SOCCER CHRONICLE’S TOP 5 PLAYERS MISSING COPA AMERICA CENTENARIO
Neymar da Silva Santos Junior – Brazil
Brazil’s biggest star and most internationally lauded player will be the tournament’s biggest absence. The FC Barcelona forward was only allowed to participate in one tournament this summer. The Brazilian football federation decided that would be the 2016 Rio Olympics – with the gold medal being the only prize missing from the Selecao’s impressive coffers. Neymar’s 46 goals in 70 appearances for the Pentacampeao will be missed as will a potential encounter against rivals Argentina guided by Barcelona teammate Messi.
Giovani dos Santos – Mexico
Much controversy has surrounded Giovani’s absence from the Mexico side. Manager Juan Carlos Osorio declared Giovani opted out of the tournament. Giovani has been elusive about his absence and simply stated he’ll watch the team from the comfort of his living room. The gold medalist and U17 FIFA World Cup Champion is in blistering form for his MLS club LA Galaxy scoring 6 goals in 830 minutes. There is no doubt that Gio has been one of the Tricolor’s most consistent players and in the event of an early exit for Mexico, the media and fan backlash for leaving out one of the country’s biggest stars, will be felt twofold by Osorio.
Omar Gonzalez – USA
The top flight Mexican league, Liga MX, may boast of having the largest number of internationals participating in this edition of the tournament. One of Liga MX’s most notable absentee from the tournament is Pachuca CF’s towering defender Omar Gonzalez. Omar was a stalwart in defense helping the team to lift Liga MX’s Clausura 2016 Championship Trophy. Omar’s leadership and international experience provided the cover that helped young Mexican stars like Hirving Lozano to shine and flourish in the league. Instead, U.S. boss Jurgen Klinsmann included Monterrey defender, Edgar “Homie” Castillo, whose poor marking allowed Pachuca to win the League Championship with a late goal.
Sebastian Lletget – USA
The 23 year old attacker is undoubtedly one of Major League Soccer’s most exciting youngsters and along with fellow Galaxian Giovani dos Santos will be watching the Copa America from home. Lletget joined LA Galaxy midseason in 2015 after a brief stint in the English Premier League with West Ham United. With the United States lacking consistent quality upfront it is a surprise that Klinsmann would leave out a technical and creative attacking player that can create chances for his teammates. Indeed, Lletget has shown to have the qualities of a number ‘10’ goal-scoring playmaker with good vision and creativity, qualities which the U.S. could have benefited from.
Keylor Navas – Costa Rica
Very few keepers are worthy of wearing the number 1 for Real Madrid like Costa Rican Keylor Navas. As the saying goes, “de Madrid, al Cielo”, meaning only heaven is a better destination than the Madrid club. While transfer speculation for David de Gea will be heating, the only difference between de Gea and Navas is that de Gea is Spanish in a side that tends to favor nationals. While transfer speculation for David de Gea will be heating up, the only difference between the Manchester United goaltender and Navas is that de Gea is Spanish in a side that tends to lean towards favoring nationals. The best goalie in the world, arguably, will be a major loss for the Ticos who were hoping to have a strong showing against their South American counterparts and a repeat of their exciting 2014 World Cup performance. Navas’ backup is also injured and it will be up to Patrick Pemberton to be the man between the sticks for Costa Rica.