The Africa Cup of Nations has been a chance for young players to make names for themselves on the continent as well as getting better deals both on the local scene as well as moving out of their comfort zone for greener pastures.
Ghana’s Charles Kwablan Akonnor, Burkina Faso’s Bertrand Traore, Algeria’s Ismail Bennacer have all had the opportunities to flourish as youngsters at the Africa Cup of Nations.
Many others have also put in the effort in the past and while not all have realised their potentials, a few have gone on to become important players for their respective clubs.
In this article, Premier League News Now takes a look at some youngsters who can take the 2021 AFCON in Cameroon by its neck.
ABDUL FATAWU ISSAHAKU (17) – GHANA
Abdul Fatawu Issahaku will be one of the youngsters to keep an eye on during the 2021 AFCON. The 17-year-old possesses much quality than people may have already seen from him.
Issahaku, who plays for Ghanaian side, Dreams FC in the Ghana Premier League won the Most Valuable Player at the 2021 Under-20 Africa Cup of Nations, which Ghana conquered while also topping it up with the top-scorers award.
Prior to leaving for the Black Stars camp, Issahaku had scored six goals in six appearances in Ghana’s top-flight, his maiden involvement in the Premier League.
His vision to shoot from afar has made him a threat anywhere near the opposition’s area.
CAF treating us to some Abdul Fatawu Issahaku goals and skills ⚽️ pic.twitter.com/6Hl1sHsdPr
— James Nalton (@JDNalton) May 31, 2021
At age 17, the high-rated youngster, who has been linked to Sporting Lisbon and Liverpool in the past, will be looking to become Ghana’s youngest goalscorer at the continental showpiece.
The teenager will be wearing the number 7 shirt, worn by Christian Atsu in the past for the Black Stars. Atsu won the Player of the Tournament during the 2015 AFCON edition where Ghana finished second, losing to Ivory Coast in the penalty shootout.
HANNIBAL MEJBRI (18) – TUNISIA
After receiving his maiden call-up into the national team in June last year, very few people were expectecting Hannibal Majbri to make the cut for the AFCON.
With just eight minutes of Premier League action and his constant minutes coming from his involvement in United’s junior side, the youngster has carved for himself a great opportunity to show the world what he can do through the Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon.
Mejbri played a key role for Tunisia during the Arab Cup which was played late last year as Tunisia finished second, losing to Algeria.
The 18-year-old has nine appearances for the north African country and a continuous show of commitment and impressive outings could see him keep his place in the team.
Hannibal mejbri – Superhero
Likes and retweets Appreciated pic.twitter.com/20uZfIVgSN
— (@Dalot_Prop) December 23, 2021
Mejbri’s ability to beat his makers, find players in tight spaces and link-up play will be seen more often when the competition kicks off.
PAPE MATAR SARR (19) – SENEGAL
Pape Matar Sarr will also be making his bow at the Africa Cup of Nations for the very first time. The 19-year-old midfielder has been a strong figure for both club and country.
The Metz midfielder was given his maiden call-up into the national team in March 2021, and has gone on to add a further three.
Known for his interception and combative style of play, Sarr will be an essential addition to the Star-studded Senegal side, who are looking to end their wait for a first AFCON trophy after suffering heartbreak in the last edition in 2019, where they lost to Algeria.
Pape Matar Sarr • Welcome to Tottenham ⚪️ pic.twitter.com/rZo79hJEAS
— Luke ✞ (@THFCComps) August 24, 2021
The teenager, on loan from Tottenhem Hotspur, has featured in 18 league games for Metz this season, scoring one and providing one assist also in that run.
Though unlikely to start in the Senegal team, Sarr’s involvement at some point will be key for Aliou Cisse’s side.
EBRIMA DARBOE (20) – GAMBIA
Not only will Ebrima Darboe be making his maiden appearance at the Africa Cup of Nations, but it will also be a proud moment for his country, who are one of two debutants in the competition.
Gambia are hoping to make the headlines that Madagascar made during the 2019 edition, where they also had the first taste of African football.
For Darboe, it is an opportunity to leave a great impression on the faces of so many people on the continent and worldwide. The AS Roma midfielder was promoted into the first team by the manager, Jose Mourinho, who also did the same with Ghana’s Felix Afena-Gyan.
Darboe may have made just one league appearance for the Italian side but he is said to be a crucial part of Gambia’s game since making his debut last year.
Ebrima Darboe vs Empoli pic.twitter.com/LfSHsyGdmf
— Lupo TV (@LupoTVofficial) October 4, 2021
The 20-year-old is in contention to finish as one of the best youngsters the competition will see in Cameroon.
KAMALDEEN SULEMANA (19) – GHANA
Regarded as one of the youngest prospects in France football, Kamaldeen Sulemana will also be playing in his maiden tournament with the Ghana national team.
The Stade Rennais forward has been impressive for his club side since making the move from Nordsjaelland in the summer. Kamaldeen, who was once linked with moves to Ajax and Manchester United has been directly involved in six goals in 18 league appearances in the French top-flight.
His addition to the Rennais squad has been promising and he could only get better with time. A good plater in 1v1 situations, the 19-year-old could be essential to Ghana’s chances of going far in the tournament should he have his best games.
The Ghanaian has made seven appearances for the national team since being given his debut appearance in October 2020.
The forward is expected miss Ghana’s opening game due to having to isolate at his club for coming into contact with someone who tested positive for Covid-19. But he should be back in time to make the team in the game against Comoros.
— ️-️aśet⚡- (@Abdo9t) May 28, 2021