Peru exited the Copa America soccer tournament on Monday after an unexpected run, defeated by long-time rivals Chile in the semi-finals.
With a man short for much of the 90 minutes, Peru lost two-one to host country Chile at the National Stadium in Santiago.
Chile will now go on to face the winner of the Argentina vs Paraguay match —which is being played June 30 in Concepción— in the final on Saturday, July 4 in Santiago. Peru will face the loser of Argentina-Paraguay for third-place.
Peru’s performance during the World Cup under the new Argentine coach Ricardo Gareca surprised many observers.
“This was a Peru side more reminiscent of the golden days of the 1970s, when the team was South American champion,” ESPN wrote after the match. “With a bit of confidence flowing through their veins, they looked nothing like the team that has collapsed so often in their recent travels.”
The team, led by 36-year-old captain Claudio Pizarro and striker Paulo Guerrero, finished second in the group stage after defeating Venezuela, tying Colombia and narrowly losing to Neymar’s Brazil.
In the quarter-finals, the team handily defeated Bolivia thanks to quick, on-target passes and a hat-rick by Guerrero.
Peru was the underdog going into the game against Chile, which is aiming to win its first-ever Copa America on home turf under the leadership of Arsenal striker Alexis Sanchez and Juventus’ Arturo Vidal.
Peru started off strongly against Chile, but the tide turned after 20 minutes when center-back Carlos Zambrano was shown a red card after landing a high kick against Chile’s Charles Aranguiz.
Down one man, Peru held its ground. However, it wasn’t enough as Chile scored the game’s first goal just before half after confusion in front of the net.
Peru continued pressing in the second half, and was rewarded when a cross by Peru’s Luis Advincula was taped in for an own-goal by Chilean defender Gary Medel. Peru’s hopes were dashed, however, when Chile’s Eduardo Vargas nailed a 25-meter bomb for his second of the night, putting the home team up by a point for the remainder of the match.
“We tried to give everything so we have to congratulate the boys,” Gareca told reporters after the match. “Defeat hurts under any circumstances and there isn’t consolation, but this is going to allow us to grow, if we know how to capitalize on it, and I know we can.”