After runs to the semi-finals in the last two editions of the Copa America, Peru begin their latest quest for a third title against minnows Haiti on Saturday.
Ricardo Gareca’s side impressed 12 months ago as they reached the last four once again, but eventual champions Chile were too strong in the semis.
Peru had to settle for third for the second successive tournament and, although their form has been sketchy in 2016, they come into the competition having recorded back-to-back wins in warm-ups.
A 4-0 victory over Trinidad and Tobago was followed by a 3-1 triumph over El Salvador last weekend, bringing renewed confidence to Gareca’s squad.
Having finished the 2015 event as the tournament’s joint top-scorer with four goals, Peru’s success this year will likely hinge on the form of experienced striker Paolo Guerrero.
The 32-year-old is playing in his fourth Copa America and he is confident the latest 23 have enough quality to go far in the tournament.
“In this squad there is a lot of quality,” Guerrero told La Republica. “Every day I am surprised by the boys, hopefully on game day they can play with ease but knowing that they represent the whole country.
“They are doing things well, and I hope they keep it up.”
Christian Cueva is a promising prospect within Gareca’s squad, the 24-year-old’s form for Mexican side Toluca last season earning a move back to South America with Sao Paulo.
While Peru are aiming for a third success, Haiti will make their debut at Copa America Centenario.
Haiti took a giant step during the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup, earning a place in the tournament’s quarter-finals to set up January’s Copa America qualifying match – a contest they won 1-0 against Trinidad and Tobago thanks to Pascal Millien’s late strike.
As well as facing Peru, Haiti have the daunting task of taking on Brazil and Ecuador in Group B.
Patrice Neveu’s men were comfortably beaten 3-1 by Colombia in their only warm-up ahead of the tournament, marking a third successive game without a win for the island nation.
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