Ranking the Top 50 Players at the 2015 Copa America

Sam Tighe@@stighefootballWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterJune 8, 2015

Ranking the Top 50 Players at the 2015 Copa America

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    With the Copa America 2015 starting on June 11, it's time to start getting excited and begin your preparations. What better way to do so than perusing the top 50 players heading to the tournament?

    We've ranked the players arriving in Chile based not only on their skill levels but also their importance to their national team and their projected impact at the tournament.

    This is to ensure we feature the right players who are going to make a splash but also do not clog the list with the entirety of Brazil and Argentina's rosters, leaving no room for any of the more obscure but still important players.

Honourable Mentions/Players to Watch

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    Due to the onus placed on projecting impact at the tournament while ranking the players, there are some who inevitably slipped off. That is not to say they are not good players, but we focused on the expected starting XIs to ensure we were featuring those who would actually play.

    For example: Marquinhos is a superb centre-back, but he's the fourth-choice Brazilian heading to Chile in his position. He doesn't feature here, as he likely won't feature there.

    Listed here are a few stronger players who are further down the pecking order but should still be noted, and some to watch from the weaker nations who will be looking to surprise.

    Honourable Mentions/Players to Watch

    Derlis Gonzalez, Paraguay

    Richard Ortiz, Paraguay

    Justo Villar, Paraguay

    Jeison Murillo, Colombia

    David Ospina, Colombia

    Jackson Martinez, Colombia

    Carlos Zambrano, Peru

    Andre Carrillo, Peru

    David Luiz, Brazil

    Raul Jimenez, Mexico

    Juan Carlos Medina, Mexico

    Marco Fabian, Mexico

    Luis Montes, Mexico

    Alexander Dominguez, Ecuador

    Gonzalo Higuain, Argentina

    Kemar Lawrence, Jamaica

    Rodolph Austin, Jamaica

    Marcelo Moreno Martins, Bolivia

    Alvaro Gonzalez, Uruguay

50. Pablo Armero, Colombia

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    Pablo Armero has been unable to find a role that suits him at club level due to his wing-back-like tendencies, but for Colombia, he is an entirely different animal.

    The 4-2-2-2 formation that Jose Pekerman uses has allowances for Armero to surge forward, and although he's not always 100 percent in control of his own feet, he can be deadly if given room to run into.

    With right-back a problem area for Los Cafeteros, expect the left to be where the push happens.

49. Marcelo Diaz, Chile

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    Marcelo Diaz is another whose national fortunes have borne significantly more fruit than the club counterpart's; he hasn't been able to find a home at the top level despite excelling for Jorge Sampaoli.

    He swapped FC Basel for Hamburg this winter and unfortunately suffered a knee injury, limiting his impact. He did score a vital goal to keep HSV up in the relegation play-off, though, and will join the Chile camp in good spirits.

    In his absence, Sampaoli has adapted the team a little, so he may find himself with a less important role, hence his lower ranking. When given the chance, though, he'll be the midfield dictator and metronome La Roja require.

48. Salomon Rondon, Venezuela

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    Salomon Rondon is a big, big man, and that makes the danger he carries extremely obvious: He's a physical target capable of bullying in the air and holding the ball up front.

    Unfortunately, he's a little inconsistent at times—verging on John Carew in his game-on, game-off tendencies—but scored 13 goals as Zenit St. Petersburg lifted the title this year and thrived when given good service.

    The question is: Can Venezuela's midfield replicate it?

47. Eduardo Vargas, Chile

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    Eduardo Vargas is something of an Alexis Sanchez lite—quick, tenacious, fit and instinctive up front. He's not on the same level as his colleague and strike partner, but he does do the same thing for Jorge Sampaoli: press, instigate attacks and finish chances.

    He had a rough season on loan at Queens Park Rangers, criminally underused by both Harry Redknapp and Chris Ramsey, before sustaining a knee injury that makes him a big question mark for the Copa America 2015.

