By Izuchukwu Okosi
Brazil were controversially eliminated in the group stage of the Copa America Centenario after an apparent handball from Raul Ruidiaz lifted Peru to a 1-0 victory on Sunday.
Last year’s semi-finalists Peru booked their spot in the quarter-finals ahead of Brazil in Group B as Ruidiaz broke the deadlock with 15 minutes remaining but replays showed the substitute had used his hand to bundle Andy Polo’s cross over the line as the game descended into chaos at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts.
In farcical scenes, referee Andres Cunha awarded Ruidiaz’s 75th-minute goal, only to then consult with his linesman and after almost five minutes of discussions amid protests from Brazil, who only needed a draw to advance, the decision was upheld.
Elias almost salvaged the required draw but the unmarked midfielder failed to score inside the six-yard box with three minutes to play.
After Ecuador’s 4-0 rout of Haiti, the result meant Brazil failed to progress beyond the group stage since 1987.
After impressing in their goalscoring cameos against Haiti, teenage sensation Gabriel and Lucas Lima were both promoted to Brazil’s starting XI at the expense of Jonas and the suspended Casemiro. A fit-gain Miranda returned to the line-up to partner Gil as Marquinhos dropped to the bench.
Peru also made three changes for the must-win clash, with Aldo Corzo, Adan Balbin and Andy Polo coming in for Renzo Revoredo, Renato Tapia and Alejandro Hohberg..
In the other group game earlier Enner Valencia continued his remarkable form for the national team as he added a goal and two assists to his impressive portfolio of work already at the centenary tournament, maintaining his fine club form from West Ham this season.
Having drawn their opening two fixtures against Brazil and Peru, Ecuador knew a win by two goals or more in their final group game would see them through to the knockout rounds.
And their hunt for goals got off to the best possible start when Valencia scored the opener after just 11 minutes, speeding beyond the last line of Haiti’s defence to latch onto Christian Noboa’s pass before coolly slotting the ball into the back of the net.
Jaime Ayovi doubled the advantage nine minutes later after Valencia turned from goalscorer to provider with some unselfish play, before the Haitians came into the game with a strong period to close the half.
Haiti could not find the crucial goal, however and went 3-0 down to Noboa’s 57th-minute strike.
Having already laid on a goal for Ayovi, Valencia set up his namesake Antonio Valencia, as he teed up the Manchester United player for the simplest of finishes with 12 minutes remaining to complete the rout.