Many in Colombia were expecting to face Brazil on Friday’s Copa América Centenario quarterfinal match at MetLife Stadium (8 pm ET; FS1, UniMás, UDN). But it all changed at the 75th minute last Sunday, when Raúl Ruidíaz scored a controversial goal against the Canarinha that sent Peru to the second round of the tournament at Brazil's expense.
Colombia fans on social media expressed their relief about not having to play against the five-time world champions, although Peru hasn’t been an easy task historically for Los Cafeteros. Colombia haven’t been able to beat Peru the last three times they’ve played each other in Copa América competition, with their most recent win dating back to the 2001 quarterfinals, when Colombia won the title at home.
To add to Peru’s recent superiority over the Cafeteros in this tournament, Colombia haven’t reached the semifinals since 2004 -- three editions ago. In the meantime, Peru has finished third in the past two Copas América.
“We know Peru’s potential. It’s a team that has renovated itself a lot with new young players,” said midfielder Sebastián Pérez at a press conference at the team hotel. “We need to work and maintain concentration defensively in order to bring security to the team.”
Nonetheless, Colombia come to the game on Friday with a confidence befitting the No. 3-ranked team in the world.
“We’re very confident and know what we can do, based on a team effort with an intense and aggressive game,” said Colombia assistant coach Patricio Camps. “We need to believe we’re an important team and that we’re still growing. We’ve got to keep our competitiveness level with mobility and compromise.”
Colombia were eliminated by Argentina in the quarterfinals of the 2015 Copa America on penalty kicks, following a scoreless draw. After seven shots, three Colombian players missed their attempts, which gave Argentina a place in the semifinals.
Just like last year, for this Copa América, there won’t be two periods of extra time until the final, meaning that if the games are still tied after the regulation 90 minutes, the outcome will be decided from the penalty spot. Colombia don’t seem worried about that.
“To be honest, we’re not thinking about going to penalties. We want to win in 90 minutes and we know we can do it,” Pérez said. “We’ve analyzed Peru very well and we’re a team that’s growing. We never think about tying a game, because obviously we want to win.”
That self-assurance puts Colombia as the favorites to go through, just like in 2011 when Peru knocked them out in quarterfinals. Ricardo Gareca, the Argentine leading a new crop of Peruvian players since he took over as head coach last year, doesn’t pay much attention to those external aspects of this game.
“Against Colombia we’ll face a very tough opponent and we have to work just like we played against Brazil,” said Gareca earlier in the week when arriving to the New Jersey area. “Favoritism is a media-driven label, because there are very strong teams [in the quarterfinals]. Then, there comes what we believe our potential is, and we’re sure we have the conditions for a great game.”
Peru and Colombia have faced each other 15 times in Copa América, with seven wins for La Blanquirroja and only two for the Cafeteros. Friday’s game will also be the second meeting between both countries in US soil during an official competition, after they were invited to the 2000 CONCACAF Gold Cup, where Colombia defeated Peru 2-1 in the semifinals.