    Will he recover, and can he find his best form again?

46. Nicolas Lodeiro, Uruguay

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    Nicolas Lodeiro's role this summer could be huge for Uruguay; he's seemingly the only creative link between the rugged defensive line and the wanting, isolated forward one.

    Whether he plays inside or off the flank, he'll be tasked with providing Edinson Cavani with service and producing goalscoring chances. At 26, and having failed to impact in Europe, this is a big tournament for him.

    Working in his favour are two things, though: He could take set pieces (which Jose Maria Gimenez and Diego Godin gobble up), and he's thrived in South American-style football since defecting to Brazil.

45. Mauricio Isla, Chile

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    Despite displaying impressive versatility to operate at full-back, wing-back or in the heart of midfield, Mauricio Isla has not really been able to nail down a position at club football since early 2012, when he suffered a knee ligament injury.

    For Chile, he remains a regular part of the team, usually playing down the right side of the pitch to make use of his pace and stamina in covering the entire flank. Like many of his compatriots, he seems to save his best form for the international stage, and there’s no real reason to suspect he won’t do so again if he's in the side.

    Even if there were other natural right-sided options in the squad, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Jorge Sampaoli go with the tried-and-trusted names—of which Isla is most assuredly a part.

44. Marcos Rojo, Argentina

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    Facing competition from just the uncapped Milton Casco, Marcos Rojo is set for another big tournament playing left-back. He's shown over the past 12 months he's perfectly capable for both club and country.

    He has the eagerness and thrust to get forward even if the finesse is lacking at times, and he'll drop in to defend as a natural when Argentina are under pressure.

    Gerardo Martino could have rolled the dice with Valencia's Lucas Orban here, but he was cut from the preliminary squad; you get the impression, as a result, that the left side will be La Albiceleste's "safe" flank.

43. Carlos Sanchez, Colombia

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    Carlos Sanchez has had an up-and-down debut season with Aston Villa, and in truth, he's struggled to adapt to the pace of the Premier League at times.

    But he still commands a key role for Colombia under Jose Pekerman, and with Abel Aguilar and Fredy Guarin both out of Copa America 2015, he'll be called upon to anchor the midfield.

    In Los Cafeteros' 4-2-2-2, his brief is simple: Destroy and recover, then pass to the more technically talented players ahead. It's a good role for him.

42. Danilo, Brazil

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    Danilo, Real Madrid's newest multi-million recruit, had a fantastic season at FC Porto and looks ready to step in full-time at right-back for Brazil. With Dani Alves ousted by Dunga, only uncapped Fabinho challenges Danilo for the position.

    He's a flying full-back, capable at both ends of the pitch and in possession of a fantastic engine. He'll bring additional solidity to a previously suspect Selecao defensive line and provide the runs and crosses the team have come to expect from the right flank.

41. Frickson Erazo, Ecuador

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    Ecuador have been through managerial turmoil since the FIFA World Cup 2014, with Reinaldo Rueda going, Sixto Vizuete lasting just four games and current manager Gustavo Quinteros having only had two fixtures to work with.

    As much as La Tri wish to try to change the way they play and become a more attacking outfit, the lack of cohesiveness on the staff side of things, in addition to the abrupt changes in regimes, will likely see them fall into a defensive, cautious setup again.

    That's where Frickson Erazo comes to the fore, Ecuador's commanding, intelligent, powerful centre-back. He strings it all together and covers the gaps when the full-backs move forward.

40. Filipe Luis, Brazil

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    Filipe Luis has been awarded with the chance to put a rough debut season at Chelsea behind him and excel on the international stage. Marcelo's injury-enforced withdrawal makes him the starting left-back for Brazil.

    He's impressed under Dunga when given the chance—perhaps even more so than Marcelo at times—and his blend of cautious, defensive aptitude and ability to cross and interchange will be welcome on Neymar's flank.

    There are few more trustworthy and sturdy full-backs in world football.

