Argentina captain Lionel Messi hit out at the referee, despite the in-form Copa America champions' 1-0 win against Peru in World Cup qualifying.

Lautaro Martinez's header two minutes before half-time settled Thursday's contest in Buenos Aires, where La Albiceleste extended their unbeaten streak to 25 matches across all competitions.

Peru wasted a chance to salvage a point when Yoshimar Yotun's penalty cannoned off the crossbar with 25 minutes remaining.

Messi reacted to Argentina remaining undefeated on the road to Qatar 2022 through 11 CONMEBOL fixtures, though it remains to be seen what he was referring to when mentioning the referee after Martinez had also gone down inside the area in the first half.

"Difficult match, difficult to play. A lot of wind, they were playing deep, leaving little space for us," Messi wrote via Instagram.

"The referee always does this when he referee's us, as if he does it on purpose. But well, three important points and we're close to our objective."

Martinez scored his 17th international goal and the Inter star is Argentina's top scorer in the Lionel Scaloni era, two ahead of Messi.

"The play against Uruguay was more fluid, there was more space. It got complicated for us a little but we always tried to have a solution and today, we knew how to find that," Martinez said.

"Every time we go out on the pitch, we try to give our all because this shirt deserves respect and responsibility. All of this is exciting, my family saw me play again after a long time. Today, they're here again. I hope that the people have enjoyed the win."

Argentina head coach Scaloni became the second coach in the history of the national team to go 25 games unbeaten in all competitions, after Alfio Basile.

"Today we felt a bit tired. Playing a triple date in South America is wearisome," added Scaloni. "We took it forward and got the three points, which is what we wanted.

"It was a very important game and there was tension for that. I do not think that Argentina was satisfied with the result. Peru plays well, it is a very difficult opponent. Beyond the penalty play, I think the game was controlled."

Argentina extended their unbeaten streak to 25 matches after Lautaro Martinez secured a 1-0 victory over Peru in CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying.

Lautaro Martinez's 43rd-minute header settled the contest as Argentina stayed undefeated on the road to Qatar 2022 on Thursday.

Peru had the chance to snatch a point away from home, but Yoshimar Yotun's 65th-minute penalty cannoned off the woodwork in Buenos Aires.

Lionel Scaloni's Argentina – second in the standings – temporarily moved within three points of leaders Brazil through 11 qualifying fixtures.

Argentina made a bright start to proceedings at the Monumental, with Rodrigo De Paul in the thick of the action as the hosts saw two shots flash across goal inside four minutes.

Gianluca Lapadula's free-kick forced in-form Argentina goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez into an early save, while La Albiceleste found the back of the net in the ninth minute, but Cristian Romero's header was ruled offside following a lengthy VAR review.

In a team headlined by Lionel Messi, De Paul continued to pull the strings with some wonderful passing and he was the centre of Argentina's opener prior to half-time.

De Paul played a neat one-two with Nahuel Molina and the latter picked out Lautaro Martinez, whose wonderful header beat Pedro Gallese two minutes before the break.

Jefferson Farfan came off the bench to make his 100th international appearance – the 36-year-old becoming the sixth Peru player to reach the century club.

He made an immediate impact, earning a penalty after being brought down by Emiliano Martinez but Yotun rattled the crossbar with his spot-kick.

Messi was largely subdued by Peru, though his free-kick 20 minutes from the end forced a save from Gallese.

What does it mean? Argentina go from strength to strength

Argentina were on their knees when Scaloni took charge of the embattled South American giants. Now Copa America champions, Argentina have not lost since July 2019.

De Paul enhances reputation

The Atletico Madrid midfielder has quickly become a key part of Scaloni's XI. De Paul dazzled in the first half with 63 touches of the ball – the most among both teams. He also earned four fouls while completing 36 passes and four crosses in the opening 45 minutes.

