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Peru looks to punch above its weight at Copa


The unheralded squad in Group A at the 2024 Copa America, Peru’s roster doesn’t boast the household names found on Argentina, Chile or Canada, but that has never stopped them in the past. Always a tough out, Peru enters the tournament with a No. 32 FIFA World Ranking, putting them eighth among the 16 teams set to compete.

La Blanquirroja are traditionally a contender at Copa America and manager Jorge Fossati hopes that this summer won’t be any different. The Copa marks the first major tournament for Fossati with Peru after taking helm of the team at the end of 2023. A native of Montevideo, Fossati has extensive managerial experience at both the club and national level, having previously taken his native Uruguay to a third-place finish at the 2004 Copa.

Winners of the inaugural Copa in 1975, Peru has missed out on the knockout round only once since 1993, reaching the finals in 2019 where they ultimately fell to hosts Brazil. At the last edition of the tournament, Peru finished second in Group B behind the Selecao and defeated Paraguay on penalties in the quarters. Their tournament came to an end in the semis when a Lucas Paqueta goal lifted Brazil to a 1-0 win.

A good showing at Copa will help La Blanquirroja shake off what has been a disastrous 2026 World Cup qualifying campaign thus far, one that cost previous manager Juan Reynoso his job. Through six matches, Peru has yet to win a game. Their two points have come from a scoreless draw with Paraguay and a 1-1 result with Venezuela that bookended losses against Brazil, Chile, Argentina and Bolivia. The goal against Venezuela is the lone goal they’ve managed.

If there is reason for optimism, it’s that qualifying still has a long way to go. There are 12 matches left and six automatic qualifying spots for CONMEBOL with an additional spot available through an intercontinental playoff. To illustrate just how much the sky isn’t falling, Peru is only five points out of an automatic place. Hopes will be further buoyed by the fact that Peru has won both of its first two friendlies under Fossati in the spring, a 2-0 victory over Nicaragua and a 4-1 win over the Dominican Republic.

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While much of Peru’s squad will come from Liga 1, Peru’s domestic top flight, Fossati has named a roster of 16 foreign-based players for a pair of pre-tournament friendlies against Paraguay and El Salvador.

Wearing the No. 1 shirt for those two matches and very likely for the tournament itself will be Pedro Gallese. The Orlando City goalkeeper’s 104 caps since his 2014 debut are the sixth-most ever among La Blanquirroja players and the most for a Peru netminder. Should Gallese compete at the Copa, it will be his sixth major tournament for Peru.

At the back, one of Fossati’s biggest priorities will be continuing to integrate young talent into the defensive corps. While veterans like 34-year-old Luis Advincula of Boca Juniors and AEK Athens’ Alexanders Callens and Santos Laguna’s Anderson Santamaria, both 32, remain in the team, the likes of Feyenoord’s Marcos Lopez and Oliver Sonne of Silkeborg will be expected to shoulder a greater load going forward. Also named to the team are Atlanta United’s Luis Abram and Miguel Araujo of the Portland Timbers. Peru-based veterans like Carlos Ascues of Universidad Cesar Vallejo and Alianza Lima’s Carlos Zambrano are good bets to be added to the final roster.

One of Peru’s most exciting young players in Piero Quispe is also on the roster. The 21-year-old midfielder is in his first season with Pumas after a move from boyhood club Universitario. In 14 Liga MX appearances, Quispe has a goal and an assist. Quispe is already on the radar of a number of Premier League teams with reported interest from both Brighton and Nottingham Forest last season.

The Peru midfield will be anchored by Celta Vigo’s Renato Tapia. The 28-year-old Tapia just completed his fourth season at Celta. Capped 84 times, Tapia has been in Europe since 2013, including a five-year stint at Feyenoord. Rated at €5 million by Transfermarkt, Tapia is Peru’s highest-valued player currently.

Also in the midfield are Wilder Cartagena of Orlando City, Malmo’s Sergio Pena, and Gil Vicente’s Jesus Castillo.

Unlikely to feature at Copa, though, is Yoshimar Yotun. Tied for the most-ever caps in country history with 128, the 34-year-old midfielder incurred a significant knee injury in Sporting Cristal’s Apr. 29 loss to Cesar Vallejo. An MLS All-Star in 2018 with Orlando City, Yotun has already appeared in six major tournaments for La Blanquirroja.

Up front, it will be veteran options on whom Fossati will be reliant. Both of former Sporting striker Andre Carrillo, now of Saudi side Al-Qadsiah, and Cagliari’s Italian-born Gianluca Lapadula scored in the two friendly wins this past spring. They were named to the initial roster alongside Bryan Reyna of Argentine Primera Division club Belgrano.

Paolo Guerrero will also hope to be on the plane. La Blanquirroja’s captain, Guerrero is now 40, but is the nation’s all-time leading goal scorer with 39. Guerrero, now of Cesar Vallejo, scored a late penalty in the 4-1 victory over the Dominican Republic in March. Formerly of Bayern Munich, Hamburg and Flamengo, Guerrero is in line to appear at a seventh major tournament.

In looking at the Copa schedule, Peru’s best hope for a win will be on Matchday 2 against Canada in Kansas City. The match will mark only the third meeting between the two countries and the first in a competitive tournament. In 1988, Canada beat Peru, 3-1, in Lima on goals from John Catliff, Nick De Santis and Lyndon Hooper. Then in 2010 at BMO Field in Toronto against a Canada side featuring the likes of Julian de Guzman, Paul Stalteri and Dwayne de Rosario, Peru was a 2-0 winner with second-half goals from Jean Tragodara and Jose Carlos Fernandez.

Peru opens up its Copa on June 21 against Chile at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.