MENDOZA, Argentina, July 8, 2011 (AFP) - A late goal from Paolo Guerrero took Peru to the brink of the Copa America quarter-finals on Friday after his effort delivered a 1-0 Group C win over Mexico.
Peru have not won the South American championship for 36 years and endured an abysmal World Cup qualifying campaign but they have made an impressive start here with first a draw against fancied Uruguay and now a win over a young Mexican side which is on its way home.
|AFP - The Peru head coach, Uruguayan Sergio Markarian (C), and assistants Oscar Aguirregaray (L) and Pablo Bengoechea (R) watch the pitch during their match against Mexico|
Sergio Markarian's team made a slow start but gradually began to impose themselves at the Malvinas stadium and although they missed several clear-cut chances they finally pulled out a goal to go level with neighbouring Chile, also on four points after holding the Uruguayans and beating the Mexicans.
Guerrero looked suspiciously offside as he nipped in to score from close range and effectively end Mexico's campaign. El Tri brought a young side to the competition to gain experience after winning the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
Peru's Fiorentina star Juan Vargas proved a continual thorn in Mexican flesh, yet the Peruvians looked as if they would fail to impose their superiority as Luis Fernando Tena's youngsters held firm around their star man Giovani Dos Santos.
Guerrero could have added to his tally as he twice went close with headers and Vargas himself was denied only by the woodwork.
But Guerrero finally emerged as the man to break Mexican resistance as he escaped his marker to convert from point blank range after Michael Guevara's cross from the right and claim his second goal of the tournament.
With one foot in the last eight, the Peruvians will now meet Chile in their Pacific "clasico" on Tuesday while Uruguay must go for a win against the Mexicans to ensure they also progress.
In the Copa, the two best third-placed teams also are awarded berths in the quarter-finals.