A PLACE in the Copa America semi-finals is up for grabs for one of the competition’s big outsiders. Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) previews Peru’s clash with Bolivia in the early hours of Friday.
Bolivia v Peru | Friday 00.30 | Premier Sports
Hands up who had Bolivia and Peru making the Copa America quarter-finals? Didn’t think so. Two of the three biggest outsiders of the competition progressed to the knockout stage and now face off for a place in the final four.
Bolivia bagged second spot in Group A thanks to an unlikely victory over Ecuador and holding Mexico to a goalless draw before completing their pool fixtures with a 5-0 thrashing from Chile. That slaughtering left El Verde with the worst goal difference in the competition.
Mauricio Soria promised a different approach from Bolivia but that final group game was a more accurate reflection on where the nation is in footballing terms these days. Sure, against Mexico they produced a few problems for El Tri but they ended that game under the cosh whilst Ecuador paid the price for squandering heaps of goalscoring opportunities.
Bolivia have made the last eight despite winning just one of their last 10 competitive outings, failing to score in three of their last four starts, conceding at least twice in eight of their most recent 10, posting the fewest number of shots in the Copa’s group stage as well as the lowest possession figure. It’s no wonder the bookies have made El Verde 4/1 (BetVictor) shots to progress with a win inside 90 minutes.
But it’s not all bad news for Bolivian supporters. Opponents Peru head to Temuco, a ground where they’ve already played twice in this campaign, having scored just twice across their three group games – once from a defensive howler against Brazil and secondly when made to toil against Venezuela’s 10 men for over an hour.
Peru do have a habit for saving their best football for the Copa and will be looking to reach the semi-finals for the second successive competition despite pre-tournament concerns they were underprepared. Instead the Incas have defended stoutly and competed well against Group C’s big guns. The onus will now be on Ricardo Gareca’s charges to justify their 19/20 (William Hill) odds to pocket a place in the final four.
Peru will be without captain Carlos Labaton and defensive midfielder Josepmir Ballon for this encounter through suspension and hold a poor record of just one win in their seven meetings against Bolivia. However, the last four were all drawn and they are unbeaten in their last 10 clashes outside of Bolivia.
The absence of the suspended duo will hurt Peru’s defensive shape but it’s hard not to see this fixture playing out in a similar style to that of the Incas previous tournament matches. With Under 2.5 Goals as short as 1/2, the bookies are also expecting a nip-and-tuck encounter so having a small play on the half-time draw might be a better solution at 39/40 (888 Sport).
Although I do expect the Peruvians do progress, with no extra-time after 90 minutes and the competition continuing its long-term theme for shocks, I’m just not prepared to put my cash on the Incas when they’re trading odds-on. The value has all been gobbled up and Peru could even go off shorter than their current quotes; that’s just too short, for me.
Bolivia v Peru – Half-Time draw (39/40 888 Sport)