Copa America: From Paraguay's 17-year-old prodigy to Barcelona's new right-back – the players to watch in Brazil

By Sports Desk June 11, 2021

At long last, after a 12-month delay and then so much uncertainty over the past few weeks, Copa America will start this weekend.

While the fact it is going ahead remains a bone of contention, with even Brazil players suggesting they are reluctantly playing it, Copa America is a tournament that rarely disappoints in terms of entertainment.

A bevvy of world-renowned stars such as Neymar, Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi will be hoping to make the difference.

There will also be some less-familiar faces hoping to either establish themselves or introduce their names to a wider audience.

Stats Perform has identified seven players worth keeping an eye on over the next month.

Rodrigo de Paul, 27, central midfielder - Argentina

Perhaps the odd one out here given his age, but De Paul is certainly one to keep tabs on. Having just enjoyed a wonderful individual campaign with Udinese, the creative midfielder is eager on a move and will surely be keen to impress.

He had a hand in 18 Serie A goals this term (nine goals, nine assists), while his xA value (expected assists) of 10.3 was the best in the division, the 1.3 differential suggesting De Paul was occasionally let down by poor finishing.

Further to that, he also attempted (191) and completed (122) more dribbles than anyone else, so Argentina will look to him to drive them forward from midfield.

Moises Caicedo, 19, central midfielder - Ecuador

Caicedo joined Brighton and Hove Albion in January to much fanfare from South American experts, who assured Seagulls fans they were getting a future superstar.

He's yet to make a senior appearance in England, with Graham Potter patient regarding his adaptation, but the Copa America could give fans a chance to see him in action.

A well-rounded, all-action midfielder, Caicedo was the teenager with the most goals (four), shots attempted (24), chances created (19), successful passes (748) and dribbles completed (23) in Ecuador's top flight in 2020, while his passing accuracy of 90.1 per cent was the highest among players to attempt 500 or more.

Emerson Royal, 22, right-back - Brazil

An impressive two-year spell at Real Betis has persuaded Barcelona to bring Emerson back to Camp Nou after a complicated three-way transfer in 2019.

He has proven himself to be both a dependable defender and a capable attacking outlet, his 10 assists over the past two seasons bettered by only one LaLiga defender (Jesus Navas, 13), while his 853 duels over the past two years is nearly 200 more than any other defender.

This paints a picture of an all-action defender who will work tirelessly up and down the right flank, and on the evidence of the past couple of years, it shouldn't take him too long to usurp Danilo as Brazil's primary option.

Yangel Herrera, 23, central midfielder - Venezuela

A long-term future for Herrera and parent club Manchester City looks unlikely, but he enjoyed a promising season with Granada in LaLiga – that coupled with a breakout tournament in Brazil could lead to promising suitors making their feelings known.

Herrera's a hard-working midfielder who made more tackle attempts (59) than any other Granada player this term, while it was a similar story with regards to duels (509) and duels won (261). Don't expect him to create much, but he's not shy about getting stuck in.

Jaminton Campaz, 21, left-winger - Colombia

Arguably the next big hope of the Colombian national team, Campaz only received his first call-up this month for the recent World Cup qualifiers. Although he did not get on the pitch, his inclusion in the squad was well-received among fans.

Colombia great Carlos Valderrama was among them as he urged the 21-year-old to grasp the opportunity in a post on his official Twitter account.

A livewire on the left flank, Colombia may look to his explosiveness and trickery should games remain tight in the latter stages.

Julio Enciso, 17, attacking midfielder - Paraguay

The youngest player at the 2021 Copa America, Enciso has already played 24 top-flight matches back home for Libertad and was briefly the youngest player to score in the Copa Libertadores this century with his goal against Jorge Wilstermann last year when still 16.

A good dribbler and not shy to take a shot, Enciso has been used almost everywhere across the front for Libertad and could be an interesting wildcard option for Paraguay.

