SANTIAGO: Brazilian-based striker Paolo Guerrero scored a hat-trick as Peru swept aside Bolivia 3-1 to set up a Copa America semi-final showdown with fierce rivals Chile on Thursday.
Flamengo forward Guerrero, who has spent the past three years in Brazil after spells in Germany with Bayern Munich and Hamburg, pounced in the 20th and 23rd minutes to snuff out Bolivia’s campaign.
The 31-year-old completed his hat-trick in the 74th minute, strolling clear of the Bolivian defense to finish nonchalantly. Marcelo Martins scored a late consolation from the penalty spot for Bolivia. The result sets up the mouthwatering prospect of a semi-final next Monday between tournament hosts Chile and Peru, the latest installment of a ferocious footballing rivalry which began in 1935.
Matches between the two neighbors are known as the “Clasico del Pacifico,” laced with a historical enmity that dates back to the 1879-1883 War of the Pacific. Chile and Peru also fought a long-running legal battle over the two nations’ disputed maritime border.
Peru will head into Monday’s showdown brimming with confidence after easing past Bolivia. The match was effectively settled during a devastating three-minute spell midway through the first half when Peru’s superb counter-attacking unstitched the Bolivian defense.
Guerrero grabbed his first of the night in the 20th minute, timing his jump to head home past Bolivia goalkeeper Romel Quinonez after an exquisite cross from the left by Fiorentina midfielder Juan Manuel Vargas. Three minutes later, Guerrero made it 2-0 after a breathless breakout from Peru which had begun with a Bolivia free-kick on the edge of their opponents area.
Midfielder Christian Cueva was the architect, kicking a ball over the top of the Bolivian defense to send Guerrero bearing down on goal. Quinonez hesitated fatally as he advanced off his line and Guerrero coolly tucked away a low finish to put Peru firmly in control.
Bolivia almost gave themselves a lifeline on 31 minutes but Martins was denied after a fine close-range reflex save by Peru goalkeeper Pedro Gallese. Peru did not take long to get back onto the attack, and only the woodwork thwarted Jefferson Farfan when his thumping long-range effort cannoned back off the post on 37 minutes with Quinonez beaten.
Bolivia escaped again on the stroke of half-time when Farfan hit the woodwork again, crashing a shot off the bar. Victory was sealed when Guerrero completed his hat-trick on 74 minutes. Bolivia grabbed a late consolation through a Martins penalty after Ronald Raldes was brought down by Yordy Reyna but it was too little too late