Top Five most exciting prodigies starring at AFCON 2023 to watch out for

Published on 21 January 2024 at 13:00

The Africa Cup of Nations 2023 commenced on last Friday on January 12th, as hosts Cote d'Ivorie defeated Guinea-Bissau who were participating in their fourth consecutive finals. The first round of group games has already finished, and in the opening week of the tournament we have been given an insight into which young prosects to look out for throughout the competition. Here are the top five future stars who we think are going to have a break-out tournament!



Ousmande Diomande - Ivory Coast

The 20 year old centre-back only made his international debut for the Elephants in September, included in Jean-Louis Gasset's starting eleven in the AFCON Group H Qualifier win against Lethoso. Sporting CP discovered the promising defender during a loan spell at Portuguese second division side CD Manfra last season. His strength and power, combined with an elegance on the ball and ability to comfortably play out from the back attracted the current Liga Portugal leaders to interrupt his season-long loan in January and agree a fee in the region of £7.5m for Diomande. Former club Midtjylland had scouted the youngster from Ivorian club Olympic Sport Abobo. After his switch to Sporting CP, he starred in the Europa League Round.16 tie against Arsenal where his side where victorious in a penalty shoot-out. This season he has cemented his place in Ruben Amorim's back three, featuring in 15 league games and winning Liga Portugal's September defender of the month. Chelsea were heavily linked with Diomande at the end of 2023, but any potential suitor would have to pay Sporting's £80m release clause and if he has a influential AFCON tournament with Ivory Coast his value could rise even further. 


Karim Konate - Ivory Coast

This striker is a clinical goal scorer; starting in the Ivorian first division at ASEC Mimosas he scored 20 goals in 29 appearances during his two seasons at the club. The 19 year old joined Austrian giants RB Salzburg in 2022 for a fee in the region of £3.5m and was immediately sent out on loan to FC Liefering, where he scored 15 goals in only 19 appearances in the Austrian second division. He made his senior debut for his country on September 3 2021, at the age of 17 years old after excelling for the Under 23's where he scored four goals in three caps. The number 19 is a pacey and sharp centre-forward who likes to run in behind and he's a constant threat in the box where he is always lurking in and around. This season he is averaging a goal every 141 minutes for Salzburg and he made his Champions League debut but was unable to help Salzburg from finishing last in Group D. He is still not a regular starter for Jean-Louis Gasset in the Ivory Coast squad, with his manager preferring Sebastian Haller, but he is a player who will effective games if brought on and he has the capabilities of reaching the very top of European football.

Adamo Nagalo - Burkina Faso

The shining centre-back will relish the opportunity to take to the global stage at AFCON 23 this January, and star for Burkina Faso. He was a product of the Right to Dream Academy in Ghana which has produced top African talent in recent years such as Kamaldeen Sulemana, Simon Adingra, Mohammed Kudus and Ernest Nuamah. The 21 year old joined Danish side Nordsjaelland in 2020, and progressed at the club into the first team where he made his senior debut on March 12 2021. In his formulative years Nagalo was deployed in midfield, which is why he is such an effective ball-carrying centre-back who is very good at distributing the ball. Arguably him and Tapsoba make one of the strongest defensive partnerships in the competition and they will become a reliable duo in the long-term for Burkina Faso. While, he only has eight senior caps for his country, he is an experienced defender who has played 77 times for Nordsjaelland and he certainly possesses the quality to help his nation go far in this tournament.


Bilal El Khannous - Morocco

The 19 year old switched allegiance from Anderlecht's youth setup to Genk in 2019 and has developed into one of the Belgian Pro League's most technically gifted and creative players. His international debut for Morocco was at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, against Croatia in the third place play-off and he has since starred for the U-23 side to lift Morocco U-23's first Africa Cup of Nations title. The midfielder can thrive in a deep-lying role or be deployed as a number 10 where he uses his vision and nimbleness to influence the game for his team. In 2023 his influential performances for Genk and Morocco's youth team saw him nominated for African Young Player of the Year. This season only four players in the Belgian first division have created more chances than El Khannous' 34 and he has been a stand-out star for his club, in a underwhelming season for Genk. Walid Regragui has an armoury of talented midfielders to choose from including Sofyan Amrabat, Amine Harit and Hakim Ziyech at AFCON 23, but we definitely will see El Khannous during this tournament and he needs to take his chance to shine.


Lamine Camara - Senegal

After his brace for Senegal in the Group C opener against Gambia, his name was propelled into the headlines. The 20 year old only joined Ligue 2 Metz in February 2023 and struggled to feature as the French club sealed promotion to the first division. However, this season he has grown into one of their key players making 14 starts and producing 3 goals and assists. He was included in Senegal's AFCON winning squad of 2022, where he was named young player of the group stage, and its clear he will be making a much greater impact on the starting eleven in this year's competition. The youngster is a traditionally versatile box-to-box midfielder who possesses outstanding ball recovery skills and has N'Golo Kante esc endurance on the pitch. If he continues his form through-out this tournament, then some of Europe's big clubs will be circling for his signature. 


Written by Lewis Eadie

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