007 final, which Brazil won 3-0.
“We will have to be especially focused on him when we have the ball and when we don’t. Sometimes he can be at walking pace during a game but he’s always looking for space to launch a counterattack.
“It’s a privilege to be able to face him again and we’ll have to try and put the brakes on him.”
Messi has scored once in the tournament – from the penalty spot – and has acknowledged he is not playing at his usual level. He had only three shots during his side’s 2-0 win over Venezuela in the quarter-finals, none of which hit the target.
“The truth is I’m not having my best Copa America, it’s always very difficult for us because we want to do something different and attack and teams pack out the middle of the pitch,” he said.
“No one is giving anything away cheaply in this Copa, it’s very difficult to play because the pitches are very bad, it’s shameful. The ball is like a rabbit, it can go anywhere and you can’t dribble.”
Argentina winger Angel di Maria says Messi is working hard for the team even if he is not making it onto the scoresheet.
“We are used to seeing him score goals but Leo is doing very well, he is running a lot, he is working hard,” he said.
“He knows more than anyone that at this Copa America the first thing you need to do is run, then you can think about the rest, playing well and scoring.”