Chile-Peru, the ‘Clásico del Pacifico’, initially looks like it should be an open route for Chile to the final. Chile have arguably their greatest ever group of players while this current Peruvian team crashed out of the 2014 World Cup qualifiers dead bottom of all the South American teams. In the entire history of the fixture Chile have 41 wins to Peru’s 21.
But the Copa America has traditionally been a different tale, Chile with 7 wins to Peru´s 6, and with the pressure mounting on Chile to finally the tournament for the first time on home soil, Peru have everything to play for. The tactical battle should see Peru hoping to stifle the red tide before hitting quickly on the counter and in the air. However the biggest risk for Chile is losing their heads and getting into a scrappy game that marginalises their more talented players.
Chile are likely to continued with their flexible 4-3-1-2 shape, with Marcelo Diaz dropping deep to help the defence while the full-backs bomb forwards. With Gonzalo Jara’s three-match ban, José Rojas is the most likely to partner Gary Medel in the central defence, though his lack of pace will be a worry. Miiko Albornoz is another option, a left-back by trade but who Jorge Sampaoli has already turned to in the tournament.
In the attack, Jorge Valdivia continues to be the key man, linking the manic whirl of Aranguiz, Vidal, Sanchez and Vargas. If Peru can’t stifle the Chilean playmaker then they’ll be in for a tough night, and they will almost certainly have to drop deep against the red tide, while being careful not to give away too many fouls. Chile have already benefited from penalties during the Copa and Alexis Sanchez is always ready to show the ball to a defender before whipping it cruelly away
Paolo Guerrero’s hat-trick against Bolivia clearly marked him as the danger man, who will look to exploit the space left behind an adventurous Chilean defence while also being a threat in the air and ready to spring on any loose ball. Peru will look to feed the ball into him as early as possible, either from the wings where Juan Manuel Vargas and Christian Cueva are a very dangerous pair down the left or via the centre where Jefferson Farfan and Claudio Pizarro are experienced attackers who are ready to combine with Guerrero.
The real issue lies in whether their deep-lying midfielders, Lobatón and Ballón, have what it takes to protect their defence and stop the back-four from being dragged out of position.
Will La Roja see red?
If the match were decided by the talent on either side, Chile should win it easily, but Peru will be looking to throw them off their rhythm. Against Uruguay, it was the Chileans who ultimately benefited from the bad tempered nature of the game but it could easily have swung the other way.
Claudio Pizarro has set the stage with a heavily-publicised declaration that he hopes the “referee won’t let himself be influenced by the crowd” and they would surely benefit from a scrappy game. If Peru can turn it into the kind of physical battle in which Valdivia often gets frustrated and fades, Chile could lose their rhythm and become impatient in front of a frenzied home crowd.
After the controversy of Jara’s incident with Cavani, the Chileans may have to be on their best behaviour and the Peruvians could look to take advantage, but it will be a dangerous game to play if they give away too many fouls.