When the fixture for the quarterfinals of Copa America 2019 was defined, most people were looking at a Brazil-Argentina and Colombia-Uruguay semifinals. While in the first case the result was as expected, the second semifinal caught many by surprise. Both Chile and Peru eliminated favoured teams. Colombia coming out of a solid group phase performance was beaten by Chile. Meanwhile, Peru surprised many by erasing Uruguay from the tournament.
This brought the “Clasico del Pacifico” to a new semifinal game in Copa America after Chile and Peru faced each other in the same instance in 2015. Then Chile won 2-1 and ended up lifting their first Copa America of their history.
In this tactical analysis, we will go into the detail of how Peru continued their successful run under the leadership of Ricardo Gareca. After taking the team to their first World Cup last year since 1982, now the Argentine coach puts Peru in a Copa America final after almost 45 years. A clear 3-0 over Chile that erased the dream of three consecutive tournaments for “La Roja”.
Chile started the game with the names and tactical setup they repeated mostly during the tournament. A 4-3-3 with Arias as goalkeeper, Medel and Maripan as centre backs, Beausejour on the left wing and Isla on the right. In the middle, Pulgar played as defensive midfielder surrounded by Barcelona’s Vidal and Aranguiz as interiors. The three forwards were Sanchez, Vargas and Fuenzalida.
Peru on the other side played a 4-2-3-1, with Gallese as goalkeeper, Abram and Zambrano as centre backs, Trauco as left wing-back and Advincula as right wing-back. Tapia and Yotun were placed as defensive midfielders and Carrilo, Cueva and Flores positioned slightly higher. Guerrero was their striker and captain.
The game started with Peru’s tactics surprising Chile by pressuring them high. This made it difficult for “La Roja” to build-up from the back in an organized and clean manner, as they usually do. The back four were more unprecise than usual breaking the team in two and forcing long balls to Sanchez and Vargas, that were usually lost against the big Peruvian centre-backs.
On the other side, while Peru had nominally one forward, Paolo Guerrero, Cuevas unexpectedly positioned very high almost as a second forward. This forced both Medel and Maripan to be on a 1v1 when Peru attacked. Pulgar then became disoriented not knowing whether to move back as a third centre-back or to cover the middle of the pitch where he was not finding many Peruvian players. The image below shows how high the two Peruvian forwards were, and Pulgar in the middle with no clear marking.
With that positioning and using especially the speed of Advincula against Beausejour on the Peruvian right wing, Peru was able to control the game from the beginning. They managed to push back Chile and forced the game to happen in Chile’s half. Every time Chile tried to do their usual build-up from the back, with short passing especially between Vidal, Pulgar, Aranguiz, and Sanchez, the intense pressure forced them to throw long balls. The image below shows how Peru managed to install the game closer to Chile’s goal area, with wide players and full control of the game.
Every time Chile lost possession after the middle line, the sensation left was that Peru was able to cause a lot of danger offensively. Pulgar was usually wrongly positioned, and Aranguiz and Vidal were caught higher. They were frequently saw running behind the ball and the Peruvian players, that were usually faster.
This was a delicate situation for Medel and Maripan that were defending under numerical inferiority against faster and agile players. But also Chile struggled in possession. As mentioned before, the high pressure meant that Pulgar and the defence were isolated and every time they tried to build-up from the back, they didn’t have clear passes, as shown in the image below.
The second goal was a clear representation of how confused Chile was defensively and the advantage in speed that Peru had. An innocent long free kick ended with Arias out of his area and all the Chilean players caught by surprise running back to defend their goal area.
With the obligation to score two goals to force the extra time, Rueda replaced Fuenzalida for Sagal. This added more physical power and a player positioned closer to Vargas, but lost some tactical versatility. Fuenzalida is better playing off the ball and opening spaces for his teammates.
Chile started very strong, having clear chances including a header onto the post by Vargas. Using both wings with organized passing and also through long shots, especially by Aranguiz. Peru had to accommodate defensively to this and opted initially to defend with 10 out of their 11 players, leaving Guerrero as the lone striker. The image below shows Chile positioned higher with only Guerrero left high up for Peru.
As minutes passed, Chile started losing intensity in their attacks. And although they kept possession, they were less effective in penetrating the defensive line of Peru and long shots started to be more recurrent. This forced mostly Sanchez, but also some times Vargas, to move back closer to the midfield line to be able to enter in contact with the ball.
This resulted in less offensive strength close to Pedro Gallese goal, a lot of passing in the third quarter of the pitch, but no deepness in the attacks. Moreover, several cross balls of Beausejour into the goal area was met with one or mostly two Chilean men in the Peruvian goal area.
And when “La Roja” was able to create danger, they were faced against an outstanding game by the Peruvian goalkeeper Gallese, that had at least four goal chances brilliantly saved. Check the sequence below that reflects how forcing Sanchez and Vargas (first and second image respectively) to move back resulted in low offensive volume when finishing the play (third image).
When Peru accommodated themselves defensively, they became very dangerous in the attack. Knowing Chile was leaving wide spaced behind, they started using even more the speed of their interiors. Cuevas, Gonzales and Carrillo, and also their wing-backs, Advincula and Trauco had plenty of spaces to penetrate Chile’s defence with and without the ball. With fast transitions and plenty of spaces, Peru generated some very clear chances to increase their 2-0 lead. Unfortunately for them, their players were not precise enough to finish some good collective moves.
With the game closer to the end, Peru was able to score their third and last goal after a good team play was nicely finished by Paolo Guerrero. Chile had one last chance to avoid ending the game scoreless, but Vargas unexplainably executed a “Panenka” in a last-minute penalty kick that was easily caught by Gallese.
Peru had a great game and will deservedly be playing the final game against Brazil. They faced each other in the group phase, where Brazil had their best game of the tournament so far, beating Peru 5-0. But finals are a completely different story and the game will be open to any team. Peruvian players under Gareca have had an immense tactical development, knowing exactly how to adapt when the game is changing, when to defend, when to keep possession or when to change the pace of the game. They may be the underdogs on Sunday, but they have the capacity to surprise anyone, as they did with Chile and Uruguay.
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