Honestly, you can't take Uruguay anywhere. Sixty-one years after Maracanazo in the Maracana, they were at it again on Saturday, knocking Argentina out on penalties in their own bloody tournament. Maracanzo II: The Argentina Edition. And this a year after causing a pop-up pundit Marcel Desailly to have a full-on nuclear meltdown at the World Cup (although you'd be on edge as well if you'd spent a month in the company of Adrian Chiles). If you need a party pooping, these are your guys. They'll be the ones laughing and joking through the speeches, the ones slagging off the presents, the food and the company, and they'll definitely be the ones who manage to start a ,mass drunken brawl at the end of the night. Cartoon villains to the bitter end, Uruguay are brilliant.
They really are, actually. They've won more World Cups than England, France, Holland and Spain, not to mention reaching the semi-final in 1954, 1970 and 2010, the match against Hungary in 54 one of the greatest of all time. And don't forget they've won the Copa America 14 times. If everything goes to plan for them over the next few days, make that 15 times. Sure, they might be unashamedly - some might say hilariously - cynical at times, but this lot can play as well. The goalkeeper, Nestor Muslera, had the game of his life against Argentina, there can't be many better strike partnerships than Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez and what's in between isn't too shabby either. All this from a nation of only four million people. With Argentina, Brazil and Chile all out in farcical circumstances, Oscar Tabarez's side are firm favourites to go all the way now.
The form guide is against them though. Not because Peru are necessarily a better side - these two drew 1-1 in their group stage game after all - but because all four of the knock-out ties in this tournament have ended in victory for the underdogs. That might have been Uruguay's part against Argentina, but tonight they're cast in the leading role, Peru hoping to cause another shock after knocking out Colombia. They rode their luck during that match, not least when Radamel Falcao missed a penalty when it was 0-0. They took their chances, though and eventually deserved to win in extra-time. Even they probably didn't expect to get this far, especially as they're without their main strikers Claudio Pizarro and Jefferson Farfan, but now they're here, none of that matters. If this tournament has taught us one thing, it's to not be hasty in making any rash predictions, and with in-form attackers like Paolo Guerrero and Juan Vargas, Peru are more than capable of making this a very interesting semi-final.
So back the underdog. Vamos Peru!
Although the last time they reached a semi-final, Brazil tonked them 7-0 in 1997. Hmmm. Vamos Uruguay!
Here are some teams. Which is a good start indeed. Both line-ups are much as expected.
Peru (4-5-1): Fernández; Carmona, Acasiete, Rodríguez, Vílchez; Advíncula; Balbín, Cruzado, Yotún, Vargas; Guerrero. Subs: Libman, Buyton, Ballon, Guevara, Lobaton, Revoredo, Ruidiaz, Corzo, Chiroque, Carrilo, Ramos, Gonzalez.
Uruguay (4-4-2): Muslera; Maxi Pereira, Lugano, Coates, Cáceres; Arévalo Ríos, Gargano, González, Alvaro Pereira; Forlán, Suárez. Subs: Castillo, Silva, Godin, Rodriguez, Egueren, Lodeiro, Abreu, Hernandez, Scotti.
Our first email - of many, writes optimistic MBM monkey - comes from Samuel Zakowski. "I'll go out on a limb here and say that Uruguay's Egidio Arevalo has been one of the most consistently brilliant players in international football over the past year," says Samuel. "Both at the World Cup and at this Copa, I have not seen him put a foot wrong. Surely he would be an excellent addition to any Premier League midfield?" He was very impressive against Argentina in the last eight - not many have marked Leo Messi so well.
And it's all downhill from here. "Hi how do I get live peru uruguay," pleads Freddie Ventura. Do you have a television? Let's start there.
Freddie Ventura, if you're still reading, help is at hand. "For Mr Freddie Ventura's information, you can stream all Copa America games for free on Youtube," says Peter Yeung. "p.s. the photo caption is very telling towards how you MBMers struggle through the games." Don't spread that about, I drove into the office at midnight. Anyway I've beered myself with a can of sprite.
