Peru battles injuries going into Copa America

Peru coach Sergio Markarian has already lost his two best

strikers to injury, and his best midfielder – Juan Vargas – is

doubtful for the team’s opening game in the Copa America against

Uruguay on Monday.

In practice on Friday, Markarian said he would not know until

just before the match if Vargas would be able to play.

”If it were tomorrow he could not play,” he said about the

Fiorentina player.

Markarian hails from Uruguay and is trying to revitalize Peru,

which also faces Chile and Mexico in Group C.

”I want to be there on Monday,” Vargas said. ”If I’m not

playing, then accompanying my teammates.”

With Jefferson Farfan and Claudio Pizarro lost to injuries,

Markarian is trying to find starting forwards among reserve players

– Carlos Zambrano, Luis Ramirez and Jesus Rabanal – but they are

also less than 100 percent healthy.

Markarian has been making slow progress with Peru, lifting the

club into the 49th spot in FIFA’s world rankings – above Colombia,

Costa Rica, Ecuador and Venezuela.

He said facing his native Uruguay in the opener was a shock,

particularly since it’s his first competitive game after several

friendly matches in charge.

”I never thought my first real match would be against

Uruguay,” he said.

He also declined to hang his head over the injuries.

”The spirit in the changing room is good, the players are

good,” he said. ”They don’t need anyone to give them a lift. They

are very strong and are fired up and ready to play.”