Carlos Palacios, 20, right-winger - Chile

Earlier this year, Palacios made the jump to Brazil when he joined Internacional on loan from Union Espanola, where he had developed into one of Chile's most-promising young players as a lively winger.

While he's yet to score for his new club, he proved in Chile that he has a penchant for a spectacular goal one or two, while his regular appearances for Internacional have exposed him to a far greater standard of football.

Related items

  • Phil Foden stars as Manchester City come from behind to win derby Phil Foden stars as Manchester City come from behind to win derby

    Phil Foden scored twice in the second half as title-chasing Manchester City came from behind to claim a crucial 3-1 win over rivals Manchester United.

    The champions were stunned by a brilliant strike from Marcus Rashford after just eight minutes but were otherwise the dominant force in a keenly-fought Premier League clash at the Etihad Stadium.

    Their pressure eventually paid off as Foden levelled with a long-range effort in the 56th minute and then put his side ahead 10 minutes from time. Erling Haaland put the result beyond doubt in stoppage time.

    Victory took City one point behind leaders Liverpool ahead of the two sides’ eagerly-anticipated meeting at Anfield next weekend.

    Foden, also last week’s match-winner at Bournemouth, is rapidly becoming City’s star of the season but prior to his intervention it seemed Rashford could steal the headlines.

    The England forward this week defended himself against suggestions he was not fully committed to United and his blistering opener was an excellent way to do his talking on the pitch.

    It came from a route-one punt upfield by Andre Onana which was taken under control by Bruno Fernandes and laid off to Rashford 25 yards out.

    He seized the chance as he hit a thunderous first-time shot which flew in off the underside of the bar.

    It could even have got worse for City with two more United breaks catching them out.

    A Ruben Dias slip allowed Rashford another run at goal but the bounce wrong-footed him and Kyle Walker cleared. Rashford was then unable to make clean contact with a shot after a low ball was whizzed into the area.

    Yet these were rare forays in a first half City otherwise dominated, racking up a remarkable 18 shots – their most without scoring in an opening 45-minute period under Pep Guardiola.

    Haaland was guilty of their most glaring miss. The prolific Norwegian, who scored five at Luton in midweek, remarkably volleyed over in front of an open goal from a well-cushioned Foden header.

    Prior to that Foden and Rodri were both denied by Onana while Jeremy Doku, Kevin De Bruyne and Haaland all failed to make the most of half-chances.

    The equaliser came early in the second half as Foden connected with another fine effort from outside the area that curled into the top corner.

    United protested, feeling Rashford had been fouled by Walker moments earlier and a furious Erik ten Hag was booked for his reaction on the touchline, but that contact had been deemed minimal by referee Andrew Madley.

    The leveller reignited an atmosphere that had become subdued and play was held up after a blue flare was thrown onto the pitch and landed close to Onana.

    City continued to probe with Walker shooting at Onana but United retained a threat on the counter-attack and Alejandro Garnacho broke clear only to be denied by an Ederson tackle.

    The decisive moment came 10 minutes from time as Foden combined with Julian Alvarez and beat Onana with a low drive across goal.

    Haaland wrapped up the scoring with a precise finish – his 28th goal of the campaign – late on.

  • Alessia Russo goal gives Arsenal north London derby victory at Emirates Stadium Alessia Russo goal gives Arsenal north London derby victory at Emirates Stadium

    Alessia Russo scored the only goal to hand Arsenal a 1-0 win over Tottenham in the north London derby in front of another sold out crowd.

    The Gunners sold out the Emirates Stadium for a second straight game as 60,050 watched the hosts keep the pressure on in the Women’s Super League title battle.

    Russo provided the winning moment four minutes after the break, lashing home from six yards after being set up by England team-mate Beth Mead.

    Manchester United lost further ground on the top three as they were held to a 1-1 draw at West Ham.

    Rachel Williams gave the visitors a fourth-minute lead with her 50th WSL goal.

