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Copa America

Top five young players from Copa America 2021 to keep an eye on

Published at :July 14, 2021 at 9:31 PM
Modified at :December 13, 2023 at 1:01 PM
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(Courtesy : Angels on Parade/ La Pagina Millonaria)

Sudesh Baniya


These players put on a string of impressive displays and could make a move to Europe soon.

Copa America 2021 has conluded, with Lionel Messi's Argentina being crowned champions after 28 long years. Despite uncertainties before the tournament, it was not short of unforgettable moments. From Neymar and Lucas Paqueta's Jogo Bonito to Lionel Messi's two spectacular free-kicks, the contest dazzled fans with sumptuous display.

This edition, like the previous ones, served as a platform to manifest local players from the continent. Talents from various Latin American leagues put on impressive performances, becoming surprise elements for many. South America has long been a prime scouting location for European clubs. Following the Copa, these European clubs will be eager to secure the services of some of these talents.

Here are the top five young players that European teams should keep an eye on for a future transfer. For the record, we have only selected players with at least three starts, are less than 25-year-old and play in American clubs currently.

5. Matias Vina (Uruguay)

Vina impressed in Copa America 2021 (Credits: Zimbio)

Palmeiras' Matias Vina got five starts in Uruguay's not-so-impressive campaign, where they succumbed against Colombia in a penalty shootout. Despite failing out in the collective performance, the team discovered a reliable attacking left-back in Vina.

The 23-year-old was more involved in going forward and at times, seemed to be improving Uruguay's verticality on the field. Vina averaged 60 touches per 90 and most of those came in either the middle or the final third. Making runs from wide and frequently getting touches on the overlap, Vina was involved in seven shot-creating actions. All of those actions were live-ball passes that led to a shot at the end of the move.

Vina has showcased his ability to carry and progress the ball into the final third. At 23, he can be a hot prospect for European sides that favour wide players, who are able to complete take-ons and feed short passes rather than crosses in the final third.

4. Diego Palacios (Ecuador)

Palacios impressed in the Copa America 2021 against Brail and Argentina (Credits: El Universo)

Diego Palacios' two starts in the tournament came against Brazil and Argentina and he unleashed his potential against superior teams. The Los Angeles FC youngster has already established himself as a hot catch, possessing ability to play both as a left-back and a left-winger. With the national team, though, he has only been used as a left winger.

Ecuador's style of play, largely based on playing on the break, isolated their forwards and Palacios was no exception. Despite having limited opportunities at getting the ball and driving it forward, the winger complemented Enner Valencia well. European teams will look forward and track him at Major League Soccer, along with his development.

3. Nicolas De la Cruz (Uruguay)

Nicolas De La Cruz boasted an impressive pass accuracy of 86% in the Copa America 2021 (Credits: The People's Person)

Ever since introducing himself as a lethal attacking midfielder for Uruguay's under-20 side, Nicolas De la Cruz has been seen as a hot prospect. De la Cruz's on-field intelligence and toned technique have made him a crowd favourite at River Plate for quite some time.

Playing as the sole attacking midfielder behind Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez, the 24-year-old performed well against both Argentina and Chile. In matches where Uruguay looked to struggle for a gasp, he acted as a controller and took things to himself. Boasting a pass accuracy of 86%, he certainly has the ability to create many key chances.

Oscar Tabarez's system demanded a more physical and defensive midfielder. De la Cruz looked to mould himself into one of those kinds. Frequently running to press and intercept the ball, the midfielder displayed his versatile, adaptable and lethal traits. These attributes can benefit any European side that might be requiring such a profile.

2. Piero Hincapie (Ecuador)

Lazio have already shown interest in Hincapie after his impressive Copa America 2021 displays (Credits: 67hailhail)

Although Ecuador barely lingered in the fourth place in the Copa America 2021 group stages, Piero Hincapie impressed from the very first. At just 19, the central defender put on courageous displays against Colombia and Brazil in the group stages. A promising talent, Hincapie thrived with his positioning and strength in dealing with the ground threats. His decision-making and composure were evident – the youngster averaged 2.2 successful tackles per 90.

The youngster's ability was not overshadowed by a late red card against 3-0 quarterfinal loss against Argentina. The center-back was equally important in Ecuador's build-ups, averaging 65.2 accurate passes per match. Hincapie was more involved in supplying short balls to the midfielders in the build-up, evident by his above 90% accuracy in short and medium-length passes.

Due to his on-the-ball abilities and decision making skills, Lazio have already shown interest in the youngster. It will not be a surprise if he leaves Argentina's Talleres to move to Europe with all that potential and time in his hands.

1. Gonzalo Montiel (Argentina)

Montiel was one Lionel Scaloni's trump cards in the Copa America 2021 final (Credits: Twitter/ River Plate Noruega)

Gonzalo Montiel was one of three trump cards that Lionel Scaloni used to get better of Brazil in the Copa America 2021 final. The River Plate right-back won nine out of 10 ground duels in the final, against the likes of Everton Ribeiro, Neymar and Vinicius Jr. It was because of his solid performance that Brazil's right side looked ineffective in the final third.

Starting three matches, Montiel acted as a contemporary full-back. The 24-year-old was more involved in the middle and defensive third, helping the defensive line to fill the space left by relatively more advanced left full-backs. Montiel has played as a central defender and right central midfielder for his club and boasts abilities to quickly spot a player under pressure in the build-up.

Befitting Scaloni's pragmatic system, Montiel brings strong command and versatility on the pitch. He has shown his qualities in the tournament and a move to Europe is already being anticipated for him soon.

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