What a difference a couple of days make.
On June 22nd Peru looked all over the place, having suffered a humiliating 5-0 defeat to Brazil in Sao Paulo.
Surely Paolo Guerrero and his fellow countrymen might have as well packed their bags and made plans for the rest of the holidays.
Well, helped by the generous Copa América format, which allows third-placed teams advance to knockout stages, Los Incas mounted a comeback that could a dream ending on Sunday at the mythic Maracana.
They play Brazil again, this time for the title.
Mind you, Peru is still the underdogs. They face a Brazilian side that has not conceded a single goal in the competition so far and whose collective strength dismantled Lio Messi and Argentina in the semifinals.
Also, a crowded Maracana behind the Selecao is a force to be reckoned with.
Still, Guerrero and the others are allowed to dream. Their emphatic 3-0 win over current Champions Chile in Porto Alegre has certainly caught the Brazilians’ attention. Let’s remember everybody was expecting Chile to go through after seeing off Uruguay in the semifinals.
The biggest surprise perhaps was the fact Peru took the game to the Chileans after this attitude cost them so dearly against Brazil.
This time they did not make silly mistakes, especially goalkeeper Gallese, who went from gifting a goal to Roberto Firmino to stopping everything the Chileans threw at him – including a penalty.
Peru’s quick counter-attacking proved mortal. If they will be able to put under Brazil under pressure is another story.
Brazil showed against Argentina that they are able to absorb pressure and to wait for the right moment to pounce. If Peru gives the Brazilians the same space they allowed Chile, punishment will be swift.
Another interesting factor is experience. The last time Peru played a Copa America final was in 1975 and this is a huge moment for Los Incas.
Will they be able to handle the pressure? Brazil tends to be fuelled by the crowd in Rio, as mighty Spain found out in the 2013 Confederations Cup Final when they were run over by the Selecao.
Neymar, as we all know, will not be there this time – at least on the pitch. But Brazil has been able so far to compensate for his absence and has been improving with every game. The scalp of Argentina is also a massive boost of confidence.
This final has all the ingredients to be very different from what took place two weeks ago.