News : Copa América: Peru in Final – After 44 years back at the top

News :

Copa América: Peru in Final - After 44 years back at the top

On 4 October 1975, the footballing luck of a nation was suddenly in the hands of a 14-year-old girl. Verónica Salinas reached into an improvised lottery drum, pulled out a folded sheet and made sure that Peru's national team entered the final of the Copa América. A little later, the team won the final against Colombia. This victory in the South American Championship at that time is still the greatest success of Peruvian football. It was the second Copa triumph after winning in 1939.

Verónica Salinas (right) gave Peru the final in 1975

El Comercio / ZUMA Press / imago images

Verónica Salinas (right) gave Peru the final in 1975

Made possible by a golden generation of players with names that still sound in Germany: Teófilo Cubillas, Hugo Sotil and Héctor Chumpitaz. But now ex-HSV professional Paolo Guerrero and his teammates this success as possible on Sunday in the final (22 clock, stream: Dazn) repeat the current Copa América.

The game will take place in the Maracanã Stadium of Rio de Janeiro, opponent is host Brazil. The takes the mating only conditionally serious. After Peru's final, Seleçao captain Dani Alves tweeted just two words: "That's it" and hung a thoughtful smiley. Finally, the Brazilians had the Peruvians in the group match 5: 0 vermöbelt.

In Peru, this arrogance was not good at all. It was recalled that in the Copa semi-final, more than four decades ago, the Peruvians eventually defeated Brazil, even though it was controversial and at a sort of "green table". That at that time had to decide the lot about the entry into the final of the Copa, was due to a gap in the regulations.

Peruvian as Losfee

The Copa lasted for several weeks and was played back and forth. Peru had won Brazil's 3-1 semi-final first leg at Belo Horizonte's Minerão, but lost 2-0 to Lima in the second leg. Since the away goals rule was not known and otherwise was not regulated, what should be done with a balanced goal ratio, the officials decided on the same evening, one may still decide the lot. The choice of the Losfee fell two hours later on Verónica Salinas, daughter of Teófilo Salinas, who was not only president of the South American Football Association, but also Peruvians. Brazil's quiet protests at this lottery decision were unheard of.

Nowadays, when Peru's heroes look back on this epoch of the 1970s, there is sadness. "This generation has been more important than winning," said Juan Carlos Oblitas of the Spanish newspaper El País. "She saved the football". Oblitas, now director of national teams in the Peruvian federation (FPF), was the left winger of this golden generation. His nickname was "El Ciego," the blind man. Oblitas wore contact lenses.

Carlos Oblitas:

Werek / imago images

Carlos Oblitas: "This generation has achieved something even more important than winning."

Thus, "El Ciego" still remembers that the left military government under General Juan Velasco wanted to "re-amateurize" professional football back then. The idea was after the Copa win history, not only because of the Peruvian victory, but also because General Velasco was overthrown during the tournament.

For decades in the sinking

Once again, this successful generation made a name for itself, three years later at the 1978 World Cup. Against host Argentina, then under a military dictatorship, the already retired Peru lost 0-6 - now it is known that Argentina presumably with bribery and political pressure he bought. The victory was just enough for Argentina to reach the final.

Peru qualified for the World Cup in Spain in 1982, but lost without a win, and then sank the Peruvian football in insignificance.

Only Ricardo Gareca got him out of there again. The Stoic Argentinian with the creaky voice has been the national coach since 2015, and he has led the strong generation around former Bundesliga pros Guerrero and Jefferson Farfán (formerly Schalke 04) to success. Peru finished third at the Copa América 2015 and raced to 2018 for the first time in 2018 after 36 years.

The aesthetics sacrificed for success

With Gareca, Peru has left the "loser mentality" behind, says national team director Oblitas. It used to be called Peru plays well, but does not win. That is different now. It's the other way around with this Copa America. The red whites play mostly unsightly, but victorious. Only against Chile could Peru convince aesthetically and earned a deserved final.

Apparently, Gareca himself was surprised. After the semifinals, he seemed almost as if he felt the endgame as a burden. "Well," said Gareca, "when you're in a final, there's no way you want to win it." The day before the match he sounded even more optimistic: "Today we are able to fight for titles and are prepared to win this final". With the victories against Uruguay and Chile in the quarter and semi-finals, his team has brought the necessary self-confidence to meet a "big opponent as Brazil," said the 61-year-old.

From 1996 to 2014, Gareca trained club teams in Argentina, Colombia, Peru and Brazil

Juan Mabromata / AFP

From 1996 to 2014, Gareca trained club teams in Argentina, Colombia, Peru and Brazil

Perhaps this serenity is also related to the fact that Gareca recently read about the silly thread of his life once during his active career. "El Tigre", the tiger, as Gareca was called to his active time, was a sought-after striker in the eighties. He played for the two major clubs in Buenos Aires, Boca Juniors and River Plate, and in 1985 he moved to Colombia for four years, where he became legendary with América de Cali thanks to 57 goals in 116 games.

But América was then the club of the Cali cartel, which was in a war with the Medellín cartel of Pablo Escobar. Escobar has wanted to kill Gareca for a long time, said Jhon Jairo Velázquez, aka "Popeye", the Peruvian newspaper "El Popular". The striker was to be murdered with a "Carro Bomba", a car bomb, told the former chief killer and bodyguard of Escobar. Only the love of his boss for football had him but rethink.

Gareca said he had not the least inkling of it: "I have had sensational years in Colombia."

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