Peru's drought continues

Peru have not gone 17 matches without winning against Argentina in World Cup qualifiers, dating back to 1985. The result condemned Peru to back-to-back defeats as they fight to qualify for next year's showpiece.

What's next?

Argentina will be back in action next month when they travel to Uruguay on November 10, while Peru welcome Bolivia on the same day.

Neymar complained he does not get the respect he deserves after breaking another record to help Brazil remain perfect in their World Cup qualifying campaign.

The Paris Saint-Germain forward scored a tap-in having earlier set up Everton Ribeiro as Brazil saw off Peru 2-0 in Recife on Thursday.

That was the Selecao's eighth win from eight matches on the road to Qatar 2022 and ninth qualifying victory in a row overall, which equalled the longest streak in CONMEBOL history.

Neymar's strike saw him overtake Romario and Zico as Brazil's highest scorer in World Cup qualifiers on 12 goals, half of those coming in the current campaign.

He is also now just eight behind legendary forward Pele's all-time record of 77 goals for Brazil, scoring his 69 goals in 113 appearances.

But after coming in for more criticism following Brazil's 1-0 win over Chile last week, with some suggesting he was overweight, Neymar has hit back at his critics.

"Obviously, the team is the most important," he told TV Globo. 

"I'm very happy to be the top scorer in the qualifiers, have the most assists for the national team and soon, if all goes well, it will be an honour to pass Pele as the all-time scorer.

"I don't know anymore what I have to do for people to respect me. This is normal, it's been a long time. Reporters, commentators, others too.

"Sometimes I don't even like to talk in interviews anymore, but at an important moment I come to show up. I leave it to the guys to think a little bit."

 

With their latest victory, Brazil are the first South American team in qualifying history to keep nine consecutive clean sheets at home.

Tite's men remain six points clear of second-placed Argentina, who beat Bolivia 3-0 thanks to a Lionel Messi hat-trick, and are on the verge of sealing a spot at Qatar 2022.

"It's another good result and our winning sequence continues but we haven't mathematically qualified yet," Casemiro added. 

"We have to continue to work hard but we know that we're on the right track."

Brazil, whose high-profile match with Argentina last Sunday was farcically suspended early in the game, return to action in early October with a trip to bottom side Venezuela.

Neymar scored one and set up another as Brazil maintained their perfect record in CONMEBOL 2022 World Cup qualifying with a 2-0 victory over Peru in Recife on Thursday.

Playing for the first time since Sunday's qualifier against Argentina was controversially suspended mid-game, Selecao netted twice in a lively first half to set up the win.

Brazil's opener came in the 14th minute when Neymar laid off for Everton Ribeiro, who scored the winner in last week's 1-0 triumph in Chile.

Neymar grabbed the second goal five minutes before the break, the Paris Saint-Germain star tapping home from close range as Brazil made it eight wins from eight games on the road to Qatar 2022.

On a night when Argentina's Lionel Messi overtook Pele as the leading goalscorer in South American history with a hat-trick, Neymar's strike took him to 69 for Brazil, moving within eight of the Brazil great.

Both sides had early chances in a lively opening, with Gabriel 'Gabigol' Barbosa having an effort blocked while Gianluca Lapadula shot over for Peru.

Peru goalkeeper Pedro Gallese made a strong save with his left arm as Gerson broke forward, firing on target on his left.

Brazil broke the deadlock in controversial circumstances after Neymar bundled over Anderson Santamaria and raced down the byline to centre for in-form team-mate Ribeiro to side-foot home – Peru's protests fell on deaf ears.

Lucas Paqueta almost doubled Brazil's advantage with a 34th-minute chance, before Neymar scored Selecao's second goal six minutes later.

Danilo passed for Gabigol, whose cutback fell to Ribeiro. The Flamengo midfielder's shot was blocked into Neymar's path for a point-blank finish.

