The 2019 Copa America kicks off tomorrow, with host nation Brazil clashing with Bolivia.
The Samba boys will be without their best and most influential player Neymar after he got ruled out for a month having sustained an ankle injury during a friendly against Qatar, but they remain a threat nevertheless.
The continent of South America boasts of some of the best players on the planet, and scouts all over Europe will surely be at this year’s Copa America to run the rule over possible transfer targets.
12 countries – including invited Asian Cup finalists Japan and Qatar – will all be looking to dethrone defending champions Chile, but in the midst of the numerous players looking to do their teams proud, here are five to keep a close eye on during the competition.
Chile won the last two Copa America tournaments because of the huge influence of the Manchester United flop, and despite his alarming dip in form over the past 18 months, all eyes will be on the 30-year-old.
Sanchez, who has most appearances (124) and most goals (41) for his country, can get his career back on track by putting in an impressive shift at the tournament, and advancing to the quarterfinals in a group C consisting of Japan, Ecuador and Uruguay shouldn’t be herculean.
Red Devils boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer might give the former Arsenal man a chance to redeem his United career if he performs well in Brazil, while he would also attract many suitors to himself if he does well.
It could be make or break for the winger.
While the Barcelona forward is widely regarded as arguably the best footballer of all time, his lack of silverware at international level remains a stick many continue to beat him with.
Argentina have been drawn alongside Colombia, Paraguay and Qatar in group B of the Copa America, and Messi has to find a way to drag La Albiceleste (The White and Sky-Blues) to their first major trophy since 1993.
Losing to Chile in the 2015 and 2016 finals probably still gives the 31-year-old nightmares, and after seeing his club side miss out on qualification for last season’s Champions League final despite a 3-0 victory over Liverpool in the first-leg of the semi-final, coupled with a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Valencia in the Copa del Rey final, Messi has everything to play for in Brazil.
Newcastle United broke their transfer record fee to secure the services of the Paraguay international in January for £21 million.
Unfortunately, a hamstring injury in April limited the 25-year-old to just 10 appearances for the Magpies.
Almiron has since regained full fitness and will be looking to help his country go far in Brazil.
In a group consisting of Argentina and Colombia, Paraguay has a hard task ahead of them, but the former Atlanta United midfielder can prove his quality, and he is one to watch out for at the tournament.
The Brazil international had a poor campaign for Barcelona, and with Neymar out of the Copa America, all eyes will be on the former Liverpool star as he would be expected to step up his performance.
Coutinho impressed for the hosts at last summer’s World Cup in Russia, scoring twice and assisting twice in five games, and a great campaign and victory in the tournament will help him regain confidence ahead of 2019-20.
The 27-year-old could do with such a huge boost at this point in his career.
The West Bromwich Albion striker impressed during a season-long loan stint at Newcastle United last term, netting 11 league goals and assisting seven others in 32 league games to emerge as the club’s Player of the Year.
Venezuela are one of the dark horses in the Copa America this year, and after Rondon bagged a brace in the 3-0 win over USA in a friendly on Sunday, Brazil, Bolivia and Peru shouldn’t underestimate the 29-year-old.
With his future yet to be sorted out, the striker knows a splendid campaign in Brazil will further see his stocks rise, and he won’t be keen to miss the chance to potentially earn himself a big move this summer.