Football fans don’t just have the Euros to look forward to this summer, with the 2021 Copa America taking place at the same time. Build-up to the event has been typically chaotic, with Colombia having recently been stripped of co-hosting rights due to civil unrest in the country.
While Copa America action will mostly be taking place overnight in the UK, teams like Brazil and Argentina will certainly be worth staying up late to watch. The Copa America is also known for putting young stars in the spotlight and there are a handful of exciting talents who are poised to make a name for themselves. Final squads are yet to be confirmed with World Cup qualifiers still to be played beforehand, but here are a few of the top up and coming players to look out for at the 2021 Copa America.
5 players to watch at the 2021 Copa America
Gabriel Barbosa (Brazil)
Neymar will shoulder Brazil’s hopes of defending the title they won in 2019. But this year’s tournament is a huge opportunity for Barbosa – known as Gabigol – to shine again.
The forward has already had one shot at making it in European football, but he flopped at Inter and then made no impact in a loan spell at Benfica in Portugal either. A return to his homeland has rejuvenated the 24-year-old’s career, however, with his goalscoring exploits in the Copa Libertadores forcing his way back into the plans of coach Tite.
Gabigol has hit 82 goals in total over the last four years and a strong showing in the Copa America may persuade clubs to try to bring him back for a second crack at breaking Europe.
Julian Alvarez (Argentina)
River Plate forward Alvarez is among the starlets Argentina will be hoping can develop to eventually succeed the likes of Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero in their attack. The 21-year-old hit five goals in last season’s Copa Libertadores, leading to reports he could be a transfer target for Juventus and Atletico Madrid.
No move has yet come to fruition for a player who had a trial at Real Madrid at the age of 11. Alvarez can play either as a central striker or from the right wing and big performances at the upcoming Copa America could supercharge his march to stardom.
Ben Brereton (Chile)
Chile won back-to-back Copas America in 2015 and 2016 but with a lack of talent coming through they have handed a shock call-up to Blackburn Rovers striker Brereton.
The 22-year-old qualifies for Chile through his mother, even though he was born in Stoke, and he could become the most unlikely of stars at the 2021 Copa America.
Brereton has played for England at under-19 level but he could become a focal point for the new generation of Chilean players, following in the footsteps of the likes of Alexis Sanchez.
Just seven league goals this season shows Brereton has hardly lit up the Championship, though he did also contribute five assists. He did, however, net in two of his last three appearances for Rovers to end the campaign in fine form.
Freddy Vargas (Venezuela)
With the picture surrounding star striker Josef Martinez’s availability for Venezuela unclear, Vargas could be the man to step up for one of the Copa America’s major underdogs.
Vargas shone for Deportivo Lara in the Venezuelan top division as a youngster to earn a loan move to MLS side FC Dallas, where his searing pace has made a positive impression.
The 22-year-old, who can play wide or up front, is expected to be a key player for Venezuela for many years in the future. The 2021 Copa America could be his international breakthrough.
Alfredo Morelos (Colombia)
Rangers striker Morelos heads to the 2021 Copa America on a high, his goals having fired Steven Gerrard’s side to the Scottish title. Morelos has netted 56 goals in four seasons with the Glasgow giants, but he has found international level more testing, scoring only one goal in 10 appearances for Colombia so far.
That should change at the Copa America, though, as long as Morelos can keep a lid on the temper that has seen him sent off seven times since he signed for Rangers in 2017. Morelos has regularly been linked with a move from Rangers and the race for his signature could intensify if he impresses over the coming weeks.
You could earn up to £100 (or currency equivalent) in bonus funds by joining Colossus with our New Player Bonus. Click here to join the action.