39. Carlos Tevez, Argentina

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    Temper your expectations for Carlos Tevez when it comes to Argentina, as while Gerard Martino does like him, he's really not long been recalled from the waters of international wilderness, marooned at sea with nothing but a flashlight and a whistle by Alejandro Sabella.

    He's not expected to take up the mantle of starting striker for La Albiceleste, but what Martino does have is a world-class forward, fresh off arguably his best season of his entire career, available to come off the bench and make an impact.

    His role as a link forward and finisher for Juventus has taken them to the next level, and while Sergio Aguero is ahead of him in the pecking order on the international stage, he can't be considered far off.

38. Ever Banega, Argentina

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    The central-midfield spots ahead of Javier Mascherano will be hotly contested, but given Ever Banega's revival this year and his phenomenal performance in the UEFA Europa League final, there's every chance he's given the role ahead of Lucas Biglia.

    His season with Sevilla has been fantastic after firmly falling off the radar at Valencia, combining box-to-box steel with technical qualities and a good range of passing. He's a perfect fit for Gerardo Martino's 4-3-3.

37. Jefferson Farfan, Peru

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    Peru are a team rebuilding and refinding themselves, and while they do have some exciting attacking options in the works, they're not yet ready to lead the nation at the Copa America 2015.

    That means Jefferson Farfan will be leant upon once again by his country. The Schalke winger is fast, agile, can devastate from the wide areas and can pose a danger centrally, too.

    As Juan Manuel Vargas on the opposite flank has declined, Farfan has kept himself in prime shape. He's the beacon of hope for Peru heading into the summer tournament.

36. Enner Valencia, Ecuador

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    Enner Valencia needs to be in top form if his Ecuador side are to trouble beyond the group stages. After excelling at the FIFA World Cup 2014 and impressing in the Premier League, he's set for his first tournament as a veritable "star."

    Felipe Caicedo couldn't make the Copa America this year and Valencia's only competition/support up front appears to be Miller Bolanos. That means Jefferson Montero to Enner is a key component for La Tri, and it's the only combination likely to yield goals.

    Valencia works hard, shifts wide, has a wonderful, springy jump and can net a golazo in a tight spot.

35. Philippe Coutinho, Brazil

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    Coming off the back of a standout second half of the season at club level, Brazil’s Philippe Coutinho has been handed a real chance to establish himself as a core component of Dunga’s side.

    With no Oscar in the squad and the likes of Ronaldinho and Kaka now firmly consigned to history, the playmaking No. 10 position is there for the taking for Coutinho. Great skill with the ball at his feet, clever use of space and needing no second invitation to shoot from range or in the box, Coutinho will be one of the most pivotal players to fashion chances for his side.

    It’s not necessarily a case of "if he plays well, Brazil do," but rather, Coutinho being able to showcase himself as capable of becoming a regular part of a successful side. He’ll see plenty of the ball and must use it effectively in a key position.

    Mentally, he is strong enough to step up to the challenge, and he also has a longstanding relationship with captain Neymar, which is always helpful in establishing his own place—which he has won on merit.

34. Fernandinho, Brazil

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    Likely to be one of Brazil’s two starting holding midfielders, Fernandinho brings plenty of energy and defensive technical skills to the side that allow others further forward to flourish.

    He's also impressive at times as a surger, which could be an important tactical deviation if opposition defences deny the more offensive Brazilian players space to work in, but Fernandinho will primarily be there to win back the ball against the counter-attack, protect the back line and distribute quickly and efficiently to the likes of Neymar or Philippe Coutinho.

    Dunga's side all know their roles in a settled system, and he has depth in this position in particular, so for that reason alone, we could expect to see committed and impressive performances from Fernandinho and his central partner—or someone else will comfortably step into their places if not.

33. Egidio Arevalo Rios, Uruguay

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    Egidio Arevalo Rios is still ticking along despite his advancing years and still anchors the Uruguay defensive midfield as they struggle to find a worthy replacement.

