Pereyra: “I Know The Things I Can Bring To The Argentina Team”
Roberto Pereyra will be hoping to play his first Copa América game in four years when Argentina face Paraguay in a crunch Group B game on Thursday.
The Hornets' playmaker last featured in the South American showpiece tournament in 2015, coming on for the last half-an-hour of a group win over Jamaica, who had Adrian Mariappa playing at right-back.
La Albiceleste reached the final that year, losing 4-1 to Chile on penalties, but Pereyra missed the following one in 2016 and has only recently managed to play his way back into coach Lionel Scaloni's plans on the back of his form in the Premier League last season.
He has been called up for Argentina's last eight matches, scoring in games against Iraq and Nicargua and was an unused substitute during the 2-0 defeat to Colombia in their opening group game on Sunday. With progression from the group at stake, Scaloni could well decide to recall the 28-year-old for the second all-important game in Belo Horizonte.
Scaloni is looking to reshape a squad who suffered a disappointing exit at last summer's World Cup, going out to France in the Round of 16.
“I watched a lot of the World Cup and the expectations that were placed on the Argentina side were quite high, so I can’t deny I was disappointed with the tournament we had,” said Pereyra in an interview with the matchday programme earlier this year. “But again, this is football so we have to leave the past behind and try to build up again. We need to start again from the beginning and hopefully things will get better very soon.”
The spot on the left-hand side of the Argentina team is a difficult one to nail down as Scaloni can play Angel Di Maria, Udinese star Rodrigo De Paul or Pereyra there. It's that kind of competition, together with some rotten luck with injury, which explains why Pereyra spent three years out of the national team. He had won eight caps in seven months after being given his debut by Gerardo Martino against Brazil in 2014.
“I know how difficult it’ll be to get back my place with the national team; I’m not naive,” he said. “But I’ve done it before and I know my quality and the things I can bring to the team. I’m more of a midfielder, and I believe in that position I can contribute good things. So I will do everything I can to make it possible.
“I’m so proud to have done it [many] times already, and I’d really like the opportunity to increase that number.”