5 Latin American Players Who Could Become Stars at the 2018 World Cup

Lead Photo: Hirving Lozano at the Mexico v Scotland International Friendly on June 2, 2018. (Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images)
Hirving Lozano at the Mexico v Scotland International Friendly on June 2, 2018. (Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images)
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Every four years, soccer’s stars get to shine on its biggest stage, the World Cup. But alongside the biggest names of the sport comes a crop of young players who steal the show and present their credentials to enter the pantheon of soccer kings.

James Rodriguez was the breakout star of 2014. Who will it be this year?

Here are five Latin American players we’re betting on to make a big splash in Russia at the 2018 World Cup.

Lucas Torreira, Uruguay

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Not every breakout star has to be a goalscorer. Although Lucas Torreira is a fast, reliable passer with good shooting accuracy, his best attribute is his uncanny ability to dispossess rivals of the ball. At only 22, Torreira was the player who stole the most balls from opponents last season in the Italian Serie A with his club Sampdoria. Although he’s not a starter yet in Uruguay, he left a pretty good impression in recent friendlies against Uzbekistan and Wales. Arsenal is rumored to be close to paying Sampdoria €30 million to secure his services.

Hirving Lozano, Mexico

On a team known for its frequent lineup changes, “Chucky” Lozano is one of the constants. The talented midfielder performed beyond the wildest expectations of PSV Eindhoven fans in his first season in the Netherlands, scoring 17 goals in 29 games to win the Eredivisie. His speed and passing accuracy are only matched by his flaring temper, prompting comparisons to Uruguay’s Luis Suarez. But at only 22, Chucky is still maturing and this World Cup could be his chance to show progress.

José Izquierdo, Colombia

An incisive left winger with great dribbling ability, Izquierdo originally wanted to be a goalkeeper –  but each time he caught the ball, he’d leave his area to dribble with rivals and score a goal. A native of Pereira, Colombia, he got his start on his hometown team, but quickly jumped to first division team Once Caldas and then to Club Brugge in Belgium, where he won a league and the local golden boot for the 2015-16 season.

Last season he signed for England’s Brighton & Hove Albion, where he helped to maintain the newly ascended team in the top division, scoring five goals. Although he’s a relatively recent addition to Colombia’s lineup, he’s impressed with his combination game with James Rodriguez and Juan Fernando Quintero.

Renato Tapia, Peru

Few South American players can say that at age 22 they already have four seasons of experience in Europe. Renato Tapia has accomplished this, and won an Eredivisie in the process with Feyenoord. A versatile defensive midfielder who can play as a center back, Tapia has been part of the Peruvian national team in all age categories. In his short stint with the senior team, he’s become a key piece of Ricardo Gareca’s system. With Paolo Guerrero likely playing his first and last World Cup, Tapia is seen as the future captain of la Blanquirroja.

Giovani Lo Celso, Argentina.

It’s hard to make a splash on a team that has Lionel Messi on it. The world’s best player tends to draw all the attention, but Lo Celso has turned some heads with his impressive performances for PSG, where he seemingly appeared from nowhere to claim a spot on the first team. Capable of playing as an attacking or defensive midfielder, Lo Celso has an exquisite touch and a quick mind capable of placing passes with great accuracy at high speeds.  This could help him take some load off of Messi’s shoulders and give more options to the Argentinian attack.