Wily coaches prepare Peru, Colombia for chess match in Copa quarterfinal

East Rutherford, N.J. – Colombia head coach José Pékerman has put Saturday's loss to Costa Rica far behind him.

In the wake of that surprising setback, the Cafeteros boss plans to bring back the attractive style of soccer his team is known for when they meet Peru in Friday's Copa America Centenario quarterfinal match at a sold-out MetLife Stadium (8 pm ET; FS1, UniMás). 

“Colombia for the past few years have shown an important level and have gained the respect from national teams around the world,” said Pékerman Thursday night at his pre-match press conference. “We have gained that place because we’re protagonists, we compete to win and don’t hesitate to attack.

“Our three key aspects for this game are balance, efficiency and audacity.”

But Peru will not be as easy as some Colombians fans expect. Peru head coach Ricardo Gareca has identified the Cafeteros’ strengths and underlined his team’s willingness to overcome their adversaries, albeit with a different approach than the one that helped them upset Brazil to reach this point.

“Against Brazil we just neutralized the rival and forgot to play our game, mainly in the first half,” said Gareca, known as “El Tigre,” Thursday night. "Hopefully we don't have [another] game like that one, because even though we beat them, it doesn't guarantee us a victory over Colombia."

Both Argentine coaches recognized the other’s collective and individual strengths, and acknowledged the difficulty this game presents.

For Colombia, it will ultimately come down to their strength in midfield. Just like the game against Costa Rica, Pékerman is planning on some variations for the remainder of the tournament.

“We came to this Copa to work different combinations. Even if it’s a historic cup, we can’t forget what this national team needs,” he said. “We have found some positives and some negatives while doing so, and our system will change because this is a defining match.

 Any change we make [to our lineup] will be to strengthen the team where it needs it, and provide solutions when something is lacking.” 

For Peru, the key to victory likely lies on the wings.

“It’s going to be an important challenge, because [this game] will test our concentration to the extreme: Players like [Paolo] Guerrero, [Carlos] Cueva and [Edinson] Flores who combine very well with their fullbacks,” added the Colombia coach. 

A lethal striker during his own successful playing career Gareca has been preparing his young Peru team to achieve beyond expectations. The fact he played for Colombian club América de Cali back in the 1980s, and coached the Diablos Rojos and Independiente Santa Fe in the past decade, gives “El Tigre” some advantage in preparing for the Colombians.

“We have faced each other many times recently. We know each other and it will be a very tough game for us,” said Gareca. “I know the Colombian players very well. They’re very talented and similar to the Peruvian player.”

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