Guerrero confident Peru can qualify for World Cup

BUENOS AIRES - Peru's performances at the Copa America have left striker Paolo Guerrero confident the team can end a 32-year wait for a World Cup finals appearance.

Bottom of South America's 2010 World Cup qualifiers and absent from the finals since 1982, Peru lost 2-0 to Uruguay in the semi-finals of the Copa America on Tuesday after qualifying from a tight group and upsetting Colombia 2-0 in the quarter-finals.

"I think [Peru] have earned the respect of all South America," Guerrero, one of the tournament's best players, said.

"The job we've is admirable and I'm very proud of the team," the 27-year-old Hamburg SV striker told TyC Sports in an interview.

"With this Copa America I think Peruvian football will change, that all the players will want to be a part of the national team."

Peru came into the tournament plagued by injury woes and, with years of underachievement and player indiscipline, little was expected of them but their successes in Argentina have brought optimism for the future.

"We're looking forward to the... elimination series and everyone in Peru is enthusiastic. That will make us strong, I see a united squad and if it stays this way I think we can qualify [for the 2014 World Cup]," Guerrero, who has two goals in the tournament, said.

"We have the players, we have the capacity to reach the World Cup. This squad has only just got together and what we've done at the Copa America is already too much. I'm very optimistic."

Guerrero said the architect of Peru's change in attitude was their Uruguayan coach Sergio Markarian, who has instilled discipline and tactical order into the players since taking charge a year ago.

"Markarian is a student of the game. He talks a lot with the players... the whole coaching staff give us a lot, they motivate us," he said. "I always want to play [for Peru] until I'm carried off the pitch dead."

Peru, Copa America winners in 1939 and 1975, will play a third place play-off on Saturday in La Plata against Venezuela.