Peru substitute Gabriel Costa's 72nd-minute cross-cum-shot tested Brazil goalkeeper Everton as the depleted hosts, missing several key players unable who were not released by their Premier League clubs, seemed content with the victory.

Veteran Brazil substitute Hulk rounded Gallese late but blasted wide on his preferred left foot.

Colombia beat Peru 3-2 in the Copa America third-place play-off thanks to a sublime stoppage-time strike from Luis Diaz.

Porto winger Diaz, who had put Colombia 2-1 ahead midway through the second half, settled a thrilling contest in the 94th minute with an exceptional long-range effort.

It came 12 minutes on from Gianluca Lapadula's equaliser, after Juan Cuadrado had cancelled out Yoshimar Yotun's opener, with the match seemingly destined for penalties – Colombia having gone the distance in both previous knockout rounds.

Yet Diaz ensured third place was theirs without the need for such drama, capping off an impressive campaign for Reinaldo Rueda's side, who also gained revenge for a group-stage defeat.

Peru should have gone ahead in the 28th minute – Lapadula to drilling wide when one-on-one with Camilo Vargas.

Carlos Cueva teed up that chance, and Peru's chief creator was at it again on the stroke of half-time, scampering down the left to race onto Sergio Pena's long pass, before cutting inside to find the onrushing Yotun, who made no mistake with an excellent first-time finish.

Peru's lead was short-lived, however, with Cuadrado sneaking in a free-kick at Pedro Gallese's near post to restore parity shortly after the restart.

Diaz had a sighter soon after, with Gallese making the stop, but there was no stopping the pacy wide man in the 66th minute.

Released by Vargas, Diaz took the ball under control with his chest and placed a fine effort into the bottom-right corner, only for Peru to hit back again when Lapadula headed home from Raziel Garcia's corner.

But Diaz had the final say, the 24-year-old driving in from the left and engineering space for a shot 25 yards from goal, sending a wonderful finish into the top corner to seal victory.

What does it mean? Colombia have something to build on

Rueda made a divisive call by leaving posterboy James Rodriguez out of Colombia's squad, though he can at least point to tangible success in Brazil as justification for that decision.

Colombia's focus will now shift to qualifying for the 2022 World Cup, though they have lost their last two matches in that competition, winning just one of their four qualifiers so far.

Diaz matches Messi

With his superb double, Diaz joined Lionel Messi – who will lead Argentina against Brazil in the final – at the top of the Copa America scoring charts.

He had four attempts on Friday, all of which hit the target, and he could well be a target for some of Europe's bigger, or wealthier, sides ahead of the 2020-21 campaign.

Cueva's efforts prove fruitless

Cueva had a slow start to the tournament, but was at his best in Brasília. He created three chances in total, second only to Colombia's Cuadrado (four).

Had Lapadula taken the first of those opportunities, it may well have been Peru who went on to take the bronze medal.

Brazil superstar Neymar said he wants to face Lionel Messi's Argentina in the Copa America final after the defending champions edged Peru.

Neymar provided the assist for Lucas Paqueta's 35th-minute winner as Brazil saw off 2019 runners-up Peru 1-0 in Monday's semi-final.

Brazil will meet the winner of the Argentina-Colombia semi in Saturday's decider at the iconic Maracana and Neymar is eyeing a blockbuster showdown with La Albiceleste.

South American rivals Brazil and Argentina have not met in a Copa final since 2007, when the Selecao won 3-0.

"I want Argentina, I'm rooting for Argentina," Neymar – a former Barcelona team-mate of Messi – said post-match in Rio de Janeiro.

"I have friends there, then in the final it will be Brazil [laughs]."

 

Neymar was impressive throughout at Estadio Nilton Santos, attempting a team-high four shots to go with two key passes and the decisive assist.

The Paris Saint-Germain forward was also fouled three times. No player has been fouled more often than Neymar (25) during this year's CONMEBOL tournament.

