Mexico has the opportunity on Friday night to put an opening day loss to Chile in the past and make a big step towards advancement in its second group stage encounter, against Peru. With Uruguay looming on the final day of matches, it will be imperative for El Tri to post a win over a plucky Peru side that managed to take a point off of Uruguay in the opening round of games. A win, and Mexico stands a good chance of advancing, especially if it can snatch a draw from Uruguay. A loss, and it is virtually out of the competition. So, what will it take for Mexico's promising young stars to continue what has been an incredibly successful summer so far for Mexican national teams?
First off, Mexico will need to put in a significantly improved offensive and midfield performance. While it took the lead against Peru, the midfield was thoroughly dominated for most of the 90 minutes and failed to create many chances as Mexico mustered just three shots. The good news for Mexico is that Peru doesn't possess the likes of Arturo Vidal, Mauricio Isla and Gary Medel in their midfield, meaning Luis Fernando Tena's side could have a significantly better time of possession. However, Peru will field a strong back line, meaning Giovani dos Santos and company will have to be at their best to break down the opposition with what is likely to be a similar lineup from the Chile game.
The main lineup decision for Tena and his staff will be whether to stick with Javier Aquino on the right wing, or start the man who replaced him on Monday night, Oribe Peralta. While Aquino offers pace and guile on the right wing, Peralta would offer a more direct goalscoring threat and another target for Dos Santos, who will be tasked with a significant amount of Mexico's creative burden. Other than the Peralta-Aquino battle, Mexico will retain a similar shape to the defeat against Chile, which should work out for Mexico this time around, considering they will be much more evenly matched against Peru.
Speaking of Peru, it is in a similar situation to Mexico, in that its game with Mexico is sandwiched in between two more difficult tests. Unlike Mexico, however, Peru already has a point to its name and will see tonight's match as the best possible chance to secure the four points it will likely need to advance from Group C. While Peru have been beset by injuries across the board, including two to star players Jefferson Farfan and Claudio Pizarro, the blanquirroja will still be able to count on the likes of Paolo Guerrero (Hamburger SV) and Juan Manuel Vargas (Fiorentina) in its quest for a fifth straight quarterfinals appearance.
Aside from the known threats in Guerrero and Vargas, Peru comes with an interesting mix of youth and experience, with the majority of players hailing from the Peruvian domestic league and a smattering of players plying their trade in Argentina and Europe. Veteran defender Santiago Acasiete, who plays his club soccer at Almería in Spain, will anchor the backline, backed by Raúl Fernández, an up and coming goalkeeper owned by French outfit Nice, who played the most recent season with Univeristario back in Peru. Joining Acasiete on the backline is Alberto Rodríguez, who had an outstanding season with Europa League finalists Sporting Braga and earned himself a move to Sporting Lisbon.
There is a bit of history between these two sides, with Mexico posting a 10-8-6 record in 24 meetings. In the Copa América, Mexico and Peru have faced off four times since Mexico's first participation in 1993. Mexico won the first encounter 4-2 in the 1993 quarterfinals and since then, the record has been dead even, with the sides playing to one more Mexico win (1-0, third place game, 1997), one Peru win (1-0, group stage, 2001), and one draw (3-3, quarterfinals, 1999 - Mexico won on penalties). However, with teams having faced off just twice since their last competitive fixture nearly a decade ago in Colombia, the slate will be completely clean as Mexico tries to avoid its first ever group stage exit in the Copa América.