    The thin national talent pool asks plenty of Rios, and at times, he's the sole destroyer in a defensive-minded formation under Oscar Tabarez. He's lost a step of pace, but he still reads the game well and makes timely interventions.

    There are some games when he simply dominates, anticipating everything, but those are becoming less frequent. His role shielding La Celeste's defence will be key this summer, and Tabarez will hope he can give it one last hurrah.

32. Eugenio Mena, Chile

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    The left-sided yin to Mauricio Isla’s yang, Eugenio Mena rampaged down the left side of Chile’s back-three system at the FIFA World Cup 2014 last summer and looks set to do so again in his home nation at the Copa.

    Now with Brazilian outfit Cruzeiro as an established first choice, his enduring ability to cover the pitch time and time again makes him a great outlet for the side on the counter, while his defensive awareness and penchant for tackling mean he is just as crucial at the other end, too.

    Whether in a back three or four, Mena is the first pick on the left side and, barring injury, it’s a safe bet he might play every minute of the competition that Chile lasts.

31. Jefferson Montero, Ecuador

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    With Antonio Valencia confirmed as out of the Copa America 2015, per Goal, the onus falls to Jefferson Montero to create from the wide areas for Ecuador.

    He had a great Premier League season with Swansea City when fit but battled genuine niggles for months; manager Gustavo Quinteros will hope his wing wonder can stay healthy and provide service for Enner Valencia up front.

    Really, it's La Tri's only chance for goals.

30. Ezequiel Garay, Argentina

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    There are some question marks surrounding the centre-back spots in Gerardo Martino's Argentina XI, but Ezequiel Garay should retain the role he held throughout the FIFA World Cup 2014.

    He's an aerial colossus and a physical, brutish marker of strikers, yet also strong on the ball and happy to play out even when under pressure. It's an extremely cultured, proficient look he has to his game.

    Coming off the back of a title-winning season for Zenit St. Petersburg, in which the club conceded just 17 goals, he'll be eager to bring that defensive reinforcement and efficiency to Argentina's spine.

29. Miranda, Brazil

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    It's unclear how Dunga's Brazil XI will shape up, but Miranda has featured in all of the friendlies post-FIFA World Cup 2014 and looks like he may get the nod over David Luiz and Marquinhos.

    He's very much a no-nonsense type, melding well with the more graceful Thiago Silva, and doesn't overcomplicate any part of his game. He heads, clears and whacks when and where necessary.

    What's more, with Filipe Luis slated to start at left-back, his chemistry with the former Atletico Madrid man will be a welcome boost to that flank.

28. Casemiro, Brazil

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    Casemiro has had a standout season for FC Porto, anchoring Julen Lopetegui's 4-3-3 and impressing in both Primeira Liga and UEFA Champions League play.

    He was a long shot to start when the squad was announced, but in light of Luiz Gustavo's injury forcing him to withdraw from the setup late, Casemiro's now been training in the first XI and looks set to play a major role at the tournament.

    He'll be the nominated holder, balancing the side out and ensuring the likes of Neymar and Roberto Firmino can attack without worrying what's happening behind them. He's a late bloomer to the elite scene, but all indications are he's got what it takes.

27. Maxi Pereira, Uruguay

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    Maxi Pereira wasn't brilliant at the FIFA World Cup 2014 and some question marks remain regarding his discipline, but he's a key part of this Uruguay side—now more than ever before.

    With creativity sapped sans Luis Suarez, the Benfica man, freshly crowned as Primeira Liga champion for the second consecutive season, will be key running up and down the flank, getting forward and crossing for Edinson Cavani.

    Uruguay are on the verge of relying on Nicolas Lodeiro to create chances—Pereira has to chip in if his side are to succeed.

26. Carlos Bacca, Colombia

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    Carlos Bacca is fighting Teofilo Gutierrez for the right to partner with Radamel Falcao up front for Colombia in Jose Pekerman's 4-2-2-2. The striker depth Los Cafeteros have—Jackson Martinez is fourth choice, and Adrian Ramos didn't even make the cut—is very, very impressive.