Meanwhile, head coach Tite made history by equalling Mario Zagallo as the Brazil head coach with the longest unbeaten run in Copa America history (12), winning nine games and drawing three fixtures.

The 60-year-old has the fifth-best winning percentage among coaches with at least 10 games in Copa America history – 75 per cent.

Since his appointment in 2016, Brazil have kept 42 clean sheets in 60 games under head coach Tite across all competitions (70 per cent).

After the game, however, Neymar took aim at Chilean referee Roberto Tobar, saying: "The referee cannot do what he did. It's a lack of respect for all the players, the way he talks, the way he looks, what he says on the field to the players. 

"From the very first minute I went to talk to him, and he was very arrogant. Everyone is saying that, I think it's not normal for both teams to complain. 

"Not the way he whistled the match. He can make mistakes, that's part of it, but the arrogance he had in that match... For me, he can't be a referee in a Copa America semi-final."

Just like the quarter-final, Paqueta scored the winning goal for Brazil – who are now eyeing their 10th Copa crown.

Paqueta has scored in back-to-back appearances for Brazil in all competitions for the first time in his career.

"Paqueta is a great player," Neymar said. "Has been growing with each game, with each game he plays for the national team. He had a great season for his club and has shown that he can be a very important player for us in the national team.  I'm happy with his participation, with the game he played. It's always good to meet great players in the national team."

It is hard to think that before the start of this year's Copa America, some were calling for Tite's sacking.

Those calls stemmed on the uncertainty of the Selecao's participation after CONMEBOL controversially relocated the event from Argentina to Brazil.

The Brazil squad were united against hosting the Copa on home soil amid the coronavirus pandemic. The defending champions eventually committed to representing their country and now they stand on the cusp of another title with Tite at the helm.

On an historic night for Tite, Brazil moved through to a second consecutive Copa final at the expense of 2019 runners-up Peru 1-0 on Monday.

Tite made history by equalling Mario Zagallo as the Brazil head coach with the longest unbeaten run in Copa America history (12), winning nine games and drawing three fixtures.

 

The 60-year-old has the fifth-best winning percentage among coaches with at least 10 games in Copa America history – 75 per cent.

Only Flavio Costa (79 per cent, 19 games), Zagallo (83 per cent, 12 games), Guillermo Stabile (84 per cent, 44 games) and Pedro Cea (90 per cent, 10 games) have a better percentage.

Lucas Paqueta scored the decisive goal 10 minutes before half-time as Brazil extended their undefeated streak to 13 matches across all competitions, a run including 10 clean sheets and dating back to November 2019.

Since his appointment in 2016, Brazil have kept 42 clean sheets in 60 games under head coach Tite across all competitions (70 per cent).

During his tenure, Brazil have 45 wins, 11 draws and just four defeats.

This Brazil team have style and substance – trademark flair and free-flowing football but with defensive stability and the ability to close out games.

As Brazil – who have won the last five Copa finals they have played, 1997, 1999, 2004, 2007 and 2019 - await rivals Argentina or Colombia in Saturday's decider, Tite continues to reach new heights.

Defending champions Brazil booked their spot in another Copa America final after seeing off Peru 1-0 on Monday.

In a repeat of the 2019 Copa decider, Lucas Paqueta settled the semi-final contest with his 35th-minute goal in Rio de Janeiro.

Brazil will face either Argentina or Colombia in the decider after Tite made history by equalling Mario Zagallo as the Selecao head coach with the longest unbeaten run in Copa America history (12).

Tite's Brazil started on the front foot as Peru goalkeeper Pedro Gallese was kept busy at Estadio Nilton Santos.

The first big chance of the game fell to Brazil in the eighth minute as Paqueta slid a wonderful pass to Richarlison, who rounded Gallese and cut the ball to Neymar but the latter was unable to direct his shot on target.

Gallese survived a nervy moment five minutes later after spilling Casemiro's long-range free-kick before managing to save it at the second attempt.

