Rio De Janeiro: It's a good time to be playing Brazil, according to Peru coach Ricardo Gareca as he prepares his side to take on the hosts in the Copa America final.
Peru are surprise finalists in a competition in which they last reached the title decider in 1975, not least because they were thrashed by Brazil 5-0 in the group stage.
But back-to-back victories over record 15-time winners Uruguay and outgoing champions Chile have left Peru feeling confident going into Sunday's match at Rio de Janeiro's world-renowned Maracana stadium.
Gareca played down the importance of Brazil being unable to call on Paris Saint-Germain star Neymar, who was ruled out of the Copa 10 days before it began after injuring his ankle in a friendly against Qatar.
"Neymar's importance is undoubted but Brazil have played very well without him. Brazil have been together a long time, they haven't conceded any goals, they've shown themselves to be very solid and we're going to play them in a great moment for them because they're playing at a high level," said Argentine Gareca.
However, he said that's no reason to feel any trepidation.
"It's an ideal time to be playing Brazil because we've just knocked out two excellent teams in Uruguay and Chile and that's made us stronger."
The 61-year-old, who coached Sao Paulo's Palmeiras in 2014, said one of the keys to Sunday's match will be getting hold of the ball, no easy feat against a side that likes to keep it themselves.
"It will be important to have possession, especially against Brazil. Keeping possession is one of their characteristics. So the more we can have, the better it will be," he said.
Argentina complained bitterly after their 2-0 semi-final defeat by Brazil that they had been denied two stonewall penalties after the referee, Ecuador's Roddy Zambrano refused to consult VAR to check their claims.
The Argentine football association cried favoritism but Gareca said he has no such concerns.
"I'm not worried about anything, we're preparing for the final and we trust the referees in every way. Obviously VAR will improve in certain aspects over time," he said.
While he said he'd analyzed all of Brazil's matches, Gareca insisted he'd taken no hints from Venezuela and Paraguay, two sides who kept a clean sheet against the hosts.
"Everyone has to come up with their own plans," he said.
As for the 5-0 defeat two weeks ago, forward Edison Flores dismissed its significance.
"It's another game, it's a big final which were taking as such. We're only thinking about tomorrow, which will be a different game," he said.
Peru have won the Copa America twice before, but this is their first final since 1975.
Brazil are eight-time winners of the competition and claimed it in four out of five editions between 1997 and 2007.
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Updated Date: Jul 12, 2019 21:38:21 IST