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AFCON breakouts: 5 young stars to light up tournament

With the African Cup of Nations about to kickoff, we take a look at five of the best young talents sure to light up Africa's biggest football tournament.


The Nigerian national team always have high expectations placed on them going into any edition of the African Cup of Nations, primarily because of the nation's history in the competition - having lifted the trophy on three occasions, most recently in 2013.

The National team's lineup has changed quite a bit since then with new names popping up in almost every position, one of them being Samuel Chukuweze, a player who has been heralded as one of the best Nigerian talents to kick a ball in the past decade.

Chukwueze, 20, is somewhat new to the scene having only recently been brought into Villarreal's first-team set-up, but despite his lack of experience, he's been able to build a reputation as one of the best young players in LaLiga.

The winger is quite similar to Bayern Munich icon, Arjen Robben as he boasts of immense speed and superb dribbling abilities which have endeared him to the fans at the Estadio de la Ceramica.

He has bagged five goals and registered two assists in 19 La Liga starts.


OGC Nice's Youcef Atal is the very definition of a modern day full-back. The Algeria international plays like a winger going forward whilst also maintaining his defensive duties for his side.

His awareness, positioning, exquisite dribbling ability and his eye for goal has allowed him to dominate the right flank for Nice, whether he's contributing to the attack or helping to thwart an attacking threat.

Atal's impressive displays in the Ligue 1, which saw him bag six goals in 29 appearances, earned him a spot in Algeria's squad for the African Cup of Nations tournament.

The 23-year-old has only made six appearances for the Algerian national team – he'll be hoping to double those numbers once the AFCON begins.


Henry Onyekuru has spent the past two seasons on loan away from his parent club Everton, and during that period, the interest in him has grown tremendously – so much so that he's become a transfer target for Bayern Munich as they look to bolster their squad with the legendary 'Robbery' duo of Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery poised to leave the club.

Onyekuru scored 14 goals and registered three assists for Galatasaray in the recently concluded Super Lig season, thus sparking interest from Bayern Munich amongst others.

The 22-year-old is extremely pacey and agile as he's able to take players on and run into spaces without being caught. He also possesses nimble footwork which allows him to evade players whilst being marked tightly.

Gernot Rohr will be hoping that Onyekuru can replicate that form for Nigeria in the AFCON. Onyekuru is expected to play a major role in the Super Eagles' run in the competition.

TREZEGUET (Kasimpasa)

Mahmoud Hassan, also known as Trezeguet due to his stark resemblance with the French football legend is expected to be a key player for Egypt alongside Mohamed Salah at the African Cup of Nations.

The Kasimpasa attacker is comfortable using both feet thus making him deadly in and around the 18-yard-area.

Trezeguet managed to bag nine goals and nine assists in the 2018/19 Super Lig season hence he's definitely one to watch when the Pharaohs begin their run in the competition.


All eyes will be on Nicolas Pepe as he represents Cote d'Ivoire at the African Cup of Nations.

Pepe is by far one of the hottest talents in Europe at the moment following the recently concluded Ligue 1 campaign where he bagged 22 goals and registered 11 assists for Lille, thus helping them to a second-place finish on the Ligue 1 table.

Pepe has become the subject of heavy interest from the champions of Europe, Liverpool, as Jurgen Klopp considers the forward a potential key to securing the Premier League title next season.

Pepe is insanely fast and skillful and he often goes past players with flair. He's also a great finisher as he's able to find the back of the net from long range as well as from inside the 18-yard-area.

The Lille man is Cote d'Ivoire's key player going into the African Cup of Nations – his performances could determine if his country will have a good tournament or not.

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Phillip Ekuwem
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