Manager: Sergio Markarian
Group: C (with Chile, Mexico and Uruguay)
Copa America title betting odds: 100/1
Qualifying for quarter-finals odds: 17/10
Group winner odds: 16/1
Finishing in the top two in group odds: 6/1
Copa America 2007 performance: Quarter-finals
Best Copa America performance: Winner (1939, 1975)
How are they shaping up?
World Cup betting fans with an interest in the CONMEBOL qualifying section will know that Peru finished rock bottom of the ten participants aiming to reach last summer’s tournament in South Africa. But since then, their form has been surprisingly impressive, having only suffered one defeat in 11 friendly matches dating back to the start of the 2010-11 season. Admittedly, the opposition they have seen off – Canada, Jamaica, Costa Rica, Panama and a youthful Senegal side – are not the strongest. However, it is worth noting that they have not even conceded a goal in the six matches they have played so far in 2011, which suggests that they are better organised and more solid defensively under Markarian, who was appointed last July.
With this in mind, the 17/10 betting odds made available by bwin for Peru to reach the quarter-finals could attract some interest. The whole country will certainly be keeping their fingers crossed for good news on the fitness of key men Jefferson Farfan and Juan Manuel Vargas, with former Chelsea star Claudio Pizarro already ruled out of the tournament through injury. Farfan tweaked his left thigh muscle in training last week and is presumably facing a race against time to be fit for Peru’s opener against Uruguay, while Markarian is more confident that Fiorentina man Vargas will be ready.
Despite these worries, Peru will look at Group C and think they have a great chance of sneaking into the last eight. Of course, World Cup semi-finalists Uruguay will present a stern test. But beyond that, for all their talent and attractive football, Chile remain unpredictable and have a leaky defence, while Mexico are bringing a shadow side to Argentina after their exertions at the recent Gold Cup. If Peru can maintain their new-found defensive solidity, keep the likes of Farfan and Vargas fit and get Paolo Guerrero to step up with some goals in Pizarro’s absence, they may yet surprise a few people at the Copa America.
Caps: 40 Goals: 12
At the time of writing, Peru are yet to announce their final squad for the Copa America and that is probably because they want to wait until the last minute to confirm Farfan’s availability. A pacey forward who can play on either wing or up front, the 26-year-old is a well-known figure in Europe after successful spells at PSV and Schalke, having reached the semi-finals of the Champions League with both teams.
Farfan is something of an enigma, in the sense that he can be superb one moment and dreadful the next, but there is no doubt he will give Peru’s opponents something to think about if he recovers in time to make the cut.
The rules of the Copa America dictate that four teams must be eliminated in the group stages, but Peru may just be able to avoid being one of them. With Costa Rica and Mexico both under-strength, it is not unreasonable to predict that they will be sent packing early.
That leaves Bolivia and Venezuela as the most likely duo to fill the remaining two exit slots, and although both finished above Peru in qualifying for the 2010 World Cup, I’m backing them to come good and squeeze through as one of the best third-placed teams. As this would see them pitched into a probable quarter-final against either Argentina or Brazil, a last-eight berth is surely the height of their ambitions.
Verdict: Eliminated in quarter-finals
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