AFCON 2023: 5 outstanding young players to watch

AFCON 2023: 5 outstanding young players to watch

The 2023 Africa Cup of Nations is set to kick off and the very best talents from all around the continent will converge in Ivory Coast for a festival of football.

While some of the biggest stars in African football such as Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Riyad Mahrez, Victor Osimhen etc will be the main attraction, there is a lot more to look forward to.

HTT Academy focuses on youth which also applies to this AFCON where a younger set of superstars are set to emerge and take the continent by storm.

Here are five outstanding talents in no particular order who are under 21 years old and ready to play a major role for their countries in Ivory Coast over the next month.

5 outstanding under-21 players to watch out for at AFCON 2023

Dango Ouattara

21-year-old Dango Outtara is already one of the best wingers in African football based on his explosive displays for Bournemouth and Burkina Faso.

Dango Ouattara of Burkina Faso and Bournemouth
Dango Ouattara of Burkina Faso and Bournemouth

Bournemouth splashed a club-record €22.5 million fee to sign Dango from Lorient a year ago and he repaid their faith by helping the Cherries escape relegation.
Dango appears to have fallen out of favour under new manager Andoni Iraola though with just four Premier League starts so far this season but he remains a key player for Burkina Faso.
Ouattara has scored seven goals and assisted two in 18 games for Burkina Faso and the 21-year-old will be front and centre for The Stallions at the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations where they will compete in Group D alongside Angola, Algeria and Mauritania.

Yankuba Minteh

Gambian winger Yakuba Minteh has earned the nickname “Messi” which is high praise born out of his performances for club and country.

Gambian winger Yankuba Minteh
Gambian winger Yankuba Minteh

Minteh impressed in Denmark for Odense BK and was snapped up last summer by Premier League giants, Newcastle for €8 million.
The 19-year-old was immediately loaned out to Feyenoord and has hit the ground running in the Netherlands with four goals and two assists in 18 games across all competitions so far.
Minteh only recently made his national team debut in an AFCON qualifier in October 2023, coming off the bench at halftime and scoring for Gambia in a 2-2 draw against the DR Congo.
That is Yankuba’s only national team appearance so far but he is bound to add more at the upcoming AFCON in a difficult Group C along with Cameroon, Senegal and Guinea.

Kamaldeen Sulemana

Life at Southampton has not exactly gone according to plan for Ghanaian winger Kamaldeen Sulemana as the club got relegated from the Premier League few months after his €25 million move from Stade Rennes.

Kamaldeen Sulemana of Ghana and Southampton
Kamaldeen Sulemana of Ghana and Southampton

The 21-year-old has also failed to light up the English Championship where he has contributed three assists in nine starts.
Sulemana remains integral for Ghana though with 18 caps for the Black Stars since debuting three years ago as an 18-year-old.
Kamaldeen would be attending his second AFCON already with the 2022 FIFA World Cup sandwiched in between, a whole lot of experience for a 21-year-old.
Ghana are in Group B with Egypt, Cape Verde and Mozambique as the Black Stars will be hoping Sulemana can propel them to glory.

Simon Adingra

As far as talented Ivorian youngsters go, Simon Adingra is at the top of the pile as he dazzles week in week out for Brighton in the Premier League.

Simon Adingra of Ivory Coast and Brighton
Simon Adingra of Ivory Coast and Brighton

The 21-year-old has scored five goals and assisted three for Brighton in all competitions as he has become a key player for Roberto De Zerbi’s men.
Adingra has played five games for Ivory Coast so far in what is a competitive frontline for the Elephants as they host the AFCON.

Pape Matar Sarr

Pape Matar Sarr has been a key figure in the cog of Tottenham Hotspur, helping Ange Postecoglou’s reach greater heights than previously expected.

Senegal and Tottenham midfielder Pape Matar Sarr
Senegal and Tottenham midfielder Pape Matar Sarr

Tottenham recognized Sarr was special early, paying €16.9 million to sign him from Metz in the summer of 2021 and loaning him back to the French club.
Sarr is in his second season at Tottenham and has already played 16 Premier League games compared to 11 in the totality of last season.
The 21-year-old utility midfielder has also become an important player for Senegal with 18 appearances for the Teranga Lions so far.
He is on course to be a starter at the AFCON in 2024 where Senegal will play in Group C against Cameroon, Gambia and Guinea.

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