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Peru and Brazil have a long history when it comes to Soccer.
The first time the two countries squared off on the soccer field was during the 1937 Copa America, when, in the very first match of the cup on December 27th, 1936, Brazil overwhelmed Peru and won 3-2. Though they put up a valiant effort, it is clear that they were outmatched, requiring three substitutions just to keep up with the Brazilians, which included them having to take out their goal-scoring forward, Alejandro Villanueva. Though Brazil was eventually defeated by Argentina in two separate matches, their normal match, and the grand finals, Brazil dominated the league that year, defeating nearly every other team, scoring a combined 17 goals in their 4 other matches.
Their next two Copa America matchups went very much the same, with Brazil earning a simple 2-1 victory in 1942, and a devastating 7-1 smash in 1949.
However, during the 1952 Panamerican Championship, during the 10th game of the season, Peru were able to hold Brazil to a draw. Though it was only Brazil’s second game of the season, Peru had already played three matches, two of which were fairly decisive losses (5-2 to Uruguay and 3-2 to Chile), but it seems they were sufficiently warmed up and they were able to stand toe to toe with the formidable Brazilian team.
Brazil eventually became the Panamerican champions, but nobody else was able to prevent Brazil from scoring less than 2 goals in a game, let alone keeping them from scoring at all. What’s more, both Peru and Brazil required 2 substitutions, showing that they clearly had the stamina to keep up with the team that was bowling over every other team in the league. Perhaps they were just tired of losing to Brazil.
Their determination showed through, when, for the first time ever, they were finally able to best the Brazilians. During the 1953 Copa America, on March 19th, after holding their own and tying against both Paraguay and Chile, they finally had the Brazilian team figured out, and eked out a narrow 1-0 victory.
Brazil was no longer able to ignore their neighbors to the west. They had come down from the Andes and showed they were made of sterner stuff than everyone had assumed.
Brazil seemed determined to strike back. And strike back they did. The next three times these countries faced off, Brazil was able to overwhelm the Peruvian resistance, though they weren’t able to win as spectacularly as they often did against others.
While there were a few draws between the two, one during the 1957 FIFA World Cup, and another during the 1959 Copa America, Brazil handed Peru a steady stream of losses, often with 3 or 4 goals scored against the Peruvians. The Brazilian reign of terror continued for well over a decade.
It wasn’t until the 1975 Copa America that Peru was able to get back at Brazil. This time it was the Brazilians who were run ragged, needing to substitute a midfielder and a forward to keep up with the Peruvian onslaught, which ran them over with just one midfielder needing relief. Peru scored 3 goals to Brazil’s 1.
Clearly, the Brazilians were embarrassed, hitting back by shutting Peru out 2-0 just five days later. That didn’t stop Peru from leaving Brazil behind in the Semi-Finals and facing off against Colombia in three matches in the Finals.
From that moment onward, Peru drew steadily closer in skill to Brazil, but they never could seem to overcome the legendary Brazilian team and their natural propensity for soccer. Though they would regularly earn draws against the soccer behemoths, their track record still stands at 33 losses, 9 draws and 4 wins against Brazil.
Peru’s most recent victory against Brazil was on June 12, during the 2016 Copa America, when Peru managed to knock the Brazilian team out of the running with a 1-0 victory. A shocking upset, it was highly contentious, as many Brazilians claim that the winning goal, scored by Raul Ruidaz in the 75th minute of the game, should have been invalidated by a hand violation.
If you watch the footage, it’s very unclear, and since most Soccer leagues do not use instant replay and other forms of video verification to check for the validity of referee calls (or lack thereof), the referees deemed the goal valid.
When you first see it, it seems like the ball bounced off of his chest close to his elbow. But as the Peruvians are still celebrating the goal, the Brazilian keeper can be seen signaling his claim that Ruidiaz scored the goal with a hand ball. For several minutes, you can see both teams beseeching the referees, making their case for why the goal should be valid or invalid.
Unfortunately for the referees, they have to make their decisions based on what they saw with their own eyes, but even if they were allowed to view closeup footage from the cameras around the goal, it’s still quite unclear. When the commentators show the actual replay, from multiple angles, it’s still hard to tell. The blur of the video, the angle at which the ball hits the player, you could make the case that it hit his forearm, or that he bounced it off of his thigh and stomach.
Whatever the case, the decision was made and the goal was declared valid, knocking Brazil out of the running for the Copa America and securing Peru their position in the quarter-finals. Of course, Brazil made sure to pay them back for that demoralizing defeat over the next few years, beating them soundly in their next three matchups, but that does not change the fact that Peru, as they have done on a number of other occasions, was able to stand toe to toe with Brazil and deliver an unexpected and impressive performance.
While sporadic, the rivalry between Peru and Brazil is long and storied, an ongoing tale of the David-like Peru vs the soccer Goliath that is Brazil. We can only hope they keep up their quiet rivalry in the years to come.