The Copa América is now held every four years and the last edition was in 2015, where Chile won their first title after defeating Argentina in the final on a penalty shootout after a goalless draw. Even though the Copa América is usually held every four years, we have an additional tournament in 2016, the Copa América Centenario, as part of the competition’s centenary celebrations.
The Copa América Centenario kicks off on June 3rd and we have come up with some of the potential stars of the tournament who may not yet be household names.
Marlos Moreno (Colombia)
Colombia has produced some fine attacking players in recent years and Marlos Moreno could be the next from a nation that has produced the likes of Falcao, James Rodriguez and Faustino Asprilla. Moreno has starred in Atletico Nacional’s run to the semi-finals of this year’s Copa Libertadores, and this has attracted the interest of some of Europe’s biggest clubs. Inter, Bayer Leverkusen, Porto and Benfica have all reportedly approached the 19 year-old who would cost around €10m.
A good Copa América for Moreno would surely bump this price up and with Falcao left out the squad, Moreno has a chance to announce himself to the world in the US this summer. Moreno is equally comfortable playing wide or through the middle and he will surely be a useful option as Jose Pekerman aims to take Colombia further than the quarter-final exits his side suffered at the 2014 World Cup and last year’s Copa América in Chile.
Christian Pulisic (United States)
In Dortmund’s tricky playmaker, the United States may have finally found the global star they have craved. 17 year-old Christian Pulisic has forced his way into Thomas Tuchel’s Borussia Dortmund first team squad since Christmas and will almost certainly be given his chance in Jurgen Klinsmann’s US side this summer.
Pulisic scored in consecutive games against Hamburg and Stuttgart in April, and with his low centre of gravity, ability to glide past players and calmness infront of goal, he has been compared to former Dortmund hero Mario Gotze. As hosts, USA will be expecting to progress from a tough Group A and Pulisic could be the one to provide them with that extra bit of quality in the final third that will be needed if they are to make an impact this summer.
Gabriel Barbosa (Brazil)
Gabriel Barbosa Almeida or ‘Gabigol’ is one of the most coveted teenagers on the planet. Dubbed the ‘new Neymar’, Gabriel already has a wealth of experience in Brazil’s Serie A, with over 50 appearances and 19 goals to his name already. With Neymar left out of the Copa América squad, Gabriel should finally be given the chance to impress for the famous Selecao.
Gabriel has the platform to boost his reputation further this summer by representing his country in both the Copa América and the Olympics and if he impresses, it should accelerate his inevitable move to one of Europe’s giants with PSG, Barcelona and Real Madrid leading a host of clubs in Europe that would love to secure his signature.
Edison Flores (Peru)
Peru are the great underachievers of South American football. Thy have not won the Copa América since 1975 and the last time that they qualified for a World Cup was in 1982. This is surprising because over the last decade the likes of Juan Manuel Vargas, Claudio Pizarro and Jefferson Farfán have all played for Los Incas.
The Peruvian Copa América squad lacks household names but that could all change this summer if Edison Flores leaves his mark. The 22-year-old attacker has already played in Europe for Villarreal B. However, things didn’t work out and after only 20 months he returned to Peru and signed for Universitario. Since his return to Peru the tricky attacker has been terrorising defences and this has resulted in recognition at continental level. The Copa América could bring him to the attention of the world and possibly another opportunity to play in Europe.
Antonio Sanabria (Paraguay)
20-year-old Antonio Sanabria ended the 2015/16 season with 11 goals for Sporting de Gijón. This is an impressive feat as it was his first full season and for a side that spent the entire campaign battling against relegation. The Paraguyan excelled in Gijón, leading the line in 4-2-3-1 and was hailed as a revelation.
Despite making his debut for Parguay in 2013 aged 17-years, he only has 5 caps to his name. With Lucas Barrios and Roque Santa Cruz left out of the squad, he will be looking to increase this number as well as score his first international goal, whilst proving that he can be the next No.9 for Paraguay for years to come.
Roma seem intent on cashing in on the ex-Barcelona youth academy player this summer and the player’s agent has already received numerous phone calls from Italy. A good performance at the Copa América will lead to even more clubs interested in securing his services ahead of the 2016/17 season.
Blás Riveros (Paraguay)
Barcelona, Benfica and Manchester United were all interested in securing the services of 18-year-old Blás Riveros but it was Swiss champions Basel that won the race for his signature. This is probably the best move for the teenager’s fledgling career, as he has only featured in 21 professional games for Olimpia over the course of two seasons.
The left-sided defender is yet to feature for Paraguay and is heading into the tournament as back-up for the experienced Miguel Samudio of Club América. If he is given his chance by Ramón Ángel Díaz, he will seize his opportunity in the tournament.
Blás Riveros will be hoping to follow in the footsteps of fellow Paraguayan, Derlis González, who used Basel as a springboard to a bigger club and also to become a regular for the national team.