The 2015 Copa America wrapped up with the hosts, Chile, celebrating their first ever South American Championship. Chile knocked off the tournament favorites, Argentina, in a final that required a penalty shootout to determine the outcome after 120 scoreless minutes. The tournament didn’t fail to live up to expectations as upsets, close games, tempers and players dominated the Copa America headlines. Previous tournaments have introduced the world to some of South America’s best players and this year’s no doubt provided the opportunity to see some new and future stars in action.
Luis Advincula (Peru) – The Peruvian right-back didn’t score or assist in any of his team’s goals, but his contribution to the team included things that don’t show up on a stat sheet. Advincula paced a lot of the offense and became a key part of the team’s defense throughout the tournament. His ability to get back on into a defensive position saved numerous goals and opponent’s chances while frustrating teams like Venezuela, Colombia and eventual champions Chile. Advincula currently plays for 1899 Hoffenheim in Germany’s Bundesliga where he has only played in two games in two seasons, spending loan spells in Brazil, Peru and Portugal over that period. He is currently being linked with a move to the Premier League’s West Ham United.
Christian Cueva (Peru) – Another Peruvian standout from the third-place finishers made his presence felt early as he scored the team’s first goal of the tournament in just their second minute of play against Brazil. The 23-year-old winger, who currently plays in his country’s domestic league, became a real game changer as opponents focused on known strikers Paolo Guerrero, Jefferson Farfan and Claudio Pizarro, leaving Cueva open to create opportunities for his teammates and himself. Cueva has made such an impression in Chile, that he is expected to sign with 17 time Chilean champions, Universidad de Chile.
Derlis Gonzalez (Paraguay) – Paraguay’s youngest player at 21 years old, a natural striker, but forced to play the number 10 role on the national team in order to assure a spot on the field due to the overcrowded veteran striker heavy squad, showed positive glimpses throughout the tournament. Gonzalez’ key game came in the win over Brazil in the quarter-finals when he scored the equalizer with a penalty, and then scored the game-winning penalty in the ensuing penalty shoot-out. He currently plays for Basel in Switzerland, but has been linked with Chelsea and Manchester City since the tournament ended.
Miller Bolaños (Ecuador) – Despite the fact that his team failed to make it out of the group stage, the Ecuadorian striker, who recently completed a loan spell in MLS with Chivas USA, scored two goals, including this beauty, and set up another. Bolaños was a savior on a team that came into the tournament not knowing who would help current striker Enner Valencia with the goal-scoring burden; he certainly stepped up and stood out in an otherwise disappointing campaign for the national team. He currently plays for the Ecuador Serie A champions Emelec, but rumors have him potentially making a move to Liga MX, where Club America had interest in him last Winter.
Jose Gimenez (Uruguay) – The young center-back has a World Cup and now a Copa America tournament on his resume, and he is only 20 years old. He proved to be one of the solid defensive players for Uruguay in the tournament and his chemistry with Diego Godin is a big reason why their club team, Atletico Madrid decided to let regular center-back, Miranda, leave for Inter Milan last week in order to allow Gimenez to finally get a regular full time role. Gimenez proved tough against players such as Sergio Aguero, Nelson Haedo Valdez and Alexis Sanchez and could be on track for a breakthrough year in Europe this upcoming season.