PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil – Chile and Peru, two of the biggest rivals in South American soccer, are set to meet on Wednesday in the semifinals of the Copa America, with a shot at a third straight title in the regional tournament on the line for the Chileans.
The “Clasico del Pacifico” between Chile and Peru is overshadowed only by the Argentina-Brazil rivalry in South American soccer.
The Copa America has become a showcase tournament for Chile, which won the last two editions in 2015 and 2016, and Peru will try to spoil the party for its neighbors.
The teams are scheduled to meet Wednesday at Arena do Gremio in Porto Alegre, with Chile vying to defend its title and Peru aiming to reach its first Copa America final in 44 years.
Peru has not played in the championship match of the regional tournament since 1975, when the Andean nation won its second Copa America.
The teams will be fighting for a spot in the Copa America final next Sunday at Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, where the winner will meet the victor of the other semifinal pitting Brazil against Argentina.
Few expected a Chile-Peru match-up in the semis, but each team overcame the odds and tough rivals to put themselves in position to play in the final.
In the quarterfinals, Chile had to beat Colombia, which did not lose a match in the group phase, while Peru had to knock out powerhouse Uruguay, whose roster featured big stars Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani.
Peru will be out for revenge after being beaten by Chile in the semifinals at the 2015 Copa America, where the host Chileans ended the Peruvian national team’s dreams, thanks to two goals by striker Eduardo Vargas.
“There’s a big difference because we were just hungry in 2015, but we didn’t have experience or titles, and now we have it all. Now, we can control matches much better,” Chilean captain Arturo Vidal said.
The 2015 match was marred by the early ejection of Peruvian defender Carlos Zambrano, who returned to the team for the 2019 Copa America following a three-year absence and now has a shot to make up for what happened four years ago.
This time around, Chile’s coach, Colombian Reinaldo Rueda, and Peru’s coach, Argentine Ricardo Gareca, are not taking any chances with their winning formulas, sticking with the same starting lineups that got them through the quarterfinals.
All eyes will be on Chilean forward Eduardo Vargas and Peruvian striker Paolo Guerrero, two of the top active scorers in Copa America history with 12 goals apiece.
Peru is confident heading into the match, taking a lesson from its 5-0 blowout loss at the hands of Brazil in the group phase, a setback that lit a fire under the team instead of sinking it.
“We know this is the biggest match of our lives,” Peruvian left back Miguel Trauco said, adding that Chile was probably the favorite as a defending champion.
This will be the 81st edition of the “Clasico del Pacifico,” a rivalry in which Chile has earned 44 victories, while Peru has won 22 and there have been 14 ties.
In the Copa America, the teams have played 20 times, with Chile winning eight matches, Peru taking six of the contests and the squads tying six times.
Chile: Gabriel Arias; Mauricio Isla, Gary Medel, Guillermo Maripan, Jean Beausejour; Arturo Vidal, Erick Pulgar, Charles Aranguiz; Jose Fuenzalida, Eduardo Vargas and Alexis Sanchez.
Peru: Pedro Gallese; Luis Advincula, Carlos Zambrano, Luis Abram, Miguel Trauco; Andre Carrillo, Renato Tapia, Yoshimar Yotun, Edison Flores; Christian Cueva and Paolo Guerrero.