The heroics of Gallese continued to keep Brazil at bay, with the Peru shot-stopper somehow denying Neymar from close range as he then got up quickly to stop Richarlison's follow-up effort.

As Brazil found more and more space, the Selecao finally beat Gallese and broke Peru's stubborn resistance 10 minutes prior to half-time.

Richarlison released Neymar and he wriggled away from three players before looking up and cutting the ball to Paqueta, who made no mistake.

Brazil goalkeeper Ederson had been a bystander until he was called into action for the first time four minutes into the second half, keeping out Gianluca Lapadula after the Peru forward cut inside and fired a shot across goal.

Unlike the first half, Brazil were made to work by Peru and La Blanquirroja again tested Ederson just past the hour mark as Raziel Garcia tried his luck from distance with a tricky attempt.

There were shouts for a Brazil penalty with 19 minutes remaining when Richarlison went down under a challenge following a superb pass from Neymar, but the protests were waved away by the referee.

Peru had a great chance to level the match nine minutes from the end after Ederson completely missed his attempt to punch a free-kick away, but Alexander Callens' header sailed wide of the post.

What does it mean? Brazil advance on historic night for Tite

Eyeing a 10th Copa title, Brazil reached a second consecutive final as Tite made history following a 12th match without defeat in the CONMEBOL showpiece, matching Zagallo.

Brazil have now gone 13 games unbeaten in all competitions, keeping a clean sheet in 10 of those.

Paqueta stars again

After a bright start to life at Milan, things turned sour for Paqueta at San Siro. However, a switch to Ligue 1's Lyon has proven to be the tonic for the 23-year-old. Paqueta has scored in back-to-back appearances for Brazil in all competitions for the first time in his career.

Peru fail to take chances

Peru were the better team in the second half, having struggled to make an impact in the opening 45 minutes. Against a formidable opponent now specialists in closing out matches, Peru needed to capitalise on their opportunities but Ricardo Gareca's men – in a spirited showing without some important players – were unable to get past Ederson.

What's next?

Next up for Brazil is Saturday's final as they await the winner of the Argentina-Colombia semi. Peru will turn their attention to September's World Cup qualifiers.

Brazil head coach Tite and the Selecao are eyeing the Copa America final as they prepare to face Peru in a rematch of the 2019 decider.

Tite's defending champions Brazil and Peru will go head-to-head in Monday's semi-final in Rio de Janeiro.

The Selecao have now gone 12 games in all competitions without defeat, keeping a clean sheet in nine of those after defeating Chile 1-0 in the quarter-finals, while Tite is yet to lose a match in this competition while in charge.

Should Brazil reach back-to-back Copa finals, Tite will equal Mario Zagallo as the Selecao coach with the longest unbeaten run in the tournament's history (12 games).

"The two teams have a tradition of clashes in the Copa America and two years ago we met in the final, but we also met in the group stage and in the play-offs," Tite told reporters.

"But the antecedents cannot make us predict a prediction because the situations, the different moments, teams and realities, it is also a play-off game. Our goal is to reach the final and Peru's is the same."

 

Nine-time champions Brazil will host Peru for 20th time in competitive games (W15 D2 L2). One of those defeats was in the 1975 Copa America, the last time the Selecao lost a game at home in the competition (3-1).

Tite's men are the top-scoring team in this year's finals (11), eight of their goals coming in the second half and five in the last 15 minutes, each more than any other team in the competition.

Since his appointment in 2016, Brazil have kept 41 clean sheets in 59 games under Tite across all competitions (69.5 per cent).

"Football is a game with many variables, perhaps it is the collective sport with more variables that you cannot control," Tite said. "When a team plays defence in the first half, it tends to get more tired and in the second half leaves more space.

"In one sector of the field you may have a player who defends more than in the other, but if the playing field is good it may be that you take advantage of one sector more than another.

