Brazil and Peru will do battle on Sunday to be crowned kings of South America, as they meet in the Copa America final (stream it at 4 p.m. ET on ESPN+). Ahead of their contest, Gabriele Marcotti looks at how the pair got this far and how they’ll match up at the Maracana.
== MATCH INFO ==
Copa America – 2019
Team : Peru vs Brazil
Date : Sunday, July 7
Start Time : 4:00 Pm Et
Brazil went into the Copa America as heavy favourites, despite the loss of Neymar to injury before the tournament, and that hasn’t really changed. Coach Tite has restored pride and enthusiasm to the Green and Gold following the fallow years under Luiz Felipe Scolari and Dunga and remains very popular. His brand of football is very team-oriented, and in some ways, Neymar’s absence has been a blessing in disguise in that regard.
Peru reached the semifinal of the Copa Centenario in 2016 and qualified for their first World Cup in 36 years in 2018. Buoyed by tremendous fan support everywhere they go, the Incas hoped to be dark horses in this Copa America.
Brazil knew they’d be facing packed defenses and opponents looking to counter, and that’s pretty much what happened. They overcame Bolivia with three second-half goals in the group-stage opener, were held by Venezuela in a scoreless draw and trounced Peru 5-0. It was one-way traffic against Paraguay as well, though their opponents hung in there to take them to penalties. The biggest test — in a mental as well as footballing sense — came against Argentina and Lionel Messi, but they advanced 2-0, despite some VAR controversy and the opposition hitting the crossbar twice.
Peru were also held by Venezuela and had to come from behind to get past Bolivia 3-1. The heavy loss to Brazil needs to be seen in context (Peru knew they had qualified), but it might still be a harbinger for the final. They were hammered again by Uruguay in the quarterfinal — the opposition had three goals disallowed, and Peru failed to record a single shot on target — but hung in there to advance on penalty kicks. Underdogs against Chile, they finally clicked into gear, beating the defending Copa America champions 3-0, and turned in their best performance of the tournament. This is their first final since they won the competition way back in 1975.
Brazil’s third all-time leading goal scorer (behind Pele and the original Ronaldo) was ruled out of the tournament with a ligament injury a month ago. It was his third major injury in the past two seasons. He has had legal issues and is embroiled in speculation linking him to a move away from Paris Saint-Germain. Given all that, the absence of the world’s most expensive player might have been a case of addition by subtraction, as Brazil have looked more cohesive and dynamic without him.
The veteran forward hurt his knee in the defeat against Brazil, and while he brings plenty of experience and technical ability, he’s also 34 years old, and the legs aren’t what they once were. Peru coach Ricardo Gareca seized the opportunity to redesign his flanks by inserting Andre Carrillo and Edison Flores, both of whom were very effective against Chile.