While much of the football press focuses on the upcoming Euro 2016 tournament in France, across the Atlantic Ocean there is another major tournament about to kick off in the USA.
Although normally held every four years, on this occasion Chile will be made to defend their title just 12 months after they made the most of home advantage to claim their first ever Copa America championship. The reason for the quick turnaround is that this year is the centenary celebration of the showpiece tournament.
Although it is not actually limited to South American nations (six of the 16 competing nations come from the Central and North American CONCACAF region), there will still be an abundance of talent on display from the continent.
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Many of the biggest stars are already household names thanks to successful careers in the major European leagues. However, there will be no shortage of magnificent players who are yet to make the move away from their home continent, and may be less well-known to European audiences.
It is surely only a matter of time before ‘Gabigol’ makes the journey from Santos in Brazil to one of the major European teams. The skilful striker is a phenomenal talent, and even at just 19-years-old, seems destined for the top. He has already scored over 50 goals for his club side and took just nine minutes to score on his debut for Brazil in a pre-tournament friendly against Panama.
He would normally struggle for game time, due to the Brazil squad being blessed with the considerable talents of players like Neymar and Hulk. However, with Brazil choosing to focus on the Olympics, a path to the starting eleven may have opened up particularly when Neymar hasn’t even been included in the squad.
He’s already certain to be on a number of clubs’ wish lists, but a breakthrough tournament here may make him one of football’s hottest properties.
There aren’t too many players in the Argentinian squad who are not already plying their trade in Europe. One exception is right-back Gabriel Mercado.
The 29-year-old has spent his entire career in the Argentinian league so far. Despite having only won five caps, he comes into the tournament in great form, having played in Argentina’s last four fixtures, scoring twice in the process.
Argentina will be many people’s favourites to win the title and Mercado will be hoping to retain his place in the back four. Those seeing Mercado for the first time are likely to be impressed by his tough tackling and attacking contribution from the wide areas.
Paraguay have gained a bit of a reputation for being slightly defensive and there has been nothing to suggest they are likely to change this approach for this tournament.
In Bruno Valdez, they have a player very capable of preserving their strong defensive record. The 23-year-old can play at either right-back or centre-back and looks like developing into a top class player.
The uncompromising defender is strong in the air and a fierce competitor, but is also quite comfortable bringing the ball forwards out of defence.
Until now, he has spent his career in the Paraguayan league, but after the tournament he will be making a big move to the Mexican team America and will be keen to show his new club what to expect.
The 21-year-old Peruvian forward is not technically based in South America, since he is actually contracted to Inter Milan.
He signed for the Italian giants in 2014, but is yet to make an appearance for them. Instead, he returned to South America in two loan spells, first to Millionarios in Columbia, and then to Universitario in his home country.
The pacey forward is not guaranteed a starting place, having only made his debut in March. However, he did manage to score on his second appearance, in a friendly against El Salvador.
The Peru squad comes into the tournament in a bit of disarray, but this may give Polo the opportunity to show the talent that earned him a move to Inter Milan.