TWO OF COMPETITION’S SURPRISES FACE OFF
Peru finished 3rd in Group C, but that doesn’t even begin to describe their impressive performances. A 1-1 draw with Uruguay, a 1-0 win over over Mexico that could have been 3, and a last minute own goal against Chile with two weakened sides playing- not bad at all, considering Uruguay were the fourth best team in the world in 2010, Chile might have been, had they not run into Spain and Brazil, and Mexico seemed about even with Peru at the beginning of the tournament.
In recent times, World Cup qualification has never looked so likely. But it is still daunting:
– Argentina, with Brazil as hosts, should qualify comfortably
– Chile were better than all but Brazil in 2010 qualifying.
– Paraguay has a team equal parts talent and determination.
-Colombia have a young team that should peak at the World Cup.
– A new-look Uruguay will be there or thereabouts.
– Venezuela, suited for tournament play, could fall short of expectations.
– Ecuador have players like Valencia and Caicedo.
– Bolivia can beat anyone in La Paz.
Where do Peru, 10th in 2010, rank?
Less surprising is the presence of Colombia in the quarterfinals. Falcao, Guarin, and Yepes make for a good team on paper, but there is always something below the surface with Colombia. The manner in which they advanced emphatically ended all but one, age-old, doubt: can they score?
Carmona’s replacement: A regular defensive starter for Peru, Giancarlo Carmona, is suspended for this game. How his replacement fares will have a massive influence on the game.
Adrian Ramos and Giovanni Moreno: Colombia’s two wingers will have to take some pressure off Falcao, along with his Porto teammate Guarin.
Paolo Guerrero and Radamel Falcao: Both teams put the attacking burden on only one player, and any goals in this match should come from them, with the five-man midfields cancelling each other out.
J. Manuel Vargas: Peru’s star. Only four starters play in Europe, and Vargas is by far the best. Inconsistent, though, and he could be the difference.
FOUR REASONS PERU WILL WIN:
1. Can Colombia score?: They dominated Group A, but even against Bolivia they only scored two. They should have scored two more goals in each of their games. Is it overreliance on Falcao?
2. Test the defense early and often: Bolivia and Costa Rica aren’t the best games to see just how good Colombia’s “D” is. They did well against Argentina, but Peru should hit them while they are rusty.
3. Counter-attacks: Peru haven’t had much possession in their three games, and it hasn’t stopped them.
4. Gomez’ erratic substitutions: It’s nitpicking, but there hasn’t been any rhyme or reason to Colombia’s substitutions.
FOUR REASONS COLOMBIA WILL WIN:
1. Peru might not be for real: The Uruguayans were the better side in Peru’s 1-1 draw with them, and Chile and Peru were both understrength when they played, so don’t read a lot into Peru’s competitiveness.
2. Peru are still understrength: Vargas is getting better, but Carmona is suspended, and Farfan and Pizarro injured.
3. Counter-attacks: If Colombia can’t score on a normal attack, they can on a counter-attack. More reason Carmona’s absence will hurt Peru.
4. Falcao: Doesn”t look out of place for Colombia anymore. Can he build chemistry and play like he has for Porto? Fredy Guarin, Porto teammate, is with him.
COLOMBIA 1-0 PERU
One goal is enough, but no shame for Peru.