With all eyes on the usual suspects ahead of the 44th edition of the Copa America, we evaluate five young players capable of taking South America’s showpiece event by storm:
Club: Manchester United
Henriquez comes into the tournament with his growing reputation at an all-time high. The former Universidad de Chile prodigy spent the 2014-15 season on loan at Dinamo Zagreb – his third spell away from Old Trafford – and helped the club to a remarkable 10th successive Croatian title with 21 goals in 25 league matches. The youngster found the back of the net 30 times in 37 games in all competitions. While his future remains up in the air amid reports of a permanent switch to Zagreb, Henriquez – who has two international goals to his name since debuting three years ago – will vie with Mauricio Pinilla and Eduardo Vargas for a starting berth as Jorge Sampaoli’s men bid to win on home soil.
Firmino has fast become one of the most sought after players in the Bundesliga following a fine campaign with Hoffenheim. He scored 10 goals in 36 games competitive games last term as an attacking midfield, reportedly catching the eye of Manchester United, Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund among others. Firmino’s breakthrough season has seen him become a regular under Brazil coach Dunga and the 23-year-old is tipped to play a key role for the eight-time Copa champions in Chile.
Emelec, who plays his trade in his homeland, is expected to be a constant menace for opposing defenders in Chile. Having only made his Ecuador bow in March, Bolanos has already scored two international goals. He also has 10 league goals to his name from 15 matches this term, after leading Emelec to the Ecuadorian First Stage title with 19 in 36 last season. The Copa America is the perfect stage for Bolanos to shine as he puts himself in the shop window.
Club: Udinese (on loan at Juventus)
Pereyra headed to Chile eyeing a trophy at international level after helping Juventus to a Serie A and Coppa Italia double following his loan switch from Udinese. Known for his dynamism and technique, Pereyra made 35 appearances when given the opportunity to feature in a role behind fellow Argentine Carlos Tevez. Pereyra finds himself down the pecking order behind the likes of Angel di Maria and Javier Pastore, but the ex-River Plate youngster will be ready to take his chance when called upon by Gerardo Martino.
Fresh from celebrating his 22nd birthday, Martinez is already a seasoned international for Venezuela. The Torino prospect has tallied three goals for his country – coming in friendly wins against El Salvador, Bolivia and Peru since debuting in 2011. In his first season in Turin after leaving FC Thun, Martinez found goals hard to come by, with only seven scored in 40 competitive matches. Despite his indifferent start to life in Serie A, the frontman has the chance to make a name for himself alongside Salomon Rondon and Nicolas Fedor.
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