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One big-hitter, three surprises left at Copa
Published : 18 Jul 2011 19:30:07
A weekend of quarter-final shocks has left the Copa America shorn of some of its biggest names, leading fans of Uruguay to dream of what would be a record 15th title.
Uruguay came here as essentially third favourites behind usual suspects Brazil, the holders, and Argentina, the hosts.
But having survived a nervous start to progress from their group and then dump out the Argentinians on penalties, the albiceleste, World Cup semi-finalists last year, appear well-placed going into a Tuesday meeting with Peru.
Uruguay have tradition behind them even more than the Brazilians, having been in on the start of the Copa adventure right at the start when the world's oldest international tournament began life in 1916.
The celeste won the inaugural event -- in Argentina -- and, with their close neighbours, dominated the early years while also famously lifting the first World Cup in 1930 before adding a second global title in 1950.
Since those heady days the Charruas have lived in Argentinian and Brazilian shadows -- though they did win the Copa on home soil in 1995.
Now, with Diego Forlan, the star of last summer's World Cup, keen to land a first international title at the age of 32 having just won a Uruguayan record 80th cap against Argentina, and with Liverpool striker Luis Suarez maturing rapidly, the Uruguayans feel this year's title can be theirs.
First, however, they must beat a determined Peru, who held them in the group phase before stunning fancied Colombia in another quarter-final shock.
Each of the quarters saw results going the way of the underdog with the Uruguayans edging out an Argentina side still unable to draw the best from Lionel Messi.
Brazil went out to Paraguay after a woeful penalty shootout, Peru stunned the Colombians in extra-time, while Venezuela saw off a useful-looking Chile to reach the semis for the first time ever.
The Venezuelans will take on Paraguay in the second semi-final on Wednesday in Mendoza.
When those two met in the first phase they served up the match of the tournament to date with Venezuela snatching a 3-3 draw, coming from 3-1 down with two goals in the dying minutes.
Although the form book has been thrown out of the window here, the Uruguayans will attempt to retrieve it and dust it down as they now take on the favourites' role.
Forlan's men have qualified for the semis for the fifth time in succession and coach Oscar Tabarez says now they have to revise their ambitions upwards as they smell a first title since 1995.
"Peru are going to give us a tough game. We have now reached our minimum pre-tournament objective and we have to raise our ambitions," says Tabarez.
Uruguay, who will be without suspended midfielder Diego Perez, have beaten the Peruvians 11 times with the Incas winning just six meetings.
Peru finished bottom of the South American group in qualifying for the 2010 World Cup and came here without injured forwards Claudio Pizarro and Jefferson Farfan.
But under Uruguayan coach Sergio Markarian they have been a revelation and stunned Colombia with goals from Carlos Lobaton and Juan Vargas.
"Peruvian football has endured some frustrating years and this generation of players inherited the deadweight of this recent history for which they are not responsable. We must shoulder this weight," says Markarian as the Peruvians attempt to win a third crown and first since 1975.
At La Plata, (0045GMT Wednesday)
Peru v Uruguay
At Mendoza, (0045GMT Thursday)
Venezuela v Paraguay