RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Peru coach Ricardo Gareca praised his players for giving hope to the country after they lost the Copa America final 3-1 to Brazil on Sunday and declared that he was not interested in coaching any other team until the next World Cup.
Peru made a slack start to the tournament and were thumped 5-0 by Brazil in the group stages but they pulled off upsets in the knockout stages, dumping out Uruguay on penalties before a stunning 3-0 semi-final win over Copa holders Chile.
They put in an admirable showing in the final and gave their sizeable contingent of fans a moment to remember when Paolo Guerrero’s penalty cancelled out Everton’s opener, but later goals from Gabriel Jesus and Richarlison gave Brazil victory.
Gareca had no complaints about the result, saying that Brazil were “superior” to Peru in the game.
“The most important thing is we got people excited and we cannot feel disheartened, we should feel strengthened,” he told a news conference.
“We came to this final to win the trophy and we were up against a very effective team. I think we’re in good shape and were on the right path to building a team that can go to high places and stay there.”
The Argentine has presided over a dramatic transformation of Peru’s fortunes in his four years in charge, snapping a 36-year wait to qualify for the 2018 World Cup and taking them to a first Copa America final since 1975.
But he said the team should not pat themselves on the back for their achievements.
“We cannot afford to stand still, we have to keep on going, we have to stay humble,” he said.
“We got to the final on our own merits but obviously there are teams on the continent who are better than us so we have to keep improving.”
Peru’s success at the tournament has lifted Gareca’s profile as a coach and led to speculation he could be headhunted by Argentina after their haphazard campaign under Lionel Scaloni.
But Gareca said he was firmly committed to taking Peru into their World Cup qualifying campaign which begins next March and that he would reject any offers from outside, even from Argentina.
“I have respect for my country, I love my country but I have a contract with Peru, a country which has given me everything,” he said.
“No matter what happens I’m used to respecting contracts and I have one until the World Cup.
“I have a very big commitment to Peru and I respect the country a lot so before then, there’s no chance of me going anywhere else.”
Editing by Greg Stutchbury