Today, the long-awaited Copa América Centenario kicks off. Over the course of the next few weeks, the best team in the Americas will battle it out for continental glory. Lionel Messi, Javier Hernández, Luis Suárez and James Rodríguez will be among the big stars. The likes of Sergio Agüero, Alexis Sánchez, Willian, Philippe Coutinho, all Premier League stars, don’t need an introduction either.
But the joy of a big tournament is often discovering new talents and prodigies. Here is our list of players to keep an eye on:
Fabinho (Brazil/AS Monaco)
The right-back once played for Real Madrid, but he failed to breakthrough in the Spanish capital. In 2013, he moved to Monaco. There, he has settled down and helped his club to qualify for two consecutive Champions Leagues. For Brazil, he is an understudy to Daniel Alves, but if Dunga wants to introduce fresh blood Fabinho is a good option. His pace and tenacity are an asset.
Jose Maria Giménez (Uruguay/ Atletico Madrid):
Giménez is just 21 years old, but has made great strides at Atletico Madrid, which just fell short of winning the Champions League last Saturday. In fellow Uruguayan Diego Godin, Giménez has an excellent mentor. In addition, Diego Simeone has drilled the youngster into a great defender. He already has 31 caps under his belt, including three matches at the 2014 World Cup.
Ronald Matarrita (Costa Rica/New York City FC)
He is an interesting prospect. In New York, the Costa Rican had greatly aided in giving Patrick Veira’s team solidity. Matarrita is a versatile defender, who knows who to go forward and attack when required. He has a connection with Ticos coach Oscar Ramirez. The two met at Alajuelense.
Christian Pulisic (USA/Borussia Dortmund)
At 17, Pulisic is a sensation in the German Bundesliga. Often from the bench, he makes an impact on Dortmund’s league matches. He may well fulfill that same role of ‘supersub’ for the USA. If he doesn’t start in the opening game against Colombia, expect him to come off the bench. Pulisic brings attacking impulses from the midfield.
Antonio Sanabria (Paraguay/Sporting Gijon)
The youngster from Paraguay is wanted on the European soccer market. On loan from Roma at Sporting Gijon in Spain, he impressed this season. The striker played for Barcelona’s youth teams. He has come into the Paraguayan squad due to Roque Santa Cruz’s injury and should be a welcome addition to Paraguay’s attacking firepower.
Hirving Lozano (Mexico/ Pachuca)
Hirving Lozano is a rising star and it is no surprise to see him as the next big thing to happen to Mexican soccer. Speedy Lozano is right-footed but primarily plays on the left for Mexican champion Pachuca – so he impressed coach Juan Carlos Osorio when he played on the right side in the World Cup qualifying match against Canada in March. Copa America Centenario could be his breakthrough on the international stage.