    Bacca is coming off a campaign in which he managed 20 Liga goals for Sevilla and won the UEFA Europa League. Awarding him Man of the Match in the final, where he scored twice to seal a 3-2 victory over Dnipro, was a just reward for his efforts.

    He's a tireless runner, a clever mover and a poacher extraordinaire. If he makes the runs, James Rodriguez will find him.

25. Teofilo Gutierrez, Colombia

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    The Teofilo Gutierrez-Radamel Falcao partnership is well established for Colombia, and the signs point to it starting the Copa America 2015.

    But "Teo" will need to be extremely mindful of the fact Jose Pekerman is mulling over the idea of using Carlos Bacca alongside Falcao instead, as he tried the duo in the March friendlies in Asia.

    Teo is a very good link forward, bridging the gap between the No. 10 space and the prima punta. He's smart, good off the ball and a strong finisher, so if he plays well, he suits Los Cafeteros' system down to the ground.

24. Willian, Brazil

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    Willian has been brought in by Dunga to fill the right side of the formation instead of Hulk, but really, given Brazil's overall focus on the left due to Neymar, it's a bit of a fluff role.

    The Chelsea man will be asked to balance the side out tactically and run around a lot, using his Energizer Bunny-like legs to good effect. He's to retain the width and cover for Danilo as the young full-back comes forward, and then help him defend the flank, too.

    He's a more reliable, less erratic stabiliser to the formation than Hulk under Luiz Felipe Scolari.

23. Gary Medel, Chile

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    Gary Medel is a defensive midfielder by domestic trade, but due to the paucity of options Chile have in central defence, he's dropped into the line on a full-time basis for Jorge Sampaoli.

    His positional versatility and aggressive, bulldog-like nature make him a brilliant fit there, and he is, in truth, the glue that holds a fragile defence together. He was superb at the FIFA World Cup 2014 despite being strapped up and held together with bandages at times.

    Medel is the leader, the commander and the linchpin at the back.

22. Charles Aranguiz, Chile

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    Charles Aranguiz has used the Chilean national team to boost his domestic career, moving from Universidad de Chile to Internacional—via the Pozzo family at Granada and Udinese—and securing himself a better job.

    It's easy to see why scouts fell in love with him, and he's rightly earned the moniker "a poor man's Arturo Vidal" due to his all-action, rampaging, energetic style. He's perfect for Jorge Sampaoli's press-heavy, pass-happy system; working in tandem with Vidal, they are a feared midfield duo.

    Aranguiz combines brawn with technical talent, and it's a wonder why top Premier League clubs haven't sought his signature out yet.

21. Rafa Marquez, Mexico

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    Mexico have sent a B-team to Copa America 2015, preferring instead to focus their efforts on the Gold Cup and their rivalry with the USA.

    Rafa Marquez has been sent along with this reserve selection in an attempt to organise and lead them from the back. The evergreen centre-back was in fine form at the FIFA World Cup 2014 and will need to replicate those dominant showings if El Tri are to have any chance of excelling.

    Miguel Herrera's 3-5-2 places Marquez in the centre, accentuating his strengths (aerial ability, positional discipline) and hiding his weaknesses (mobility, pace).

20. Jose Maria Gimenez, Uruguay

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    There are question marks all over this Uruguay team, but central defence picks itself. Oscar Tabarez has the luxury of playing Atletico Madrid's soon-to-be undisputed first-choice partnership in his national side.

    Jose Maria Gimenez's rise in the space of two years has been stunning; he was picked up by Atletico after a good FIFA U-20 World Cup and has been nurtured by Diego Godin and Diego Simeone into a top-class centre-back already.

    He's a bruiser, a threat from set pieces and a dominant tackler. He and Godin will need to bring their A-games and adopt a "you shall not pass" mantra if La Celeste are to get anywhere this summer.

