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7 unheralded players set to light up the Copa América

Thursday night sees the beginning of one of football’s least appreciated tournaments.

THE 2015 COPA América gets underway in Chile on Thursday night.

All games will be broadcast live on Setanta 1, and if you fancy tuning in, the first takes place between the hosts and Ecuador at about 12.30am on Friday morning, Irish time.

Because it is so far away and not very well publicised, the tournament ultimately flies under the radar to most Irish soccer fans every time it wheels around. It’s a shame as some of the world’s best players will be competing, and as always there will be breakout stars that announce their names on the world stage.

We’ve taken a look at seven players who you may not have heard of before, but could hear a lot about in years to come.

Jesús Corona – Mexico

Turkey U20 Worlds Soccer Corona is the new bright light of Mexican football. Source: Gero Breloer

The 22-year-old Twente winger only made his debut for Mexico last November but mitigating factors have lead to him becoming a key member of the squad. With Mexico bringing what can largely be described as their second-string side, Corona may be elevated into their playmaker in chief. While he may only have five caps, only five players in the squad have more than 20 appearances for their country and he is one of only three players to be playing his club football outside of Mexico.

With El Tri concentrating on the more achievable goal of winning the Gold Cup, the likes of Corona should have a chance to shine. Nine goals and four assists for Twente this season shows he has an end product to add to his searing pace.

Juan Carlos Paredes – Ecuador

Soccer - Sky Bet Championship - Watford v Middlesbrough - Vicarage Road Parades helped Watford towards promotion this season. Source: John Walton

Fans of the championship, and especially Watford, should already know about Ecuadorian right-back Paredes. Having helped Watford to promotion, playing 39 games in total this season, the former Barcelona youth was a mainstay of the side at Vicarage Road this season.

Blessed with outstanding pace and a real will to get forward from wing-back at every opportunity, Parades is appeasing on the eye for any neutral. Ecuador are going into this tournament as many peoples dark horses and the Hornets full-back will be a driving force for his side in Chile.

Diego Rolán – Uruguay

Uruguay Guatemala Soccer Rolán celebrates his maiden international goal against Guatemala. Source: AP/Press Association Images

In the absence of Luis Suárez, Diego Rolán has been fast-tracked into the national set-up to provide support for Edison Cavani up front. The absence of the Barcelona striker has cast a major shadow over Uruguay’s preparation for the Copa América, especially given his form of late. Given that Óscar Tabárez likes to start with two strikers it would appear that Rolán is the pefect partner.

His 15 Ligue Un goals for Bordeaux in 28 starts this season showed a real maturity as he led the line excellently. The diminutive forward has flown under the radar in France as the likes of Alexnadre Lacazette and Anthony Martial drew the most admiring glances from Europe’s big clubs. Helping fire Uruguay to the latter stages of this tournament would make the bigger clubs stand up and take notice however.

Danilo – Brazil

Portugal Soccer Danilo celebrates scoring for Porto against Sporting this season. Source: AP/Press Association Images

While Danilo may not be an unfamiliar name to a lot of fans of the Champions League, this years Copa América allows him the chance to announce himself on the world stage. With Dani Alves left out of the Brazil squad in what was a hugely surprising move from coach Dunga, the Porto man will be the starting right-back in Chile.

A season in which he scored seven goals from defence has seen him rewarded with a €31.5 million move to Real Madrid for next season. Having been first capped by Brazil all the way back in 2011, he has had to endure a stop-start international career, earning just 14 caps in the past four years. A brilliant operator to watch in attack, the 23-year-old should make the right-back slot his own for the Selecao for years to come.

Pedro Franco – Colombia

Soccer - UEFA Europa League - Round of 32 - First Leg - Liverpool v Besiktas - Anfield Franco is hoping to establish himself in the Colombian back-line. Source: EMPICS Sport

Following last year’s run to the quarter-final of the World Cup it was finally time for one of Colombian football’s most iconic player, Mario Yepes, to call a halt to his international career. The void needs to be filled, and José Pékerman looks likely to call upon Besiktas centre-back Pedro Franco to play alongside Milan’s Chistián Zapata in the heart of the defence.

Franco only has five caps to his name but during his time at Besiktas he has shown an ability to play from the back-line right up to centre midfield. The 24-year-old has a maturity in his game and he is relatively quick for a centre-half, which will be vital against some of the quicker South American attackers his side will face in Chile. Colombia hope to go far in this tournament, and they will need Franco to help keep the defence stable if they are to do so.

Yordy Reyna – Peru

Austria Soccer Europa League Reyna isn't tall, but his lightning quick. Source: Kerstin Joensson

At just 21 Reyna is one of the youngest players in this year’s tournament, but he could be a central figure for the Peruvians. Claudio Pizarro is 36 now and certainly not capable of leading the line against the likes of Colombia and Brazil in the group stage, and it is Reyna who represents the best option for such a role.

Having made his debut for Peru over two years ago, he hasn’t scored since June 2013 for the national side, but his record of 11 goals in 19 games in the first half of last season for SV Grodig in the Austrian Bundesliga shows that he is finally showing a maturity to his play. His pace is almost frightening, and a forward line of himself, Jefferson Farfán and Paolo Guerrero is sure to stretch any defence.

José Giménez – Uruguay

Soccer - FIFA World Cup 2014 - Round of 16 - Colombia v Uruguay - Estadio do Maracana Giménez is already an established international at just 20 years of age. Source: EMPICS Sport

The powerful Atlético Madrid defender has now firmly established himself alongside club partner Diego Godín in the centre of the Uruguayan defence. At just 20 years of age Giménez has already been capped 14 times by his country and he looks to have eased into the position vacated by former captain Diego Lugano.

Having finished as a runner-up to France at the 2013 Fifa U20 World Cup, Giménez has been earmarked ever since as a potential future captain. A solid partnership with Godín, allied with the attacking threat that Uruguay possess, makes his side a very dangerous prospect in Chile.

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