A highly controversial goal in the 75th minute by Raul Ruidiaz gave Peru a stunning 1-0 victory over Brazil and eliminated the eight-time Copa America champions in the group-stage on Sunday night in Foxborough, Massachusetts. Video replays showed that the 25 year-old Ruidiaz, who plays his club soccer in Peru for Club Universitario de Deportes, used his right arm to deflect an Andy Polo cross into the back of the net. However, despite a long conference among the match officials following the incident, the goal was allowed to stand and proved to be the game-winner for Los Incas.
After Ecuador easily defeated Haiti 4-0 earlier on Sunday, it became mathematically possible for only one side between Brazil and Peru to advance to the quarterfinals. A win or a draw would give Brazil the title of Group B Champions and a date with Colombia on Friday, while only a victory would Peru the same honors and quarterfinal opponent.
Both sides began the match in dueling 4-2-3-1 formations, although the Brazilian squad put out by manager Dunga appeared the more threatening on paper. However, Brazil would only be able to muster five shots on target over the course of the match, with Peruvian goalkeeper Pedro Gallese standing in the way of all five efforts.
Defender Felipe Luis had an early chance for Brazil in the 12th minute, but the Atlético Madrid man was unable to steer his shot past Gallese. An even more impressive save was made by the Club Juan Aurich goalkeeper in the 26th minute, when he tipped aside a shot from Gabriel that was destined for the left corner of goal.
Despite needing a win to advance, Peru were devoid of ideas going forward in the first half. Striker Paolo Guerrero received very little service in the Brazilian penalty area, although Polo, making only his third start for Peru, looked bright on the right wing.
Peru began the second period a bit better as Christian Cueva registered a shot on target from a direct free kick, but the Brazilian goalkeeper Alisson had no issues collecting the effort.
For their part, Brazil were unable to generate much themselves in terms of attacking play. Fresh off a hat-trick versus Haiti, Philippe Coutinho was poor in the midfield and Willian was unable to find space near a tightly guarded Peruvian defense, led by Christian Ramos.
Entering the final 20 minutes of play it seemed that Brazil were well-positioned to cling to a 0-0 draw and advance, but Ruidiaz and Peru had other ideas.
Within 15 minutes to play the match’s critical moment arrived. Polo found space on the right wing after some good inter-play with Guerrero and was able to dribble into the six-yard box.
Polo then sent a ball across the face of goal, a ball that Ruidiaz slightly overran. Ruidiaz used his trailing right arm to make contact with the ball and divert it into the net however, momentarily send Peru into the lead.
The goal was at first waved-off by match official Andres Cunha, who then spent the next few minutes consulting with his linesmen and the fourth official. After an astoundingly long break for the discussion, Cunha then re-awarded the goal to Peru, who suddenly found themselves bound for the quarterfinals.
The decision to give Peru the goal enraged the Brazilian defenders and the goalkeeper Alisson, who was particularly forceful about his claims of handball.
Needing a goal in the final minutes of the match to equalize and put themselves in a position to advance, Dunga made the curious choice to not make any substitutions following the Peru goal. In fact, Brazil only used one substitution in the match, when Hulk entered for Gabriel three minutes before Ruidiaz’s goal.
Brazil would not come close to getting an equalizer either as the match approached full time, with their best chance falling to Corinthians midfielder Elias. But he was only able to partially deflect a cross straight into the center of goal, where Gallese was waiting with open arms.
The 1-0 victory signifies that Peru will advance from the group-stage for the eighth straight Copa America, a feat no other nation has accomplished. Brazil meanwhile fail to reach the quarterfinals for the first time since 1993, marking a second consecutive disappointing Copa America after last year’s exit in the quarterfinals on penalties to Paraguay.
That, coupled with their current sixth place standing in South American 2018 World Cup Qualifying, leaves the possibility of a managerial change very likely for the Brazilians.
There is still soccer to be played for manager Ricardo Gareca and Peru though, who will face Colombia at MetLife Stadium on Friday.