19. Javier Pastore, Argentina

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    Javier Pastore has had himself one hell of a season, and it's arguable he is now finally closing in on realising his potential. It's taken him about three years longer than most expected, but at least he's moving through the gears.

    His performances for Paris Saint-Germain have been stunning in 2014-15, and Gerardo Martino has given him every chance to win a central-midfield role in Argentina's 4-3-3. He's energetic, full of guile and can move the ball quickly between the lines.

    The two midfield slots ahead of Javier Mascherano are up for grabs, and Pastore will feel he is deserving of one of them.

18. Roberto Firmino, Brazil

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    Is Roberto Firmino the answer to Brazil's central-striker prayers? The auditions have looked good, and now he has the chance to prove he's the man for the part at the Copa America 2015.

    Dunga has been trying to find a Selecao forward who can appropriately dovetail and link with star man Neymar, and Firmino appears to be of that intelligent, spatially aware sort. He's played a role verging on false-nine for Brazil in 2015, and he's bagged two goals from his first five national appearances.

    His task will be to create space for Neymar, but in a more sophisticated, fluid way than Fred did under Luiz Felipe Scolari.

17. Fernando Muslera, Uruguay

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    Fernando Muslera has watched as his Uruguay team have gotten steadily weaker since the last Copa America (2011) and now likely faces his toughest tournament yet.

    That's not to devalue the epic central-defensive partnership in front of him, but more an issue with the rest of the side. Goals have left the XI in the form of Luis Suarez and Diego Forlan, and La Celeste are going to be defending a lot more in 2015.

    Luckily, they have an excellent shot-stopper in Muslera, capable of acrobatics on his goal line and reasonably comfortable in the air. He'll need to be at his best for Uruguay to have any hope of competing.

    His form toward the end of the season with Galatasaray was epic, keeping six clean sheets and having a big hand in winning the Super Lig title.

16. Pablo Zabaleta, Argentina

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    Pablo Zabaleta had a difficult domestic season for Manchester City post-FIFA World Cup 2014 and finished 80th in B/R's Premier League 100. He usually lands a spot around 25th, given his consistency and prowess from the right-back slot.

    But his position in this Argentina XI projects to be extremely important, as Gerardo Martino has restored Lionel Messi to the right-hand side and there's little chance the Barcelona man will be asked to defend deep.

    Zabaleta could well be busy stabilising and defending on the right side while also pushing forward outside of Messi to overlap and attract markers. A workhorse role, but if anyone can do it, he can.

15. Claudio Bravo, Chile

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    It's unlikely anyone at Barcelona's HQ thought Claudio Bravo would play as well as he did this season, and it's created a serious goalkeeping dilemma for the club moving forward. How do you bring Marc-Andre ter Stegen in after the season this Chilean just had?

    Landing 29th in B/R's top 50 La Liga players for 2014-15 shows just how fantastic Bravo has been, and he kept the most clean sheets in the division overall. His concentration during games he was merely a spectator in was one of his most impressive traits.

    He conceded just 19 goals in La Liga this season and will be hoping his Chilean defence can replicate the sturdiness of Barca's. If it can't, he'll surely spring to the rescue.

14. Juan Cuadrado, Colombia

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    Don't be fooled by the non-half-season with Chelsea—Juan Cuadrado is still a potent weapon and will relish playing for Jose Pekerman's Colombia this summer once again.

    He's given the freedom of the right side in Los Cafeteros' loose formation, enabling him to drop and find space before searing forward to counter-attack. He retains the width superbly to give his nation that extra dimension, and that stretches the pockets in which James Rodriguez gets to play in, too.

    Pekerman loves his pace and verticality, and he's a key name on the teamsheet.

13. Edinson Cavani, Uruguay

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    Speaking to the Copa America 2015 official website, former Uruguay striker Sebastian Abreu has suggested Uruguay are protagonists, not contenders, for the title this summer due to the loss of Luis Suarez.

