Top Stories

Paolo Guerrero provides reminder of what he is capable of in Peru victory

Photo by Jennifer Buchanan/USA Today Sports
Photo by Jennifer Buchanan/USA Today Sports

SEATTLE — Paolo Guerrero was all smiles on Saturday evening. Not only had he just moved into sole possession of the top spot on Peru’s all-time scoring list, but did so while helping his nation start the Copa America Centenario with three points.

Peru got off to a winning start in Group B of the tournament by defeating Haiti, 1-0, at CenturyLink Field thanks to a record goal from Guerrero. The 32-year-old forward scored in the 61st minute of the match via a diving header that caught the attention of many observers around the world, and the impressive finish that highlighted Guerrero’s nose for goal saw him surpass the legendary Teofilo Cubillas on the Peruvians’ scoring charts.

“Paolo is the goal-scorer of the team, the all-time goal-scorer of the team now,” left midfielder Edison Flores, who assisted on Guerrero’s winner, told SBI. “He always helps us when we need him. He’s a player that’s very strong, good in the air, and we have to help complement him so that he can score goals or assist us, which he’s done.”

Guerrero, the leading scorer at the last two Copa Americas, has shown throughout his career that he is deadly in front of the net. He has a total of 11 goals all-time in tournament play after finding the back of the net vs. Haiti, and that figure is more than what South American icons like Brazilian striker Ronaldo and Uruguayan forward Diego Forlan have. Even today’s superstars, Leo Messi (three), Neymar (three), and Luis Suarez (four), are far behind Guerrero’s mark.

Nonetheless, the Flamengo player provided a reminder to fans everywhere what he is capable of. He was at the forefront of many of Peru’s most promising attacks against Haiti’s organized, physical, and stingy defense, including on a play in the first half in which he calmly trapped an aerial ball with his chest before laying off a neat pass to Flores in one fell swoop.

That resulted in a stinging shot that clanked off the near post, but regardless still demonstrated, once again, that Guerrero can be dangerous even when he is not getting on the end of chances.

“He’s a good forward, and everyone knows who he is and what he is capable of,” centerback Alberto Rodriguez told SBI. “The important thing is that if he’s good then the team is good, because he’s an important player on the national team. We need to have him like this, in good form, because it’s good for us all.”

It was common to hear the Peruvians label Guerrero as an “important player” after Saturday’s game. They had nothing but praise for the veteran that was named captain for the Copa America Centenario in place of the absent Claudio Pizarro and Carlos Lobaton, and Peru head coach Ricardo Gareca even lauded all that Guerrero brings to the table as both a forward and professional.

That said, Peru’s victory was not just a result of some more Guerrero magic. While he did score in a way that is almost extinct in soccer these days, Peru benefitted from better wide play in the second half. Flores and right midfielder Alejandro Hohberg got more involved and looked more aggressive after halftime, and that helped provide an unpredictability that was missing in the opening 45 minutes.

“I think we were anxious to score,” said Guerrero of the first half. “We were missing that final ball, because we were too anxious to finish off a play quickly and have the lead. In the end, we were able to score the goal that gave us the lead and calmness.”

Guerrero, maybe fittingly, was the player to provide that goal. As a result, Peru sits in first place of Group B after Ecuador and Brazil played to a scoreless draw later on Saturday. Now, a win on Wednesday against the former will book the Peruvians an early ticket to the knockout rounds of the competition.

The prolific goal-scorer is ready to try and help his country accomplish that. He might have made history vs. Haiti, but has no time to rest on his laurels and is already looking ahead to what is next.

“Right now, I swear I’m not even thinking about (the record) to be honest,” said Guerrero. “I’m a little tired, but my team got three points. We need to start to think about Ecuador because that’s going to be a very tough game. We need to prepare mentally and physically.”

Leave a Comment