Despite the protests of various top European clubs and growing concerns over the coronavirus crisis, the Africa Cup of Nations is finally set to get underway on January 9. Mohamed Salah is expected to be the headline draw of the show, with the Liverpool star hoping to lead Egypt to glory, though the tournament is also known for making stars of young players. Here are five of the young players who are in line to make a name for themselves at AFCON 2022.


5 young players who could shine at AFCON 2022


Samuel Chukwueze (Villarreal and Nigeria)

Jay-Jay Okocha was Chukwueze’s hero growing up and while the winger no doubt has some of the same skills, he has also been compared to Arjen Robben during his nascent career. Having featured during Villarreal’s triumphant Europa League campaign last season, Chukwueze has continued to become a more influential player in La Liga this term.

The 22-year-old is mostly used as a substitute for the Yellow Submarine but will be a key part of the Nigeria attack at AFCON, charged with providing the supply line for strikers like Leicester City hitman Kelechi Iheanacho and Victor Osimhen of Napoli.

Nigeria are among the favourites to lift the trophy, with a lot of pressure on Chukwueze’s shoulders as a result – they last won the tournament back in 2013.

Chukwueze is one of a handful of Villarreal stars set to feature at AFCON 2022, alongside Aissa Mandi (Algeria), Boulaye Dia (Senegal) and Serge Aurier (Ivory Coast) and could be one of the young players to thrive.


Edmond Tapsoba (Bayer Leverkusen and Burkina Faso)

Tapsoba is already a Bundesliga regular with Leverkusen, but a strong showing at AFCON could take the young centre-back to the next level. Previously linked with Chelsea, Tapsoba is strong and quick with the 22-year-old having all of the necessary qualities to play right at the top level of the game.

Comfortable on the ball and passing out from the back, Tapsoba will set Burkina Faso’s tempo. Burkina Faso are set to open the tournament in a crunch clash against the hosts Cameroon, giving Tapsoba the ideal opportunity to make a splash.

His side are expected to compete for qualification for the knockout rounds, so Tapsoba could have an extended chance to show what he can do.


Abubeker Nassir (Ethiopian Coffee S.C. and Ethiopia)

Widely tipped to have a breakout performance at AFCON is 21-year-old striker Nassir. Having been the top scorer in the 2020-21 Ethiopian Premier League, Nassir is a rising star of the African game and he could earn himself a lucrative transfer by shining at the tournament.

Nassir is an Arsenal fan who is on record as dreaming of playing in the Premier League and the speedy striker has every chance of fulfilling that aspiration if he is in the goals in Cameroon. A target for South African giants Kaizer Chiefs, Nassir is certainly one to watch at AFCON.


Kamaldeen Sulemana (Rennes and Ghana)

Ghana has produced some of Africa’s greatest ever players, with Sulemana potentially next in line to become an icon of the game. The 19-year-old winger has scored four Ligue 1 goals for Rennes this season, with his searing pace and willingness to dribble with the ball causing problems for full-backs across the division.

He was the star man as Rennes handed PSG their first defeat of the season back in October, providing the cross for Gaetan Laborde to volley in the opening goal in a 2-0 victory. Sulemana first made his name in Denmark, scoring 14 goals in 42 games for Nordsjælland, earning a €20 million move to Rennes, becoming the record transfer for the Danish league.

Often referred to as just Kamaldeen, the teenager only has a couple of caps for Ghana so far but is likely to be a vital player for Milovan Rajevac’s Black Stars at AFCON.


Pape Matar Sarr (Metz and Senegal)

Midfielder Sarr will be of particular interest to Tottenham fans, with the London side having signed him from Metz in the summer of 2021 before loaning him back to the Ligue 1 club.

A powerful presence in the centre of the park, Sarr made his international debut for the Lions of Teranga in an African Cup of Nations qualifier against Congo in March. Sarr’s long-range shooting is a particular asset and his set pieces are always a threat too.

Should Sarr impress at AFCON, he could earn a place in Antonio Conte’s squad next term. He is definitely one of the young players looking to enhance his reputation at AFCON 2022.



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