    If La Celeste are to buck the trend and defy belief, Edinson Cavani will need to pull out all the available stops.

    The Paris Saint-Germain striker couldn't be in better form, netting 11 goals in his final nine games for the French club and leading them to a rare domestic treble. But he needs to produce on the big stage—something he doesn't exactly have the most sparkling reputation for doing—and he needs to lead Oscar Tabarez's men through murky, uncertain waters.

    There's no doubt he's capable, but will he step up?

12. Nicolas Otamendi, Argentina

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    Valencia's bearded wonder, Nicolas Otamendi, appears to have landed himself a spot in central defence for the upcoming Copa America 2015. Federico Fernandez was cut from Gerardo Martino's initial selection, paving the way for him to start.

    It's a much-deserved role, given that not only has Otamendi been the best defender in Spain this season but also arguably in Europe. Tough, physical and aggressive, he prospers both in the air and on the ground. He's also a goal threat from set pieces, chipping in with six in La Liga this season.

11. Radamel Falcao, Colombia

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    Radamel Falcao endured a dismal season on loan at Manchester United, but that shouldn't detract from his importance in the Colombia national setup. He's still the prima punta as far as Jose Pekerman is concerned.

    El Tigre will be given every chance to sweep home goal after goal, with the variety in service unlocking his best. Juan Cuadrado and James Rodriguez offer different styles, and that makes Los Cafeteros difficult to plan for; Falcao could latch onto a through-ball and finish just as easily as he could head home a cross.

    With the love pouring in from Colombians, perhaps he'll return to his very best.

10. Diego Godin, Uruguay

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    Diego Godin's 2014-15 season wasn't quite as dominant as the previous campaign, so he doesn't trouble the top five in our top 50. That said, he's still a force in defence and a real asset to have leading a national team.

    The Uruguayan has played a vitally important role in grooming the young, talented Jose Maria Gimenez alongside him at Atletico Madrid, and Los Charruas can now rely upon a partnership forged in domestic circumstances to lead the way for their defensive line. That's some luxury.

    Godin will eat up crosses, dominate aerially and put his body on the line in every match. He'll also score goals from corners and free-kicks at the other end.

9. Thiago Silva, Brazil

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    For many, Thiago Silva is still the best central defender in the world, so it boggles the mind as to why Dunga isn't that fussed about him.

    The Paris Saint-Germain stopper has been stripped of the captaincy (given to Neymar) and devalued even in the defensive line. Miranda appears to be Dunga's linchpin at the back, with Silva fighting off David Luiz and Marquinhos for a role.

    Regardless, he's pure quality, and he controls and calms from the back. He's a technician in the tackle and a good aerial presence, too—something he will prove, again, this summer at the Copa.

8. Javier Mascherano, Argentina

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    Javier Mascherano, vice-captain of Argentina, is one of the finest defensive-minded players on the planet. Despite playing consistently at centre-back for Barcelona, he slots seamlessly into holding midfield—his natural position—for La Albiceleste and dominates the central zones.

    He's of the tough-tackling, no-nonsense variety, but he has also developed a slightly more cultured edge to his game thanks to the schooling of the Camp Nou. He can be relied upon for a clean, vital tackle, and he can even initiate attacks with quicker passing when required.

7. Angel Di Maria, Argentina

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    Angel Di Maria had a nightmare season for Manchester United in 2014-15, but his underlying importance and good form for Argentina mean he ranks highly here. After all, we're projecting for the Copa America 2015, not reflecting on his difficult domestic campaign.

    The British-record transfer signing stands to line up on the left-hand side of a 4-3-3, firing in crosses for Sergio Aguero and running full-backs ragged with his tremendous pace and dynamism.

    He looks even more potent in this Albiceleste side because he plays opposite Lionel Messi, allowing him one vs. one opportunities at all times.