    But Viviane Asseyi equalised five minutes from time to leave Marc Skinner’s side nine points behind third-placed Arsenal.

    Emma Koivisto scored twice as Liverpool beat Aston Villa 4-1.

    Grace Fisk’s deflected strike in the 19th minute gave Liverpool a lead and Sophie Roman Haug added a second before Sarah Mayling pulled one back from the penalty spot.

    Koivisto made it 3-1 on the hour mark and added a fourth with eight minutes left as the Reds moved level on points with Manchester United.

    Brighton beat rock-bottom Bristol City 7-3 to move eight points clear of the relegation spot.

    Elisabeth Terland opened the scoring in the 20th minute and Pauline Bremer added another four minutes later to give the away side a 2-0 lead heading into the break.

    City got on the scoresheet through Megan Connolly but Terland’s second of the day combined with Tatiana Pinto’s strike put Brighton 4-1 up.

    Two goals in three minutes from Brooke Aspin and Amalie Thestrup brought Bristol City right back into the contest.

    But any hopes of a sensational comeback were wiped out when Madison Haley struck in the 89th minute before Vicky Losada and Katie Robinson added further goals in stoppage time.

  • We still need more points – Andoni Iraola won’t relax despite Bournemouth win We still need more points – Andoni Iraola won’t relax despite Bournemouth win

    Andoni Iraola does not believe Bournemouth are safe yet despite ending a seven-game winless Premier League run with a 2-0 victory over Burnley.

    The Clarets and Sheffield United are cut adrift at the bottom and the Cherries are now sitting in 13th place, 11 points clear of Luton in 18th.

    “I’m satisfied with the situation that we have a gap of 11 points, it’s very good, it’s important,” said the Bournemouth boss.

    “But we still need more wins, we still need more points. I feel that Luton, they have very good spirit, they fight every game and they can make a good run.”

    Burnley dominated possession and chances but the two moments of real quality came from Bournemouth, with Justin Kluivert opening the scoring in the 13th minute and Antoine Semenyo making sure of the win two minutes from time.

    Iraola was left with mixed feelings, saying: “Obviously I’m happy because we needed this win. For sure we played worse than the last games we’ve played, but we’ll take the win.

    “I was disappointed with the performance in the first half. We made adjustments and the second half was much better from our side.”

    The negative was a hamstring injury suffered early in the first half by key defender Marcos Senesi.

    “I think it’s a clear strain in the hamstring,” said Iraola. “I hope it’s not very big.

    “It’s a very bad moment for us because we don’t have too many defenders right now. Also for him personally because he has been called again with Argentina. I know that is something important for him.”

    Burnley have now gone 10 games without a victory, conceding a combined 10 goals without reply in their last three.

    Manager Vincent Kompany felt the performance was a substantial improvement on last weekend’s 3-0 defeat by Crystal Palace, saying: “I did think we put in the energy that we needed.

    “We created I think more shots and chances than in any of the games we’ve played in the Premier League so far this season. And even after conceding the goal, we carried on.

    “But the frustration is something that has to substitute into the next game. What we can’t drop is the energy levels we had today.”

    Kompany bemoaned the consistency of officiating after Josh Cullen had a second-half effort ruled out for a foul by Jacob Bruun Larsen.

    “In the context of this game, you can allow or disallow this goal and have kind of a 50-50 divide,” he said.

    “But, if you zoom out a little bit and put this goal against the goal we conceded against Luton, impeding a player while you’re not making contact with the ball, it’s exactly what happened in reverse.

    “So in that moment you don’t give a foul and in this moment you do. That side of it is difficult to handle this season.”

    Burnley have now lost 11 of their 14 league matches at Turf Moor this season and boos were audible at the final whistle.

    “That’s after every defeat in every club,” said Kompany. “It’s football.

    “But as long as they’re there from the start, which it was, and throughout the game they support you, that’s part of the things you have to be able to deal with and eventually it all comes back in a positive way.”

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.