Peru coach Ricardo Gareca praised his side for overcoming adversity after they reached the Copa America final with a 3-0 win over defending champions Chile.
Peru were completely transformed from the meek outfit that was thrashed 5-0 by Brazil in their final group stage match as goals from Edison Flores, Yoshimar Yotun and Paolo Guerrero carried them to a first final since 1975.
“We’ve come through some tough moments in the Copa and we deserve to be in the final,” said the Argentine coach.
“We managed to overcome the huge adversity that was this defeat to Brazil that was hastily judged and provoked a wave of harsh criticism,” he said in a pointed rebuke to the Peruvian press.
Captain Guerrero, whose cool finish in injury time put the gloss on an impressive performance said there was still work to do.
“It was a derby against Chile, a difficult match, we prepared well and won it very well,” he said.
“We kept our concentration and we’re in the final. Now we have to work hard and think about Brazil. It will be a very difficult final.”
Chile coach Reinaldo Rueda was at a loss to explain his team’s performance, which was in stark contrast to their impressive showing last time out against Colombia in the quarter-final.
“I don’t know what factors could have influenced these first 20 minutes that made the difference,” said the Colombian.
“We didn’t get into the game, we didn’t show the attitude or aggressiveness of other matches.
“Mentally we wanted to play the final without dealing first with this step and Peru surprised us.”
But, he noted, “their goalkeeper had a great night.”
Pedro Gallese was the villain of Peru’s hammering by Brazil but has made up for it since.
He crucially saved a shoot-out penalty by Uruguay’s Luis Suarez in the quarter-final and made brilliant stops to deny Jean Beausejour, Alexis Sanchez and Eduardo Vargas on Wednesday.
Chile captain Gary Medel insisted the reigning champions had much to be proud of after winning the previous two Copa editions.
“We had a lot of chances in the second half but we couldn’t convert them. Now we have to fight for third place and give our all against Argentina,” he said.
“There’s nothing more to say. There is always (a chance for) revenge in football and we have to stay positive and take the benefits from this cup: what we did badly, what we did well.
“We’ve had a great tournament. It’s not easy to win the Copa America, and we did it in the best way.”