International tournaments like the Copa America are often the stage where players bring out the best in them. Each individual tries to be at their finest before donning their national kits.
Copa America 2021 lived up to expectations and provided spectators with an action-packed event. Fans got a treat that was worth watching as Argentina lifted the trophy, while teams like Brazil and Colombia displayed some sublime football.
Before the start of every tournament, there are a certain set of players that fans have their eyes on. However, this factor can work for or against a player as some crumble under the pressure put on them.
In addition, apart from the expected names, there are almost certain to be a few breakout stars. These surprise performers bring out the best and deliver much more than what was expected of them.
This year's Copa America was no different. Fans witnessed quite a few breakout performances over the course of the tournament.
On the same note, let's take a look at the 5 breakout stars of Copa America 2021.
#5 Gianluca Lapadula (PERU)
Peru showed signs of excellence right from the start of the tournament. They were placed alongside Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, and Venezuela in Group B, the North Zone.
Peru finished second, behind Copa America runners-up Brazil in the group. They successfully carried the same form into the knockout stages and ended up as the fourth-best team in the competition.
But there's a name that stood out in Ricardo Gareca's squad - Gianluca Lapadula.
With three goals, he ended up as Peru's top scorer and the tournament's second top goal-getter. All three of Lapadula's goals came in crucial circumstances for Peru.
While his side was struggling against Ecuador, the Peruvian number 9 bagged a goal and an assist to save his team from a loss.
Lapadula's second strike came in Peru's quarterfinal match versus Paraguay. He provided his team with a 2-1 lead in the 40th minute.
The game ended in a 3-3 draw, and Peru entered the semis after a penalty shoot-out victory. Lapadula converted his penalty in the shoot-out.
Undoubtedly, Lapadula ended up as the most dependable man for his country.
#4 Angel Romero (PARAGUAY)
Paraguay opened the 2021 Copa America with a massive 3-1 win over Bolivia. It was a perfect start for the winning side's number 11 — Angel Romero.
After trailing in the 10 minutes following a foul inside the box, Paraguay bounced back during the latter stages of the game. Gammara's opener and Angel Romero's brace (65', 80') sealed the deal for Eduardo Berizzo's men.
Even though those were the only two goals scored by Romero in the tournament, he ended up as a crucial playmaker for Paraguay. The side could only make it as far as the quarterfinals, but Angel Romero's performance was lauded by many.
#3 Emiliano Martinez (ARGENTINA)
The Argentine shot-stopper was one of the most notable breakout stars from the Copa America this term.
Despite his fine form in the Premier League with Aston Villa, Emiliano wasn't expected to outperform his rivals, including some big names like Ederson Moraes, Claudio Bravo and Alisson Becker.
Copa America 2021 was Emiliano Martinez's debut international tournament. But the way the Argentine goalkeeper handled the pressure was second to none.
Emiliano Martinez saved three penalties in the semi-finals against Colombia, and played a crucial role in the final as well, making a couple of great saves. These included a brilliant stop off Neymar's attempt.
Emiliano Martinez conceded just two goals over the course of the tournament and earned the Golden Glove award. He was also named the goalkeeper of the team of the tournament.
#2 Rodrigo De Paul (ARGENTINA)
The former Udinese star had a tournament to remember.
After a not-so-impressive Copa America campaign back in 2019, Rodrigo De Paul wasn't expected to be one of the star players under Lionel Scaloni.
Especially so as the team was full of big names such as Angel Di Maria, Giovani Lo Celso, Sergio Aguero, Leo Messi, Lautaro Martinez, and many others.
Nevertheless, a consistent display of form made De Paul catch everyone's attention. He came into the limelight after providing the assist to Di Maria's goal in Argentina's title-winning match against arch-rivals Brazil.
#1 Luis Diaz (COLOMBIA)
Arguably one of the best players in the tournament, Luis Diaz, also deserves the top spot for being the best breakout performer of Copa America 2021.
He is the only player to have scored goals against both the giants, Argentina and Brazil, in the tournament.
The FC Porto number seven single-handedly earned his team the third spot after scoring a brace against Peru. He scored a sensational goal in injury time (94th minute) to grab the victory.
Luis Diaz also found the net in the 61st minute in the semi-finals against eventual Copa America champions Argentina.
Unfortunately, Colombia lost the game in a penalty shootout following a brilliant performance from Emiliano Martinez, who stopped three Colombian penalties.
Luis Diaz's overhead kick goal against Brazil is considered one of the best goals of the year. The Colombian superstar ended the campaign with four goals, making him the joint top scorer of the tournament alongside Lionel Messi.