No idea dep't: "Have been watching the tournament and was wondering why FIFA is letting the Copa take place in stadiums with large swathes of (standing) terracing?" says Meir Moses. "I thought terracing was banned at this level? Clearly I'm wrong but why in S. America and not in Europe?" Your guess is as good as mine. Maybe you just don't mess with South Americans.
Bouncy-bouncy-bouncy on the terraces. Peru's fans look delighted to be there. Although our man in Argentina, Jonathan Wilson, says it's freezing in La Plata. Perhaps it's for the best Messi's not there, given his famous aversion to cold nights in places.
Two rousing anthems, Uruguay perhaps edging theirs with a catchy operatic number. Kick-off's not far away now. Excitement please! It's early here.
1 min: And the first semi-final of Copa America 2011 is off! Peru get us going, attacking from right to left. They're in their Red Stripe strip, Uruguay in their light blue number. Peru are on the attack straight away, Guerrero trying to set Advincula inside Alvaro Pereira on the right, but the midfielder covers well.
2 min: It takes all of two minutes for the first yellow card to be shown, and it's flashed in the face of Peru's Yotun, after a crunching foul on Maxi Pereira. What a way to make yourself known to your opposite number! That was ridiculous. Still, it's not as if Uruguay can occupy the moral high ground - they once had a player sent off after one minute against Scotland. They've really grown in the intervening 25 years.
4 min: Suarez goes down under slight pressure from Vilchez, but doesn't get a free-kick. A mighty fine player, Suarez, but his antics do swiftly get tiresome.
5 min: It's been a bitty start, with plenty of stoppages. On the left, Lugano gets too tight to Vargas and clips him from behind. Vargas stands over the free-kick, but instead of just launching it into the area, he shifts it cleverly to the right, where Yotun is standing in acres of space. He has all the time in the world to line one up from 30 yards out, and does so, hammering a low effort towards the bottom-right corner. Muslera saves well, diving low to his left.
6 min: Suarez breaks behind the Peru defence and looks poised to slide the ball past Fernandez, only for the offside flag to pull him up. Suarez slaps his hands to his mouth, a look of mock amazement on his face.
8 min: This is a good chance for Uruguay. Forlan swings a free-kick into the area from the right. Lugano gets up to make a nuisance of himself and the ball loops up to the right of the area, where Suarez is standing all alone, around 12 yards from goal. He strikes the volley first time, but ends up slicing it off the side of his boot, the effort flying dismally off into the distance. He really should have done better with that. "Where is Nobby Solano?" asks Colin Loakman. "Can't believe this!" He's probably off with his Peruvian flute band.
10 min: Alvaro Pereira wins Uruguay's first corner of the night with a strong run down the left. Advincula tracked him diligently there. Forlan curls the ball in but Alvaro Pereira heads a difficult chance harmlessly wide at the far post.
11 min: Peru are really on the rack here; it could be a very long night for their defenders. In the middle of Peru's half, Gargano slides a cracking pass into the path of Maxi Pereira, who's made a great run to the left from his position at right-back. How do you cope with that? From the left side of the area, he hooks the ball across goal, Vilchez forced to shuffle the ball behind under pressure from Forlan at the far post. The corner comes to nothing, but Uruguay are well on top.
13 min: Carmona rolls and writhes and screams for good effect after a silly challenge from Suarez on the halfway line. Suarez, who appears to be engaged in an ongoing feud with the officials, is booked. South American football at its best, right there.
15 min: It's only a matter of time. Surely. Forlan comes deep to link and dictate play, before whacking a brilliant pass inside Vilchez for the onrushing Maxi Pereira. He plucked the ball out of the sky and then tormeneted his marker, turning him inside out, before working his way to the byline. He tried to pick out Suarez in the six-yard box, but the cross was smashed away for a throw-in. Peru are decidedly second best.
