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.

Tite has hinted he will make changes for Copa America hosts Brazil's final group outing following a couple of lacklustre displays to start the tournament.

The Selecao have been booed during their opening two matches and now need to respond against Peru in Sao Paulo on Saturday if they are to finish top of Group A.

After scoring three times in the second half to win 3-0 against lowly ranked Bolivia to spare their blushes in the competition's opening match, Brazil failed to find a way past Venezuela in their next game, with two goals being ruled out by VAR.

Neymar-less Brazil managed just one shot on target - their least in a game over the last four Copa America tournaments - and head coach Tite is expected to make changes in attack against Peru, who also have four points from their two matches.

"We weren't effective enough in the attack," Tite said after the Venezuela stalemate.

"We needed to be more precise up front to be able to translate our superiority into goals."

David Neres, Richarlison and Roberto Firmino have started both matches, despite Gabriel Jesus' positive form heading into the tournament where he scored five goals in three outings for Manchester City and Brazil, while Gremio forward Everton has also impressed with his cameos from the bench.

Brazil need a win to make sure they claim top spot, which should set up a more favourable quarter-final tie.

But Ricardo Gareca's side will not make life easy for their opponents, having breathed life into their campaign with a 3-1 win over Bolivia last time out to leave themselves second, two points better off than Venezuela.

Gareca described the match as must-win and his players got the job done after battling back from a goal down at the iconic Maracana, despite being far from their best for the second game running.

And Peru historically boast a good 'away' record against Brazil in Copa America tournaments as they beat the Selecao 3-1 in 1975 and drew 0-0 in 1989.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Peru - Paolo Guerrero 

Former Bayern Munich striker Guerrero scored Peru's equaliser against Bolivia to take his tally to 12 Copa America goals - the joint-most among current active players. The captain then provided the assist for Jefferson Farfan's header to prove his importance once again.

Brazil - Everton

After scoring a long-range goal against Bolivia and looking bright in his second successive appearance from the bench in the draw with Venezuela, Everton has been tipped to replace either Neres or Richarlison in attacking midfield. He has seven goals in 16 league appearances for club side Gremio this season and recently talked up a move to Manchester United.

KEY OPTA FACTS

- Brazil have lost only one of their last 18 meetings with Peru in all competitions (W11 D6), but that loss came in the last Copa America tournament in 2016 (0-1), when Brazil failed to qualify from the group stage for the first time since the 1987 edition.
- Brazil have lost only three of their 17 Copa America meetings with Peru (W11 D3), scoring 34 goals and conceding 13.
- Brazil have kept a clean sheet in each of their last eight Copa America home games (W5 D3); they last conceded at home in this competition in 1989, against Venezuela.
- Peru are unbeaten in their last seven Copa America games (W4 D3), their longest unbeaten run in the competition’s history.
- Only two of Brazil’s last 24 Copa America goals have come from set pieces: a penalty goal by Coutinho against Bolivia in this tournament, and a goal by Thiago Silva from a corner against Venezuela in 2015.

Paolo Guerrero scored and set up another as Peru kick-started their Copa America campaign with a come-from-behind 3-1 victory over Bolivia at the Maracana.

Peru stuttered to a goalless draw against Venezuela in their Group A opener and Ricardo Gareca's men fell behind to Marcelo Martins' 18th international goal in Rio de Janeiro on Tuesday.

Martins converted a 28th-minute penalty after a VAR check to give Bolivia – who lost 3-0 to hosts Brazil – an unlikely lead before star forward and captain Guerrero equalised on the stroke of half-time.

Guerrero then provided the assist for Jefferson Farfan's 55th-minute header and substitute Edison Flores added a third in the sixth minute of stoppage time.

Peru controlled proceedings throughout the first half but they struggled to create any clear-cut chances and the 2018 World Cup participants were left stunned when Bolivia broke the deadlock against the run of play.

There was confusion when the referee appeared to point to the spot for a handball against Peru's Carlos Zambrano in the 24th minute, but he then signalled for offside.

After a lengthy VAR check, a penalty was eventually awarded and Martins made no mistake as he coolly converted past Pedro Gallese four minutes later to move within two goals of Bolivia's all-time scoring record.

With time almost up in the opening period, Peru drew level. Christian Cueva dispossessed Bolivia on the halfway line and played a defence-splitting pass down the middle for Guerrero, who touched the ball around goalkeeper Carlos Lampe and finished into an empty net.

Farfan put Peru ahead 10 minutes into the second half following a towering header after Guerrero turned provider to tee up the Lokomotiv Moscow veteran.

Bolivia had a golden opportunity to restore parity but Erwin Saavedra blazed over from close range after Raul Castro's shot was parried into his path, with Flores adding some gloss to the scoreline in the 96th minute following a swift counter-attack.

 

What does it mean? Peru on track to qualify

After firing a blank against Venezuela, Peru got their tournament off and running. Quarter-finalists in 2016 and third the year prior, La Blanquirroja will be looking to at least match that run in Brazil.

Guerrero the hero… again

Wearing the captain's armband and topping Peru's scoring charts, the responsibility often falls on Guerrero. But the 35-year-old talisman thrives on it and he led the way again on Tuesday. His 37th international goal and an assist has Peru poised to progress.

Bolivia's woes continue

Martins' early goal gave Bolivia some hope but it was the same old story for Eduardo Villegas' team. Bolivia crashed to a fifth consecutive defeat, with the struggling South American nation still looking for their first victory since October 2018 – a run of nine games.

What's next?

Peru will close out their group-stage campaign against hosts Brazil in Sao Paulo on Saturday, while Bolivia and Venezuela meet on the same day.

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