Using Wyscout data, we analyze some of the top up-and-coming talents to watch at the African Cup of Nations this month.
Africa’s showpiece international tournament kicks off this week in the Ivory Coast and will bring together the finest talents from across the continent in search of glory.
The 34th edition of the biennial competition will see stars such as Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Victor Osimhen duke it out, while also providing a platform for rising talents and precocious wonderkids to make a name for themselves.
Using data from Wyscout, we take a look at five exciting players primed for success.
Serhou Guirassy (Guinea)
One of the most in-form strikers in the world right now, Guirassy has taken his game to the next level since making his loan move from Rennes to Stuttgart permanent. On top of hitting 11 goals in 22 games last season, the 27-year-old forward has scored a staggering 17 goals in 14 league games this campaign - 14 of which came in the opening 8 games.
To put that into context, in Europe’s Top 5 leagues, only Harry Kane and Kylian Mbappe have scored more league goals than Guirassy so far this season. What’s more, his 1.33 goals per 90 is equal with Kane and higher than any Top 5 player to have played at least 10 league games.
Physically strong and a clinical finisher capable of all types of goals, Guirassy has everything you could want from a modern centre forward and his goals will be crucial if Guinea are to make it out of a tricky group containing Cameroon, Gambia and reigning champions Senegal.
Edmond Tapsoba (Burkina Faso)
Bayer Leverkusen have been a revelation this season under Xabi Alonso and Tapsoba has been a mainstay in the heart of their defence. Topping the Bundesliga at the winter break and yet to lose a game, the 24-year-old centre back has played 14 times for a Leverkusen side that has conceded just 12 goals in 16 games.
Composed and confident, Tapsoba’s ball-playing abilities make him stand out as much as his defensive skills. The Burkinabé defender ranks sixth for passes (1018) in the Bundesliga, with a pass completion of 93.89%. Only Bayern’s Kim Min-Jae has a higher ball progression than Tapsoba’s 7.2 per minute, which also sees him chart in the top five for Europe’s Top 5 leagues in this metric. This is up from an already impressive 5.83 per minute last season.
A regular for Leverkusen ever since he joined from Vitoria Guimaraes in January 2020, Tapsoba already has 37 caps for his country since making his debut in 2016 and was named in the 2021 AFCON team of the tournament. The tall but graceful defender will be crucial if Burkina Faso are to improve on their fourth place finish last time out.
Lamine Camara (Senegal)
Senegal come into the tournament with the distinguished honour of being defending AFCON champions at senior, U20 and U17 levels.
While many of those players whose heroics secured Senegal’s first ever AFCON victory against Egypt are reaching the end of their career, the Lions of Teranga’s recent successes at youth level suggest that there are plenty of youngsters waiting in the wings.
Chief amongst the new generation is Lamine Camara. The 20-year-old was recently crowned CAF Young Player of the Year after his pivotal roles in Senegal’s African Nations Championship - another of the titles they won this year - and U20 AFCON victories.
A graduate of the famed Génération Foot Academy, he has followed in the footsteps of Sadio Mane and Pape Matar Sarr by joining French side Metz and already has 15 caps and 4 goals for Senegal’s senior side.
A slight but powerful box-to-box midfielder, Camara has the pace and dynamism to cover plenty of ground, is strong in the challenge and recovers the ball well, as shown by his 2.49 counterpressing recoveries per 90 this season. Camara also likes to get forward and contribute in the final third and has an eye for a pass, ranking joint 5th among U23 smart passes in Ligue 1 and averaging 4.7 progressive passes per 90 this season.
A stellar showing at AFCON would cap a meteoric year for Camara and introduce him to an even wider audience.
Ez Abde (Morocco)
Morocco’s performances in Qatar, where they became the first African nation to reach the semi-finals, showed the burgeoning quality of the continent’s football - as well as the increasing use of video and data to boost performance.
The future of the Atlas Lions looks to be in good health, with some exciting talents breaking through. Pick of the bunch - along with Genk’s classy playmaker Bilal el Khannous and PSV's Ismael Saibari - is Real Betis’ Abde Ezzalzouli, better known as Ez Abde.
The jet-heeled winger was the top scorer at the U23 AFCON in June with 3 goals and 3 assists as Morocco won the tournament on home soil. Abde, who captained the side, also registered most crosses (19), key passes (5), progressive runs (25) and fouls suffered (16).
The former Barcelona man has consistently been one of the top dribblers in La Liga over the past 18 months. Last season on loan at Osasuna, Abde averaged 8.97 dribbles (7th highest) and 5.21 progressive runs (3rd highest) per 90 and this season for Betis he has 8.43 dribbles and 4.76 progressive runs per 90.
Coming in the tournament with 5 goals in 22 games this season, Morocco will hope the 22-year-old can provide a spark in the final third as they target a first AFCON triumph since 1976.
Karim Konaté (Ivory Coast)
Ivory Coast have failed to make it past the quarter finals since their ‘golden generation’ won the title back in 2015 but, with home advantage and an exciting new wave of talent emerging, expectations are rising for Les Éléphants.
19-year-old striker Karim Konaté has been in electric form for RB Salzburg in the Austrian Bundesliga with 8 goals and 2 assists in 17 games and could well be one of the revelations of AFCON if the hosts go far.
Blessed with blistering pace and a real eye for goal, Konaté hit 15 goals in 18 games for Liefering last season before making the step up to Salzburg with ease. He’s also gained Champions League experience and scored his first goals for the Ivory Coast national team.
Salzburg’s track record developing young talent and Red Bull’s network of clubs means it’ll be no surprise to see Konaté follow in the footsteps of Erling Haaland, Dominik Szoboloslai and Benjamin Šeško in the near future.
Whether Konaté and fellow Ivorian prospects Ousmane Diomande, Simon Adingra, Wilfried Singo and Odilon Kossounou are ready to carry the hopes of the nation will be one of many fascinating narratives played out at this edition of AFCON.
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