16 min: Fernandez makes a vital save to keep Peru level. You feel this could be the first of many. This chance came from the most rudimentary of tactics, the long throw. El Delape hauls one in from the right flank, and Suarez rises highest at the near post to flick a header into the six-yard box. Peru's defence is all over the place and Alvaro Pereira rushes forward to try to bundle the ball in from close range. Fernandez managed to parry the effort instinctively, and then dived on the loose ball as Pereira tried to poke home the rebound.
19 min: If Peru get out of their half, I'll let you know.
21 min: Peru have the ball!
21min 20sec: Uruguay have it back.
23 min: Arevalo Rios, a real pitbull of a player, storms off in a huff after winning his battle with Guerrero, only for the referee to blow for a foul against him. You've got to admire that level of rage over such a minor decision.
24 min: Suddenly Peru explode into life and go so close to taking the lead. Vargas, who has been quiet so far, went past Lugano as if he wasn't there and then whipped a sublime low cross into the six-yard box, right into that nightmare spot for goalkeepers and defenders. Guerrero and Advincula both did their best Gascoigne-against-Germanty-at-Euro-96 impressions in their desperate attempt to get a decisive toe-end on the cross, but the ball slithered past both of their outstretched legs. For a moment, Uruguayan hearts were in mouths.
27 min: A third booking of the match, Uruguay's second, as Advincula shuffles past Gargano on the right, tricking the midfielder into bringing him down. Peru are slowly growing with stature as the half progresses.
28 min: That said, Uruguay remain a huge threat. Forlan finds space between the lines of midfield and defence, before striding forward a few yards. With various options, he slips the ball to the onrushing Alvaro Pereira, but his cross-shot is desperately blocked by Acasiete.
30 min: Gradually this is becoming a very entertaining end-to-end tussle. A moment ago, Uruguay appealed for a penalty after Lugano went down under a challenge, claiming there was a push from Rodriguez. Optimistic.
31 min: If I might venture a prediction, Uruguay are not going to finish this with 11 men on the pitch.
32 min: The encouraging thing for Peru is that they've stopped Uruguay getting Suarez into the match. The early volley aside - which wasn't the result of any great play from Uruguay - he's seen very little of the ball. Forlan has been more menacing.
34 min: Alvaro Pereira's inviting cross from the left is crucially headed away by Rodriguez, who had Coates, up from centre-back, ready to pounce behind him.
35 min: Once again Maxi Pereira skedaddles in behind Peru on the right. They haven't handled his incursions at all. Again he tries to find Suarez in the middle, but the cross is booted behind for a corner. It looked like Suarez had half a chance, but failed to make proper contact with the ball in. That might go down as a bad miss.
37 min: With Fernandez flapping about all over the place, the referee rescues the Peruvian goalkeeper by blowing for a foul by Gonzalez as the ball bounced about the area with the goal vacant.
39 min: Anybody out there? Or are we all still in a sulk about Chile going out?
41 min: Much has been made about the state of the pitches in Argentina during this tournament. Just to prove the point, a pass out to Suarez on the right hits a divot on its way and skews off for a throw-in to Peru. They probably look at Wembley enviously.
43 min: GOA ... NO! DISALLOWED! Uruguay thought they were ahead, but the flag is up for offside against Alvaro Pereira, who put the ball in the net. It all came from a Forlan free-kick from the left. He whipped a flat cross into the area, which Lugano flicked on at the front of the crowd. It made its way into the six-yard box, where Pereira stole in to bundle the ball past Fernandez from close range. A huge roar goes up and he wheels off in celebration, but his delight quickly turns to disappointment as he sees the flag. It was an excellent call, as Pereira was around three yards offside. No need for video replays there.
45 min+1: In the first and last minute of stoppage time, Carmona hares forward from full-back and then spanks a dismal effort wide from 30 yards out. Stop it.
Peep! Peep! And there is the whistle for half time. Uruguay have dominated, but Peru have held their own. It's in the balance, and the longer this goes on, the more frustrated Uruguay are going to get.
Half time: Peru 0-0 Uruguay.
