Tuesday, July 23, 2024
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Five players to watch at the 2024 Copa America

The 2024 Copa America gets underway this week as the United States host the biggest international tournament in the Americas.

Argentina enter as champions and with the World Cup won since their last continental success, while perennial favourites Brazil and 15-time winners Uruguay will be keen to make an impression.

Could we see a surprise? The USA, Mexico and an improving Colombia will all be confident of a strong summer.

Here are five players to watch out for at the 2024 Copa America.

Endrick (Brazil)

Real Madrid continue to capture some of South America’s best-emerging names and Endrick will join the Spanish side’s list of potential superstars this summer. A full Brazil international at just 17, Endrick has already earned comparisons to Selecao strikers of the past and is a player bursting with potential.

After becoming the youngest player to appear for Palmeiras, the teenager has since hit 21 goals in 82 appearances for the Brazilian side and does not turn 18 until next month. For Brazil, he’s also made an instant impact.

A debut goal arrived in a friendly win over England in March – becoming the youngest player to score an international goal at Wembley – and has been followed with further strikes against Spain and Mexico in preparation for this summer’s tournament.

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Lionel Messi (Argentina)

If this is to be Lionel Messi’s farewell for Argentina, it is perhaps a fitting stage. The United States – where Messi-mania has taken a grip after his move to MLS and Inter Miami – will host the Copa America as the La Albiceleste aim for back-to-back titles.

Gone are the ghosts of past disappointments in the blue and white of the national team, with successes at the 2021 Copa America, 2022 Finalissima and 2022 World Cup completing the set for Messi.

The eight-time Ballon d’Or winner has 14 goals in 15 games for Inter Miami in 2024 and plenty of the old magic remains.

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Kendry Paez (Ecuador)

Kendry Páez will be the youngest player in the tournament with the Ecuadorian having only turned 17 last month. Such is the standing in which the midfielder is held, he has already won eight caps for the senior national team and opened his account for Ecuador in a World Cup qualifier against Bolivia in October.

Ecuador have an exciting collection of young talent that includes Chelsea midfielder Moises Caicedo and Bundesliga defensive duo Piero Hincapié and Willian Pacho, each of whom have attracted Premier League interest. Paez is one player already set for English football, having agreed a deal to sign for Chelsea upon turning 18 next year.

Santiago Gimenez (Mexico)

Santiago Gimenez will lead the line for a Mexico team that enter the tournament in mixed form, having lost three of their last four fixtures. However, El Tricolor possess a goalscorer coveted across Europe with Gimenez having been a prolific presence for Feyenoord across the last two seasons.

The 23-year-old endured a slow start in the Eredivisie after arriving from Cruz Azul, scoring just twice before the winter break in 2022-23. From there, however, his numbers have been phenomenal. Gimenez ended that debut campaign with 23 goals in all competitions and added another 26 for the Rotterdam outfit this season.

He turned down the opportunity to represent Argentina, the nation of his birth, in favour of adorning Mexico’s colours and follows in the footsteps of his father who won five caps for the national team.

A strong tournament will lengthen his list of suitors, while Gimenez will want to improve on a modest record of four goals from 27 caps to date.

Darwin Nunez (Uruguay)

Darwin Nunez remains the enigma Liverpool are yet to solve with two seasons in a red shirt having seen the forward frustrate and delight in equal measure.

The 24-year-old appeared to make strides of progress in 2023-24 as he returned 18 goals and 13 assists in all competitions, though he lost his place in the team across the run-in and remains erratic around goal.

Nunez has the raw ingredients to be an elite number nine and has started to become the main man for Uruguay. He has scored eight goals in his last seven caps, is the leading scorer in South America’s 2026 FIFA World Cup qualification phase, and netted a hat-trick in a warm-up win over Mexico this month.

With a new manager in Arne Slot to impress at Liverpool, Nunez will hope to make a big impact this summer.

Read – Five young players who have caught the eye at Euro 2024

See more – The oldest players in European Championship history

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