By Nelson Belen, Contributing Writer
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Peruvian forward Raul Riudiaz scored a highly controversial goal in the closing minutes of Sunday’s (June 12th) match with Brazil stunning the Seleção out of the Copa America. Brazil had two paths to advance in the tournament, a win or a draw, but with the shocking defeat, it was sent to its earliest exit from the tournament since 1987.
Coming off of last Wednesday’s (June 8th) 7×1 drubbing of Haiti, Brazil entered Sunday’s match with Peru as heavy favorites to advance in the Copa America. Needing only a draw, for nearly 75 minutes, it appeared as if next stage’s match against the U.S. was assured.
Brazil started strong, dominating possession for most of the first period, with Peru needing a highlight-reel save from Peruvian goalkeeper Pedro Gallese on Gabriel at the 26-minute mark keep its tournament hopes alive.
The second half featured more of the same, until the 75-minute mark when Peruvian substitute forward Raul Ruidiaz received a cross from Andy Polo and appeared to punch the ball with his hand into the goal.
Brazilian players and head coach Dunga erupted over the apparent foul, and immediately complained to Uruguayan referee Andres Cunha.
After an extensive discussion in which Cunha consulted with other officials, including the fourth official via headset, the goal was allowed sealing Brazil’s fate.
Following the game, Dunga said to reporters, “It was such a clear handball, but we have no influence over the referee.” He added, “I am sure the Brazilian fans saw the game and saw how Brazil was eliminated.”
Peru’s last victory over Brazil at the Copa America was in 1975. They now advance in the sixteen-team tournament to play Colombia in the quarter-finals in New Jersey on Friday, June 17th, while host nation United States will take on Ecuador in Seattle a day earlier, on Thursday, June 16th.
This year’s Copa America is being played across ten cities in the U.S., the first time the tournament has been held outside of South America.
The seleção must now pick up the pieces from this stunning loss and turn their attention to the Rio Olympics in August, when star player Neymar will rejoin the team.
When asked after the match, if he feared for his job, embattled Brazilian coach Dunga said defiantly “The only thing I fear is death.”