Haiti vs. Peru - June 4, 2016 - ExLink Image

Haiti vs. Peru
Copa America Centenario
June 4 | 7:30 pm ET | CenturyLink Field, Seattle, Washington
TV: FS2, Univision, UDN

It’s only their first game, but the stakes couldn’t be higher for Group B underdogs Haiti and Peru ahead of their Copa America Centenario opener against each other on Saturday. Both countries will likely need a win in order to have any shot of advancing out of Group B, which also features tournament heavyweights Brazil and a talented Ecuador side.


SUCCESSFUL SUMMERS, BUT… 


Both teams were surprisingly successful last summer, with Haiti finishing second in Group A to reach the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Gold Cup and Peru making their second-straight Copa America semifinal before bowing out to hosts and eventual champs Chile.


Unfortunately, neither country has been able to build on their successful 2015 runs in their current World Cup qualifying campaigns. Haiti have already been all but eliminated in CONCACAF qualifying, with their 0-3-1 fourth-round record giving them virtually no shot of advancing to the Hexagonal. Peru haven’t fared much better; they currently sit in eighth in CONMEBOL at 1-4-1.


HOLDING HAITI


The Haitians typically take a very conservative approach to matches. They prefer to sit deep, stay organized, hit on the counter when they can and take their chances in a low-scoring affair. While that strategy hasn’t led to many results for Les Grenadiers, it has kept their opponents off the board. Prior to their 3-1 friendly loss to Colombia on Sunday, there hadn’t been more than one goal scored in any of Haiti’s previous five matches.


THREE'S COMPANY


As was the case in the 2011 and 2015 tournaments, Peru aren’t favored to get out of the group this Copa America. Of course, that didn’t stop them in Argentina and Chile, where the Peruvians not only advanced to the knockout rounds, but made it all the way to the semifinals before being eliminated.


PERU POWER 


Whether or not the back-to-back third-place finishers advance this time around will depend heavily on players based in Peru’s domestic league. Manager Ricardo Gareca leaned very heavily on the domestic league for his Copa roster, with 18 of his final 23 playing their club ball in Peru. That reliance on the Peruvian Primera left some longtime internationals off the Centenario roster, with notable players Claudio Pizarro and Jefferson Farfan not even making the country’s preliminary squad.


THE STAR YOU KNOW


  • Paolo Guerrero, forward, Peru – Fans of South American soccer will be plenty familiar with Guerrero, who has 26 goals in 67 career international appearances and 10 goals in his last 12 Copa America appearances. The Flamengo striker, formerly of Bayern Munich and Hamburg, has played every minute of Peru’s World Cup qualifying campaign, notching two goals in six matches.


THE PLAYER WHO WILL SURPRISE YOU


  • Duckens Nazon, forward, Haiti – With apologies to Sporting Kansas City man Soni Mustivar, Nazon is the one to watch for Haiti. The 22-year-old, who plays for Laval in France’s Ligue 2, scored both of Haiti’s goal in last summer’s Gold Cup and has played in all five of their matches leading up to the tournament.