"So, there are many variables, the players have to maintain a pattern and understand that those variables that one cannot control are typical of football, unlike basketball, volleyball, and that effectiveness depends on performance."

Brazil head coach Tite will attempt an historic result on Monday as his side face Peru in the Copa America semi-finals.

The defending champions battled into the last four after beating Chile 1-0 despite playing almost all of the second half with 10 men following Gabriel Jesus' red card for an awful high challenge.

They have now gone 12 games in all competitions without defeat, keeping a clean sheet in nine of those, while Tite is yet to lose a match in this competition while in charge of the Selecao.

Should they reach the final this time around, the 60-year-old will equal Mario Zagallo as the Brazil coach with the longest unbeaten run in Copa America history (12 games).

Standing in the hosts' way are a Peru side who came through a thrilling quarter-final against Paraguay, which ended 3-3 after extra time and with each side down to 10 men.

In the end, Miguel Trauco's sudden-death penalty secured Peru's place in the semi-finals for the fourth time in five tournaments.

Head coach Ricardo Gareca has only managed to beat Brazil twice in 10 attempts, with their previous meeting in the 2021 group stage ending in a 4-0 win for the five-time world champions.

Brazil have also not lost a Copa America match on home soil since 1975 – but that 3-1 defeat came at the hands of Peru in the semi-final first leg of their triumphant campaign.

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Brazil – Lucas Paqueta

Lyon midfielder Lucas Paqueta needed less than a minute on the pitch as a half-time substitute before scoring what proved to be the winner against Chile.

With Jesus suspended and Roberto Firmino not wholly convincing at these finals, Paqueta may well have a key role to play here.

Peru – Yoshimar Yotun

With a goal, an assist and a converted spot-kick in the shoot-out, few Peru players did as much to drag them into the final four as Yoshimar Yotun.

The Cruz Azul midfielder is a versatile asset at the heart of the side and could be equally important in disrupting Brazil's rhythm and getting Peru up the pitch when possible.

 

KEY OPTA FACTS

- Brazil will host Peru for 20th time in competitive games (W15 D2 L2). One of those defeats was in the 1975 Copa America, the last time Brazil lost a game at home in the competition (3-1).
- Tite has never lost a game in the Copa America (W8 D3). If Brazil reach the final, Tite will equal Mario Zagallo as the Selecao boss with the longest unbeaten run in the competition's history (P12 W10 D2).
- Ricardo Gareca will face Brazil for the 10th time (W2 L7), and the sixth in this competition (W1 L4). Peru are unbeaten in their past 12 Copa America games when Brazil were not their opponents (W6 D6).
- Brazil are the top-scoring team in this year's finals (11), eight of their goals coming in the second half and five in the last 15 minutes, each more than any other team in the competition.
- Peru are the team with the fewest shots on target among the semi-finalists (18), but they are second for shot conversion rate (16.3 per cent).

Peru became the first side to book their place in the Copa America semi-finals after beating Paraguay on penalties in a dramatic tie that finished 3-3 following normal time and saw both teams receive red cards.

Ricardo Gareca's Peru recovered from a goal down thanks to Gianluca Lapadula's first-half double at Estadio Olimpico Pedro Ludovico, where Gustavo Gomez had given Paraguay an early lead on Friday.

Paraguay lost captain Gomez to a controversial second bookable offence just before half-time yet hit back through Junior Alonso's strike early in the second half.

Yoshimar Yotun appeared to have won the game for 2019 runners-up Peru with a deflected goal 10 minutes from time, but Andre Carrillo was also dismissed and substitute Gabriel Avalos levelled up in the final seconds to send the contest to penalties.

Following the script of the previous 90 minutes, the shoot-out was equally as eventful as four players failed to convert from 12 yards, but the drama was ended when Miguel Trauco tucked away the decisive spot-kick to set up a semi-final with defending champions Brazil or two-time winners Chile.

Paraguay will need to end a torrid run of form against Peru if they are to book a place in the semi-finals of the Copa America. 