"It's lunchtime here, and cold," writes Craig Gamble in New Zealand. "Update on Suarez's teeth please. Have they gotten any bigger since the last game? I swear his smile gets larger every time he opens his mouth." He hasn't had much to smile about in this half. He spent much of it in an almighty funk with his team-mates and the officials.
"We're out there, it's just that there's been precious little Luis Suarez action so far," says Igor. "Why else would anyone tune in for this, anyway? If he doesn't score a goal or bite someone soon, I'm going to bed."
"I'm here!!" parps Frank Risorto. "You're keeping me going through this very slow morning. I backed Uruguay at 15/1 so yes I'm most definitely taking interest in this one. Although the wall of resistance from Peru sounds interesting and defiant. Another penalty shootout perhaps? I've also put $5 on Venezuela at 80/1 at the tournaments start so fingers crossed one way I get a winner!"
"I heard you would be giving out coupons for Red Stripe at the half," says an optimistic Tim Singleton. Are you in Kings Cross? Hmmm. Probably shouldn't ask that at this hour.
"Not watching the game as no TV," says Ben Smith. "I am working on the PC in an apartment in Lima, Peru and following the game through your writing and the noise from the open windows. Lots of noise from surrounding apartments - people shouting Vamos at the tele. Buses, combis and taxis hooting constantly in protest at being at work during the game - though they hoot constantly anyway! Lots of red and white on the street and patriotism as it is Peru's independence day next week (28 july) and I think there is a law that every building has to fly the flag! probably go out to a bar for the second half."
"Well, not very entertaining so far ( I missed the first 15 minutes), but I'm just writing to let you know there is in fact at least one other person watching the game," says Lukasz Markiewicz. "Rather disappointed with Uruguay so far, but apparently I missed the bit when they created all the chances. I'm definitely hoping for them to go through though. I always loved Recoba and at the last WC they played some of the most entertaining football. Oh and by far the most dramatic as well. Peru might be the plucky underdog punching above their weight, but the football they play is a bit too negative. Sure, they can be brilliant in flashes, but they seem to be the most defensively set up team at this Copa America, and maybe Venezuela. Hoping for a Uruguay v Paraguay final here."
"How bizarre would it be if Peru pull this off and we end up with a Peru-Venezuela final?" ponders Alex Hanton. "It would be the equivalent of the Euro 2012 final being played between Slovakia and the Faroe Islands. With England filling the role of the Costa-Rica under-23 side."
2.47am: No sign of the players. The officials are standing out in the centre circle, looking fairly foolish.
2.49am: Here we go. Peru, followed a minute later by Uruguay are out. It seems this happens a fair bit in the Copa.
46 min: At last, Uruguay start the second half. By the way, our Manchester correspondent Daniel Taylor, who's in Seattle following Manchester United at the moment, has been on the phone to say that Corinthians appear to have pulled out of the Carlos Tevez deal. There should be a story from Danny up soon. "You're right about Uruguay getting frustrated if Peru continue to hold them and someone like Suarez in particular needs to be very careful," says Chris Nemeh, who I'm going to assume isn't a Liverpool fan. "He must be fuming about that early yellow card knowing that he risks getting sent off the next time he dives."
47 min: Alvaro Pereira, Uruguay's best player so far, is caught late on the left flank. It's another chance for Forlan to get a decent cross into the box, but this one is under-hit. "I have not had realistic hope of a good Peru result since the late '70s, when Peru confidently classified to Argentina '78," says Pedro. "It's my bedtime now and I will learn about the results from your blog at 4AM."
49 min: "It is approaching lunchtime in Melbourne," says Jimmy Hussey. "Have Uruguay ever gone through a tournament without a red card? Maybe that's a question for the knowledge - match updates getting me through dreary dreary morning....cheers." I don't know the answer, but no, no, a million times no, of course they haven't. It's Uruguay.
