Edwin Valencia insists Colombia’s only focus is on qualifying for the Copa America quarter-finals, not finishing top of Group C, as they prepare for a crucial showdown with Peru.
Jose Pekerman’s Colombia kept their hopes alive with a vital 1-0 victory over Brazil on Thursday, in a match that ended in controversy as Neymar was sent off after the final whistle when he appeared to kick the ball at Pablo Armero and then seemingly attempted to headbutt goalscorer Jeison Murillo.
It was the perfect response to a shock 1-0 loss to Venezuela in their opening group match, and it means all four teams in the pool are locked on three points with the same goal difference after two matches.
While Colombia can still top the group with a win over Peru, midfielder Valencia is only concerned by reaching the knockout stages.
“Now we have the opportunity to play well against Peru and achieve qualification,” he said at a news conference ahead of Sunday’s contest in Temuco.
“We have had the chance to see Peru’s games. We know they are a rather difficult opponent. [They] try to exploit their forwards, who are strong and skilled.
“All of them will need to be watched. [We need] to be compact to get the three points and to qualify.”
Colombia, who won the Copa for the only time in their history on home soil in 2001, face a Peru side that beat Venezuela 1-0 to maintain their hopes of reaching the knockout stages alive.
Having lost 2-1 to Brazil in their opener, Claudio Pizarro scored the only goal of the game against their 10-man opponents to take it to the last group game.
Peru have previous in the tournament against Colombia, having beaten them 2-0 after extra-time in the quarter-finals of the 2011 Copa en route to a third-placed finish.
Head coach Ricardo Gareca is aware that repeating that feat will not be easy, but he is backing Peru to rise to the occasion.
“It will be difficult, but we are going to try to win the match,” he said. “They are also playing for their life so it will be difficult.
“We have to improve some aspects of our game, but winning is important now.”
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