Goalkeeper gaffe helps Brazil trounce Peru to reach quarterfinals

Brazil’s Willian, right, celebrates after scoring against Peru during their Copa America football tournament group match at the Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on June 22, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 24 June 2019

Goalkeeper gaffe helps Brazil trounce Peru to reach quarterfinals

  • Peru must now wait to see what happens in the other two groups to find out if they will qualify for the knockout rounds

SAO PAULO: Peru goalkeeper Pedro Gallese committed a horrendous error as Brazil ensured top spot in their Copa America group on Saturday with a 5-0 victory in Sao Paulo.
Goals from Casemiro, Roberto Firmino, Everton, Dani Alves and Willian ensured the Selecao would finish top of Group A and will play their quarterfinal in Porto Alegre, potentially against out-of-sorts Argentina, their bitter rivals.
“We knew we’d get there sooner or later because we worked very hard,” captain Alves told TV Globo.
“It’s thanks to wins like this that we’re connected with the fans. When we’re all together, we feel the positive energy,” he added, alluding to the jeers that greeted the team in their first two group matches.
With Peru already 1-0 down, it was Gallese’s dreadful error that led to Firmino’s goal and swept the mat from under Peru’s feet, with the game turning into a rout.
Darwin Machis scored a brace as Venezuela beat Bolivia 3-1 in Belo Horizonte and leapfrogged Peru into second place, securing a quarterfinal at Rio de Janeiro’s iconic Maracana stadium.
Peru, who finish third on four points, must now wait nervously to see what happens in the other two groups on Sunday and Monday to find out if they will qualify for the knockout rounds as one of the two best third-place finishers.
Never before since the Copa America adopted a 12-team format in 1993 with eight sides going through to the quarterfinals, has a side mustering four points failed to progress.
Hosts Brazil took an early lead in scrappy fashion when Philippe Coutinho’s corner was flicked on at the near post for Marquinhos to head goalwards from inside the six-yard box, with Gallese rooted to his line.
The ball came back off the post, grazed Marquinhos’s shoulder and was then headed over the line by Casemiro on 12 minutes.
If Gallese was partly at fault there for not commanding his area, he was totally to blame for Brazil’s second.
The goalkeeper dallied over a clearance and when he tried to hoof the ball upfield, it cannoned off a jumping Firmino, looped over his head and again came back off the post.
The ball bounced back to Firmino who waltzed around the stranded Gallese and slotted the ball into the empty net on 19 minutes.
Peru had barely been in the game but captain Paolo Guerrero did curl a free-kick over the top.
Yet the match was effectively over as a contest on 32 minutes when Everton cut in off the left flank and fired a snap effort into the bottom corner, with Gallese a touch slow to react and beaten at his near post.
With almost two thirds of the match to go, Peru were relying on a favor from Bolivia to hold onto second place in the group.
Brazil, who were boosted by a visit from the injured and absent Neymar on Friday, did not let up in the second half.
Alves was next in on the scoring act after playing a pair of one-twos with Arthur and Firmino before firing across Gallese on 53 minutes.
Willian sealed the rout in the last minute with a stunning strike from the corner of the 18-yard box.
And there was still time for Gallese to give away and then save a Gabriel Jesus penalty in stoppage time.
In Belo Horizonte, Venezuela were off to a dream start when Machis headed home a cross from Ronald Hernandez in the second minute.
Machis doubled Venezuela’s lead on 58 minutes, converting a pass from Tomas Rincon.
But just after Jhon Chancellor missed the chance to extend Venezuela’s lead when he hit the bar with a header, Leonel Justiniano pulled back a goal for Bolivia from outside the area.
Venezuela, though, were not to be denied and Josef Martinez flick home a header from Yeferson Soltedo’s dinked cross to book their place in the knockout stages.
“We dedicate this to the whole country, which is always keeping an eye on us,” said Martinez.


Djokovic not worried about blisters ahead of US Open

Updated 25 August 2019

Djokovic not worried about blisters ahead of US Open

  • When the year's last Grand Slam tournament begins Monday, Djokovic will be in Arthur Ashe Stadium during the afternoon session, facing Roberto Carballes Baena of Spain

NEW YORK: During a break in practice two days before opening his US Open title defense, Novak Djokovic pulled off his blue shoe and white sock so a trainer could look at his right foot.

Did it again a little while later.

And then, toward the end of Saturday’s training session in Louis Armstrong Stadium with 2014 runner-up Kei Nishikori, Djokovic stopped a sprint and pulled up short of a ball, raised his right leg off the ground entirely and hopped repeatedly on his left, wincing. Nothing to worry about, Djokovic said later at his pre-tournament news conference: Just blisters.

“A minor thing,” Djokovic called it. “Like anybody has ... Nothing major that is causing a concern for the event.”

When the year's last Grand Slam tournament begins Monday, Djokovic will be in Arthur Ashe Stadium during the afternoon session, facing Roberto Carballes Baena, a 26-year-old from Spain whose career-best ranking was 72nd.

Carballes Baena has an overall career record of 43-50. That includes 2-7 at major tournaments, 1-1 at Flushing Meadows, where he made his debut a year ago and lost in the second round.

Djokovic, meanwhile, has won 33 of his past 34 Grand Slam matches en route to collecting four of the past five major titles. That allowed the 32-year-old Serb to raise his career haul to 16 trophies, putting him just two away from second-place Rafael Nadal’s total of 18, and Roger Federer’s 20, which is the record for men.

He’s not shy about trying to catch those guys.

“More or less everything is about Grand Slams, in terms of how I see tennis and how I approach it, because they matter the most,” Djokovic said. “So I will definitely try to play my best tennis — and aim to play my best tennis — at these events.”

And while many would attribute Djokovic's success to his ability to return serves, say, or his mental strength and propensity for coming up big in the biggest moments — such as saving two match points along the way to edging Federer in a fifth-set tiebreaker in the Wimbledon final last month — there's something else the man himself would point to as his most vital quality.

That's the way Djokovic can cover a court, which is why the state of that right foot is actually a rather big deal.

His movement, Djokovic said Saturday, is "the base of everything" and "the most important thing."

"It just allows you to be more in balance. And at the end of the day, that is what you're looking for as a tennis player," he explained. "How can you hit the ball, being in the right balance, so you can penetrate the ball with the right speed, accuracy and precision?"

Watch Djokovic during a match, and you'll see him change direction in a heartbeat, twist and turn, contort his limbs, slide — on clay, on grass, even on hard courts — always getting to the right spot at the right time.

He attributes his strength in that area to the flexibility of his ankles and is grateful he used to participate in another sport while growing up back home in Serbia.

"I credit my childhood spent on the skis. I used to spend a lot of time skiing," Djokovic said. "That had an effect as well, with kind of coordination and changing movement from one side to another. Even though they're different sports, in essence, you're using some major muscle groups and joints and stuff like this in most of the sports."

It is Djokovic's right elbow that gave him the most trouble a couple of seasons ago.

He missed the last half of 2017, including that year's US Open because that arm was bothering him, then wound up having surgery in February 2018. It took some time for Djokovic to get going after that. All's good these days, though.

"Novak had a couple years where he didn't seem like the same guy," ESPN's John McEnroe said. "Now he's back with a vengeance."

Only 1½ months have passed since Djokovic edged Federer in that classic title match at the All England Club.

Not a lot of time to savor the victory. Not a lot of time to rest a weary body.

"This sport can be a little bit 'cruel,'" Djokovic said, using fingers to indicate air quotes, "when it comes to, I guess, marveling or celebrating your own success. You don't have that much luxury of time to really reflect on everything because the season keeps going."