Eduardo Berizzo's side have failed to win any of their last seven games against Peru, with their last victory coming in a friendly in November 2014. 

A 1-0 defeat to Uruguay in their final Group A game meant Paraguay finished third with six points from four games. 

They suffered a blow in that clash when influential midfielder Miguel Almiron limped off.

A late decision will be made on the Newcastle United man's fitness ahead of the match at Estadio Olimpico Pedro Ludovico in Goiania, with Oscar Romero and Andres Cubas among the options to come into the starting XI.

Peru, meanwhile, wrapped up their Group B campaign with a slender 1-0 victory over Venezuela. 

Although anything but progress to the knockout stages would have been considered disappointing, Ricardo Gareca's team perhaps did better than they expected in beating Colombia to second place in the group.

Peru claimed two wins and a draw from their four games, with their only defeat coming against Brazil, who may well be their semi-final opponents should they progress.

Speaking at a media conference on Thursday, Gareca said: "We are improving day by day, game by game. Now it is the elimination stage so we need to be more attentive during the game. 

"The more we can develop what we believe and understand what our strengths are there will be possibilities for us."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Peru – Christian Cueva

If Peru are to secure progression to the last four then the creative burden will likely fall on the shoulders of Cueva. Three key passes, one shot, five tackles and eight possession regains summed up an all-action performance from the 29-year-old against Venezuela last time out.

Paraguay – Junior Alonso

There was little to get excited about in the defeat to Uruguay, but captain Alonso can be pleased with his performance. The Atletico Mineiro defender made more interceptions (four) than any other player on the pitch, while no player made more than his five clearances.

KEY OPTA FACTS

- Peru have only lost one of their last four games against Paraguay in the Copa America (W1 D2), after being defeated in the previous four.
- Paraguay conceded less than one goal per game on average in their last seven Copa America games.
- In fact, Paraguay have not conceded more than two goals in the competition since June 2015 (1-6 v Argentina).
- No other team has scored more left-footed goals in this Copa America than Paraguay. Four of their five goals have come this way.
- Alonso is the player with the most successful passes so far in this Copa America (256).

Venezuela crashed out of the Copa America after they were beaten 1-0 by Peru in a forgettable final group game in Brasilia.

Starting the evening placed fifth out of five teams in Group B, Venezuela needed to better Ecuador's result against defending champions Brazil as they took on opponents whose place in the knockout stages already looked safe.

However, Jose Peseiro's Venezuela were beaten by Andre Carrillo's second-half strike while their rivals for qualification held the tournament hosts to a draw to progress instead.

And that meant an early end to a disappointing campaign for Venezuela that returned just two points from four group-stages fixtures.

An understandably tense start to proceedings featured few chances, with two Jefferson Savarino efforts from distance providing the closest glimpse of goal for either side.

The second of those in fact created a gilt-edged opportunity for Sergio Cordova, but the Venezuela forward somehow conspired to head wide when presented with an open goal after a Pedro Gallese save.

Peru grew into the game from there, with Gianluca Lapadula and Sergio Pena bringing saves out of Wuilker Farinez before the break.

And La Blanquirroja picked up where they left off after the restart, with Carrillo reacting quickest when the ball dropped from a corner to smash the ball into the roof of the net.

That goal meant Venezuela were heading for the exit, and even worse news from Goiania followed, with Ecuador equalising against Brazil to strengthen their own chances of progressing.

With Venezuela's situation looking desperate, Peseiro looked to his bench for inspiration, but his side struggled to create chances of note as they were held at arm's length for the remainder by deserving winners Peru.

 

What does it mean? Peru good value

Although anything but progress to the knockout stages would have been considered disappointing, Peru have perhaps done better than they expected in beating Colombia to second place in the group.

Ricardo Gareca's side claimed two wins and a draw from their four games, with their only defeat coming against the hosts Brazil. They will hope to keep that form strong for going deep into the knockout stages.