50 min: Peru enjoy a decent spell of pressure outside Uruguay's area, which ends when Cruzado is caught offside on the left. "Watching the match here in the US on the spanish channel," says Herman Hooker. "I know you all complain about British commentators, but in this case, they brought in four specialists, including pichichi legend Hugo Sanchez. He's taken a page out of the Alan Shearer playbook for stating the obvious ("the players with yellow cards need to be careful not to get a second"). P.S. I don't know what people are complaining about with this tournament, it's been a breath of fresh air...better than Stoke/Birmingham that's for sure..."
GOAL! Peru 0-1 Uruguay (Suarez, 53 min): There's been some terrific goalkeeping in the knock-out stages so far, but this is decidedly not amongst it. Uruguay lead, and they have Peru's goalkeeper Fernandez to thank for it. There didn't appear to be much on as Forlan dropped the shoulder and cut inside from the right flank. He was miles out, but decided to have a pop. Perhaps the surprise factor caught out Fernandez, and there was a slight bounce as he saved it, low to his left. But he should have done better than push it a few yards to his left. Suarez, always alert, was the quickest to react, and was on the rebound in a flash, slamming the ball back under Fernandez from a tight angle. Considering how limited Peru have been, this should be the goal that sends Uruguay through.
54 min: Peru respond by bringing on Chiroque for Yotun, who was booked after two minutes and hasn't been seen since.
55 min: Looking at the goal again, Forlan's shot was actually going well wide, making it an even worse piece of goalkeeping from Fernandez, who didn't even need to save it.
GOAL!!! IT'S ALL OVER NOW!!! (Peru 0-2 Uruguay, Suarez, 58 min): The match has been turned on its head in the space of five minutes! You just knew he couldn't stay quiet for 90 minutes, and all of a sudden, Suarez is the man of the moment. This is a much more accomplished goal. On the left, Alvaro Pereira played a lovely one-two with Forlan. Those two have been excellent. On the halfway line, Pereira spotted Suarez making a run through the middle and the left winger clipped a pass perfectly over the top, Peru's defence caught horribly square. Suarez ran through and again Fernandez hardly covered himself in glory, charging off his line and out of his area to challenge the striker. Suarez, far too intelligent to be unnerved by that, just touched the ball to his right and rolled the ball into the empty net. It doesn't get much easier than that. Two for Suarez, two for Uruguay, and they're on their way to the final.
60 min: Peru bring on Lobaton for the disappointing Advincula. "It may be worth mentioning to readers who can't watch the game on TV, it's being streamed live on YouTube, as have all the Copa matches," says Nick Parker. "You'll have to go with the Spanish commentary, but it's a minimal price to pay for free viewing. I seriously hope that's a worldwide URL, and I haven't just got people's hopes up."
64 min: Nick Parker is back with English commentary. What a gent.
65 min: So, can Suarez get his hat-trick? It must be said that his first goal was wonderful opportunism. He was so alive to the situation, and the finish was more difficult than he made it look, such was the angle he was faced with.
66 min: One match too far for Peru. Perhaps this is where they've finally missed Farfan and Pizarro. "Forlan looks a different player with Suarez alone upfront," says Frank Risorto. "The injury to Cavani has most likely been a blessing in disguise!" Yes, I read that Cavani was poor.
67 min: Lugano is booked for clattering into Guerrero, swinging his arms about wildly for good effect. Guerrero now has a sore head, to go with the crippling loneliness he must have developed during this match.
69 min: IT'S ALL GOING WRONG FOR PERU! VARGAS IS SENT OFF! Dear me. They have totally lost all discipline here, and Peru are exiting the tournament in disgrace. There can be no complaints about this red card for Vargas. He received the ball with his back to goal and immediately had Coates nibbling up his back. The defender did go in quite strongly, probably looking for a reaction, and that's precisely what he got as Vargas responded with a vicious elbow to the face. He's fallen for that hook, line and sinker. What a clown.
71 min: No hat-trick for Suarez. Abel Hernandez is on for him. Uruguay also bring on Sebastien Egueren for Gargano. Immediately after the substitution, the 10 men of Peru fashion their best chance of the match. It came from a long throw, but after the ball was flicked on at the near post, a Peru attacker - I confess I'm not sure who - headed straight at Muslera. No replay has been forthcoming. Pulitzer please!
