What follows no marketing, promotion or overstatement: Copa America 2016 will feature some of the world’s best soccer players.
The Copa America “Centenario” kicks off Friday night when the United States faces Colombia at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. Colombia’s James Rodriguez will lead his team in search of a title. If he plays anywhere near his 2014 FIFA World Cup level or what he has since shown in spurts with Real Madrid, fans will be in for a treat.
But it won’t end there, as more stars will demonstrate their talent over the course of the next 32 games, culminating in the final on June 26 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.
Here are some other players to watch at Copa America 2016.
The Argentinian superstar is one of soccer’s greatest-ever players, but he has never won a title with his country. He carries a back injury and tax problems into the tournament, but if he can shake off both, favorites Argentina can go far.
The biting villain of the 2014 World Cup is back with Uruguay and determined to win Copa America for the second time in his career (following the 2011 triumph). Suarez led Spain in goal scoring this season with Barcelona, but he suffered a hamstring injury in the last game of the club season. If he’s at his best, watch out. If he’s at his frustrated worst, seriously watch out.
The United States forward adopted the Latin American style of play as a child and calls Copa America his favorite tournament. Team USA needs Dempsey on top form in order to avoid an early exit on home soil.
The Brazil fullback is a serial winner with FC Barcelona and one of the greatest attacking defenders of his generation. But Alves hasn’t won a major title with his country since Copa America 2007. Alves also shocked European soccer this week by announcing his departure from Barcelona in order to join Juventus.
The Chile midfielder willed his team to a home victory at Copa America 2015, despite an in-tournament arrest for drunk driving. Can Vidal maintain the form he has shown for Bayern Munich and Chile this summer? Will he behave in the United States?
Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez
The Mexico striker is coming off a fantastic season for his club, Germany’s Bayer Leverkusen. He could set a new goal-scoring record for Mexico and lead Copa America 2016 in goals.
Chicharito’s goals grab headlines, but Guardado makes Mexico tick. El Tri is a dark-horse candidate to win the tournament, and Guardado, its midfield general, will play a key role in its success or failure.
The Jamaican center back captained Leicester City to one of the most improbable championships in sports history. Can Morgan bring some of that magic dust to his national team? We hope so.
Another of Chile’s key players, the dynamic forward will excite fans and power his team’s journey. Fans of Arsenal, Sanchez’s club, also will watch him play with great interest.
Thumbnail photo via Adam Hunger/USA TODAY Sports Images