South American football teams earned plenty of respect at last summer's World Cup when all five of the continent's teams advanced to the knockout stage. Anyone who may have previously doubted the quality of the teams beyond Brazil and Argentina were undoubtedly convinced of the continent's depth and when those South American teams competed in their grueling home and home qualifying for the tournament who proved to be the continent's top scorer? None other than Humberto Suazo, Chile's deadly striker who tallied 10 times .
That may surprise those whose football watching is Eurocentric, but not to those who have kept tabs on South American and Mexican football in recent years. Once Suazo worked his way through the lower divisions he got his chance in Chile's top division with Colo-Colo where he scored 52 goals in 54 matches. It wasn't just limited to Chilean league play either as he netted 18 times in 21 continental matches. A move to Monterrey in Mexico just added to Suazo's resume as he scored 95 times in 120 matches. A short loan spell to Real Zaragoza in Spain didn't overwhelm him either as he put six goals in.
As good as Suazo may be now, he hasn't always been an obvious choice as one of Latin America's top strikers. As a youngster he was as lazy as could be. If training wasn't mandatory, he wasn't there. He showed up just in time for the training sessions he had to be at and was never found getting extra work in. The reason he spent as much time as he did in the lower divisions of Chile before getting his chance with Colo-Colo were because of concerns about his maturity and discipline.
Being just 5'7'' and often overweight didn't help Suazo either. Short and with a wide frame, being overweight just looked worse on Suazo. Eventually, Suazo pulled it together though. He put the work in and was bagging goals everywhere he went. His round, short frame never went away, but it became a muscular frame reminiscent of a bowling ball.
Now he can use that frame to muscle off defenders. He's strong and able to use his low center of gravity to maintain his balance despite pushing and shoving from defenders. That round frame and short stature that could have held Suazo back has become a positive for the Chilean.
It's paid off for Chile too. He may have been injured at last summer's World Cup, but going into Copa America he's expected to join Alexis Sanchez as one of the most dangerous pair of attackers any team in the tournament has. With Sanchez creating havoc for the back line, Suazo will be free to use his knack for finding space in the box to get scoring chances. Add in a distinct calm in front of goal and Chile has as good a chance as anyone to make a run deep into the tournament.
Name: Humberto Suazo
Club team: Monterrey (Mexico, Primera Division)
Chances Copa America increases transfer interest: Possible. Suazo has already established himself as one of Mexico's top strikers and it wouldn't be the slightest of surprises if he drew European interest, although he age may be a deterrent.
Role in the team: Go-to goalscorer