74 min: Peru have responded quite well to going 2-0 down and losing Vargas to a red card. Which probably isn't the best time to start playing well. They've forced a couple of corners on the right, but neither of Chiroque's crosses led to anything.
75 min: Lobaton is booked for tripping Maxi Pereira in full flight. That race wasn't even a contest.
76 min: Egueren can blame it on the rust after just coming on, because this is a waste. On the edge of the area, Forlan turned superbly and then played a pass to his right for Egueren, who was in the clear. He tried to let the ball run across his body. He managed that, and then let it run under his foot. So close!
78 min: Guerrero appeals fervently for handball against Lugano in the area. No. "I just realised what time it is for you in the UK and you're a good man for doing the MBM's, especially given some of the dud games there has been," says Jonny Mac. "OR, are you a bit of a night owl anyhoo and this means you get to go to the office a little later tomorrow after the streets have aired and the Tube less crowded? Either way, thank for the YouTube tip/linkage, have been hooked up to a dodgy feed since I took back my cable box t'other week." A bit of both, to be honest. I'll be back again with the second semi-final tomorrow.
80 min: Diego Forlan had a nightmare season with Atlético Madrid. It makes no sense, he's been everywhere this evening. "Quick check in, just up as my 3 year old's bed is wet as is he and he doesn't know how?!" says Anthony O'Connell. "Told him the same happens to daddy after too much beer except no one changes my sheets or PJs, enjoy the rest of the game and get the result at a more normal time!" My sympathies. It *happens to the best of us. *Not really, I'm just being kind.
81 min: Hernandez races behind the Peru defence in a bid to reach a long ball into the inside-right channel. He gets there and cuts back into the area and on to his left foot. His shot is firm, but straight at Fernandez, who holds.
83 min: Adel Balbin, perhaps realising I haven't mentioned him once yet, blazes well over the bar from 30 yards out.
84 min: Muslera nearly Robert Greens Guerrero's shot into the net to gift Peru a lifeline, but recovers well to prevent what would have been a farcical goal! Blimey. Thirty yards out, Guerrero turned and unleashed a firm shot, which was straight at Muslera. The ball moved slightly in the air but not enough to prompt such a handling error from Muslera. He let it squirm through his hands, but managed to scamper back and plunge down on the ball. That is one relieved man.
87 min: "Be kind to peru!" says Gary Carrion. "We have a golden generation of players who've been beaten down by scandal and a insistently negative press. This is a huge achievement for a team playing without Farfan and to a lesser extant Pizzaro, but keep an eye on Vargas. Despite his sending off, he's been a major contributor to Fiorentina over the past couple of years and could easily do a job in the Premier League." They've not been bad by any means, just limited. It's a shame they didn't go for it more before Uruguay scored.
88 min: Uruguay have fallen apart since Peru went down to 10 men. Chiroque, who's made a difference since coming on, skips past Caceres on the left and then stands up a great cross. Muslera sticks a palm out in desperation, but can't reach it. Luckily for him, the ball is inches in front of Guerrero, who sticks his head forward like a 100m runner at a photo finish in vain.
90 min+1: Peru bring on Ballon for Balbin.
90 min+2: Hernandez goes down in the area, but the referee isn't about to make Peru's night worse and waves play on.
Peep! Peep! Peep! The final whistle blows and Uruguay are in the final of the Copa America! They will surely be the favourites to beat either Paraguay or Venezuela. They didn't play their best football tonight, but were the better side from the off and it always felt like a matter of time before they broke the deadlock. Two quick goals from Luis Suarez were enough in the end. World class finishing was the difference. Peru gave it their best shot. It wasn't enough. There may be a few poisonous glances directed at Juan Vargas in the dressing room though. Thanks for keeping me company in the early hours - tomorrow we'll have Paraguay v Venezuela. Night.