Cueva leads the way

Three key passes, one shot, five tackles and eight possession regains sum up an all-action performance from Peru midfielder Christian Cueva.

Cordova misses out

How different things could have been for Venezuela had Cordova not made a hash of that simple header early on – one of just two shots he managed across 78 minutes on the field.

What's next?

Peru's win secured them second place in Group B behind Brazil, setting up a meeting with the side that finishes third in Group A after the final round of fixtures are completed on Monday.

Peru need only to avoid defeat to make sure of progression to the Copa America quarter-finals when they face Venezuela on Sunday.

Under Ricardo Gareca, Peru have done an excellent job of not losing games in the Copa America, aside when they have faced Brazil.

They lost 4-0 to Brazil in their second Group B encounter but Peru are unbeaten in their last 10 Copa games against all other opponents, a run that stretches back to 2015.

Gareca's men made it all the way to the final in 2019, losing 3-1 to Brazil, but before they can think about a similar run this year Peru must ensure they do not suffer a slip-up against the tournament minnows.

Venezuela are bottom of the group but draws against Colombia and Ecuador have kept them in the hunt for progression.

Those draws came despite Venezuela having only 35 per cent of possession in the Colombia game and 31.2 per cent of the ball versus Ecuador.

But a point will not be enough for Venezuela to reach the knockouts, only a win will do if they are to reach the last eight for the third successive tournament.

To claim victory, Venezuela will need to maintain the clinical form they displayed in the second half against Ecuador, in which they scored from their only two shots on target of the period.

A win for Peru will see them finish second in the group, though that could mean a quarter-final meeting with the only other team to beat them in the Copa under Gareca, Chile, who were 2-1 winners in the 2015 semi-finals.

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Peru - Christian Cueva

If Peru are to secure progression in style then the creative burden will likely fall on the shoulders of Cueva, who created two chances in their 2-2 draw with Ecuador last time out. He has six chances created in the tournament, though only one assist.

Venezuela - Edson Castillo

Midfielder Castillo was instrumental in Venezuela's draw with Ecuador. He had three shots, with two on target, scored their first equaliser and then teed up substitute Ronald Hernandez for a 91st-minute leveller.

KEY OPTA FACTS

- The last three meetings between Venezuela and Peru have ended level, two have finished 2-2 and they played out a goalless draw at the Copa America in 2019.

- Venezuela have just lost once in their last five Copa America games against sides not hosting the tournament, their only defeat came against Argentina in the 2019 quarter-finals.

- Venezuela are the team with the lowest average possession in the 2021 Copa America (35.1%). Three of the five games with the lowest possession were for Venezuela: v Ecuador (31.2%), v Colombia (35%) and v Brazil (38.3%).

- Peru have conceded the most goals in the group stage (7), with eliminated Bolivia second (6).

Peru rallied from two goals down to salvage a 2-2 draw with Ecuador at the Copa America on Wednesday.

Ecuador were in control of the Group B contest against Peru on Wednesday – leading 2-0 at half-time in Goiania.

A Renato Tapia own goal had handed Ecuador a 1-0 lead after 23 minutes and Eduar Preciado doubled the advantage in the third minute of first-half stoppage time.

Peru – runners-up in 2019 – had entered the fixture knowing victory would see them through to the quarter-finals of CONMEBOL's showpiece tournament.

Former Milan forward Gianluca Lapadula inspired Peru's comeback with a stunning five-minute performance in the second half.

Lapadula scored his first international goal in the 49th minute to give hope to Peru – the only side to have progressed from all group stages in the Copa America since 1997.

The Italy-born Benevento forward then turned provider, teeing up Andre Carrillo for the equaliser five minutes later as Peru escaped with a point.

The result left Peru third in Group B on four points from three games, level with Colombia and two points behind defending champions Brazil, while Ecuador sit fourth with two points from their three fixtures.

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