Paolo Guerrero was born in 1983 - eight years after Peru's last Copa America triumph.

He had only seen them make the semi-finals once before he became a senior international, but with the striker in their ranks they have reached the last-four stage three times.

An unlikely final against Brazil will take place on Sunday, and when you add in a first World Cup appearance since 1982 in Russia last year and the fact Guerrero is La Blanquirroja's all-time leading goalscorer it easy to understand how important he is to Peru.

Guerrero was plucked away from Alianza Lima by Bayern Munich in 2002 and won back-to-back Bundesliga and DFB-Pokals before heading to Hamburg in search of increased game time in 2006.

He struggled for goals in a less gifted team, though he got four during a run to the 2008-09 UEFA Cup semi-finals where HSV were denied a place in the showpiece by Werder Bremen.

Still, Guerrero's next move came as a surprise. At 28 and supposedly at the peak of his powers he swapped Hamburg for Corinthians in 2012, at the time coached by Brazil boss Tite. Within six months he was a Club World Cup champion, heading in the winner for an unexpected 1-0 triumph over Chelsea.

Guerrero had spearheaded Peru's run to the Copa America semi-finals a year prior and he did so again in 2015 - leading the scoring charts on both occasions - but his greatest achievement came in helping his country finish fifth in the mammoth CONMEBOL section of 2018 World Cup qualifying.

The delight of booking a play-off with New Zealand was short-lived, though, as Guerrero was ruled out of the matches due to a 30-day provisional suspension for failing a drugs test on October 5, 2017. He had tested positive for the cocaine metabolite benzoylecgonine, which he argued might have been accidentally ingested via a coca leaf in a traditional tea drink.

Without their talisman, Peru still claimed a 2-0 win on aggregate to earn a place in Russia, but regularly changing circumstances made it unclear whether Guerrero would be with the team.

An initial 12-month ban from FIFA was cut in half by its appeal committee to give him hope of playing, but the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) asked the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) to look at that decision. Less than two weeks after the suspension ended, CAS extended it to 14 months to rule him out of playing in Russia.

However, an appeal to the Swiss Federal Tribunal (BGER) led to Guerrero's sanction being temporarily lifted while it considered the case, clearing him to lead his country at the World Cup.

The situation ended up resulting in him departing Flamengo for Internacional, who were dealt a blow when the BGER confirmed he would have to serve the remainder of his suspension.

Guerrero marked his long-awaited return to action on April 6 with a goal on his debut, heading home a corner in a 2-0 victory over Caxias in the Campeonato Gaucho.

The emotional 35-year-old said after the match: "I was very anxious. I was always apprehensive, uneasy. It was a difficult situation to accept what I have gone through, because of this unfair ban that I had.

"There were days that I was depressed, but I don't want to talk about it anymore. I just wanted to come back to training sessions, to my routine.

"To arrive early, play with my team-mates before and after sessions, to be together with my team-mates and experience the adrenaline of a game, all of this. I missed this very much and now I am here again."

Guerrero now has the opportunity to lead his nation to just a third Copa America title against hosts Brazil at the Maracana on Sunday.

He and Peru fought hard to get there and victory would be the crowning moment in the career of every player in Ricardo Gareca's squad.

Chile's hopes of winning a third successive Copa America are over after a heavy 3-0 defeat against an impressive Peru in Porto Alegre on Wednesday.

First-half goals from Edison Flores and Yoshimar Yotun, along with Paolo Guerrero's late sealer, dashed La Roja's dreams of equalling Argentina's record of three consecutive continental triumphs and sent Peru through to their first final since 1975.

Though they only reached the knockout rounds as one of the group stage's two best third-placed teams, Ricardo Gareca's Peru were superior throughout and now face hosts Brazil in Sunday's decider at the Maracana.

Chile's humiliation was complete when Eduardo Vargas dinked a penalty straight to Pedro Gallese at the death.

An entertaining start saw Christian Cueva and Charles Aranguiz poke wide with good opportunities at either end.

Peru settled quickest and punished a disorganised Chile defence in the 20th minute.

Andre Carrillo nodded on Cueva's right-sided delivery and winger Flores made no mistake at the back post.

Gabriel Arias was at fault for the second 18 minutes later, the goalkeeper failing to beat Carrillo to a loose ball and leaving his goal exposed for Yotun to skilfully control and volley home a high cross.

Peru lost Flores to an innocuous ankle injury five minutes into the second half and narrowly avoided another setback when Vargas' glancing header struck the left post.

A well-worked counter should have brought the sealer on the hour, but Yotun ballooned his finish over a gaping target.

Gallese then produced three important stops to keep the two-goal margin intact and, after Guerrero coolly slotted away the third in the 91st minute, denied Chile a consolation.

Luis Abram's rash challenge sent Vargas to the spot in stoppage time but the striker's Panenka met goalkeeper Gallese's outstretched arm.

 

What does it mean? Expectation descends on Selecao

If there was not already enough pressure on Brazil to lift the trophy in their own backyard, the belief of local fans is set to ratchet up further.

Peru last reached the final 44 years ago and the prospect of facing an inexperienced – albeit clearly talented – opponent is sure to sit comfortably with Tite's team.

Cueva exudes class in attack

Though he squandered a promising early opportunity, Krasnodar's Cueva more than made amends by designing Peru's opener.

The attacking midfielder forged a dangerous partnership with centre-forward Paolo Guerrero that gave Chile constant headaches.

Arias all at sea for crucial second

Chile had limited the damage of a poor first half until shot-stopper Arias ventured well outside his area before the break.

Retreating defenders were unable to account for an error in judgement that condemned Reinaldo Rueda's side to defeat.

What's next?

Two-time Copa America winners Peru will hope to upstage Brazil in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday, while Chile meet Argentina in the third-place play-off a day earlier.

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