Rio De Janeiro: Underdogs Peru may have missed out on a third Copa America title after losing 3-1 to Brazil in the final but they are on the right track, coach Ricardo Gareca said.
Although the surprise finalists ultimately came up short, they at least provided a much sterner test for the hosts than in a group stage encounter earlier in the competition when Gareca’s side were trounced 5-0
“We’re in good shape, despite the pain of defeat we’re on the right path,” said the veteran Argentine. “The most important thing is to realize that we’ve improved over time and that should… strengthen us.”
Gareca said Brazil were ‘worthy winners’ but added that Peru had ‘improved since the last game’ against the hosts. Still, he felt they would always struggle to compete at this level due to having a smaller pool of players to choose from.
“Brazil have 1,000 players, we only have 50. Uruguay have 300′ to choose from,” said the 61-year-old. “We need more players. When we have more players, we’ll have more quality: in quantity you have quality.” But he bristled at the suggestion that Peru — who qualified for the World Cup last year when 2015 and 2016 Copa winners Chile missed out — were a surprise package in the tournament.
“We’re experienced, we’re not a revelation,” he said sternly. “We came here to win the cup and we were convinced that we could.” Forward Edison Flores said the difference was that Brazil took their chances. Everton opened the scoring on the quarter hour for Brazil from a Gabriel Jesus cross and after Paolo Guerrero equalized from the penalty spot, Arthur teed up Jesus to restore the lead just before the pause.
Despite Jesus being dismissed 20 minutes from time, Richardson completed the victory with a last-minute penalty.
“If you talk about merit, we deserve a lot, but those who score the goals lift the cup,” said Flores, who was still bitter about the criticism the side received after their earlier defeat to Brazil. “This was a year when a lot of things happened and there were people in Peru who spoke ill of the team. But this is a great group on a human level and they deserve my congratulations.”