RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Coach Ricardo Gareca says his Peru team has reason to be optimistic about its future despite losing the Copa América final to host Brazil on Sunday.
Gareca said after the 3-1 loss that Peru showed signs of improvement during the South American tournament.
“The most important thing is to realize that we have improved over time,” he said. “We are on the right track despite some setbacks, and we have to stay on this path.”
Gareca said Peru has enough talent to keep up with continental powerhouses Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay in the future.
“We may not have the thousands of potential players like other nations, but we may have 50 who will allow us to compete with anybody,” said Gareca, an Argentine. “Of course, if we have more potential players, we can find more talent, so what Peru needs to do is keep working so there’s a greater number of potential players for the national team.”
Peru’s runner-up finish marked the country’s best Copa América campaign since third-place finishes in 2011 and 2015. It last won the South American title in 1975.
Peru had a slow start this year, losing 5-0 to Brazil in the group stage and barely avoiding elimination. But it recovered nicely by beating title-favorite Uruguay in the quarterfinals and two-time defending champion Chile in the semifinals.
Striker Paolo Guerrero finished the tournament as the Copa América’s all-time leading scorer among active players with 14 goals. He was also the top scorer this year with three goals, along with Brazil’s Everton.
Guerrero’s first-half penalty kick was Peru’s only goal of the final.
Gareca took over as Peru coach in 2015 and last year the Andean nation made its first World Cup appearance in 36 years.
Peru’s next official match will be next year at the start of qualifying for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.