6. Arturo Vidal, Chile

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    Ahead of the FIFA World Cup 2014, much of the focus regarding Arturo Vidal was on his troublesome knee. He squeezed in a quick keyhole surgery ahead of the tournament and was even back in time to play the warm-up games for Jorge Sampaoli's Chile.

    The first half of his 2014-15 campaign was decimated as a result, suffering from a bit of a fitness hangover, but he's steadily improved over the past four months and looks to be hitting peak form again. He's no longer a shadow of the box-to-box player he was around 18 months ago.

    Chile will rely on his hard running, tackling and ball-carrying skills in the centre; he's the heartbeat of a side who truly believe they can win, and if they do, Vidal's input will be central to the victory.

5. Sergio Aguero, Argentina

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    Sergio Aguero looks to be Gerardo Martino's first-choice striker in Argentina's 4-3-3, warding off competition from Gonzalo Higuain and Carlos Tevez.

    With Higuain a question mark at big moments and Tevez only recently reintroduced from the international wilderness, it makes sense, as Aguero's clinical nature and "clutch" mentality give La Albiceleste an extra edge to their usual finesse and sparkle.

    The Manchester City man, fresh off a 26-goal season in the Premier League despite injuries rocking him once again, stands as the best No. 9 heading to Chile in June.

4. Alexis Sanchez, Chile

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    Chile's back line may be a little suspect at times, but Alexis Sanchez carries the torch up front and more than makes up for the weak spots in the team. 

    The former Barcelona man enjoyed a remarkable debut Premier League season with Arsenal, scoring 16 goals and providing eight assists in league play, wowing with all-action showings and brilliant strikes.

    He added a further four in the FA Cup, including a true golazo in the final against Aston Villa, and he's primed to carry the mantle for Jorge Sampaoli. He runs, harasses and presses, instigating quick attacks and combining beautifully with Eduardo Vargas.

3. James Rodriguez, Colombia

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    James Rodriguez had an absolutely fantastic first season at Real Madrid, overcoming a mildly slow start to prove well worth the exorbitant price tag he attracted post-World Cup 2014.

    He's Colombia's central piece and will play just behind the striker(s) or slightly to the left; Jose Pekerman will do all he can to ensure James has room to play, create, drive into and manipulate. His remarkable long shots are perhaps Los Cafeteros' biggest weapon.

    James endured a foot injury midseason and missed several months, and that could work out in favour of Colombia: He'll be infinitely fresher now than he would had he completed an entire campaign.

2. Neymar, Brazil

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    Neymar has evolved quickly into one of the most lethal wide forwards in world football, taking just one season of adaption at Barcelona to realise his undoubted potential.

    He's prospered somewhat thanks to the selfless running and opening of holes by Luis Suarez, and he's developed a habit of peeling off the far full-back and collecting Lionel Messi's switch balls from the right.

    For Brazil, he's the No. 1 star and captain, though, and there'll be a role reversal of sorts. He'll be asked to carry the attack—even more so sans Oscar—but he has formed a strong relationship with Roberto Firmino in his place.

    Neymar was powerless to stop the Selecao's decimation at the hands of Germany at the FIFA World Cup 2014, sat injured on the sideline, and he'll be desperate to at least partially right the wrongs of the horror Maracanazo Mark II.

1. Lionel Messi, Argentina

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    Who else should be No. 1 besides the No. 1 player in world football?

    Lionel Messi's stunning 2014-15 for Barcelona under Luis Enrique has ensured Cristiano Ronaldo's time in the sun was as short-lived as possible, and he enters the Copa America 2015 in peak form and fitness.

    He's been restored to a right-sided role by Gerardo Martino, and that's benefited the entire team; he links well with Pablo Zabaleta, and he creates space for Argentina's other stars to take advantage of one vs. one opportunities.

    Just like at the FIFA World Cup 2014, many fancy La Albiceleste to win the tournament, and Messi's presence in the side is a key reason why.

    All statistics are from WhoScored.com.


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