The African Cup of Nations is in full swing in South Africa and as usual the quality of football has been high and there have already been some upsets. Swide has some of the hidden gems to watch out for.
Although the biennial tournament represents something of a headache for Europe’s managers it also gives them a chance to view the best emerging talent on the African continent.
The big name African players all head home for the biggest African tournament that is now firmly established as the third continental competition behind Europe and South America. Zambia are reigning champions after their glorious victory two years ago, but Ghana have been installed as favourites to win for the first time since 1982. The Ivory Coast have probably the strongest squad and will be led by Drogba in what will be his last chance to win the cup. Hosts South Africa may prove to be the surprise package of the tournament and Cape Verde make their debut in the sixteen-team competition.
Apart from the players we are familiar with because they earn their crust in Europe, the African Cup of Nations is the continent’s shop window where young talent can showcase their skills. The first half of the competition takes place in January so you can be sure every major European club will have scouts present in the hope of catching a bargain before the Winter sales finish.
Dean Furman, 24, South Africa
Currently playing for League One Oldham Athletic the Cape Town native has proved he has the quality for the step up to International level. A very solid midfielder he has taken his chances well and set about controlling games when on the pitch. A product of the Chelsea youth academy who didn’t make the grade, the South African seems to be a late bloomer and could well be back in the Premiership next year.
Emmanuel Mbola, 19, Zambia
Currently on loan with Porto, great things are expected from the 19-year-old. The TP Mazembe full-back is a solid defeender and with something like 30 international caps to his name he looks destined to make a career for himself in Europe.
Floyd Ayite, 23, Togo
Having already played for Bordeaux, Nancy and Angers in France the talented playmaker played an important role in helping Reims achieve Ligue 1 promotion. As an attacking midfielder his linking up with captain and star player But Emmanuel Adebayor will be crucial to Togo’s chances.
Yacouba Ali, Niger
A very fast and strong striker who is also excellent in the air Yacouba Ali plays for Cote d’Ivoire side Africa Sports. A striker of great potential he well have to work hard to get his chance, the Niger side looks set for a probable early exit so much will depend on the first two games against Mali and Congo DR which are not unbeatable for the West African nation.
Victor Moses, 22, Nigeria
Having represented England at under age level the Nigerian eventually returned to represent his native land of Nigeria. A big money move to Chelsea has started very well for him and he looks set to carry his good Premiership form over from Chelsea to the African Cup of Nations. Lightning quick and with dribbling skills to drool over he is for sure one of the stars of the competition.
Sidy Kone, 20, Mali
The defensive midfielder is a great prospect cast in the same mould as compatriot Mamadou Diara. In fact he has deputised for the Fulham player when injured. Currently playing for Olympic Lyonnais he could fit the bill for any nuber of big European clubs desperate to add some steel to their defensive ranks (no names).
Abdelaziz Barrada, Morocco, 22
The central midfielder is one of the rising stars of Getafe in Spain. After three years in the PSG reserves a switch to Spain seems to have brought out the best in him. He has carried his form over to international football too becoming a regular starter for Morocco and is central to the North African side’s chances.
Boakye-Yiadom, 19 Ghana
On loan to Serie B club Sassuolo from parent club Juventus he has scored 10 goals so far this season and if keeps it up a return to Turin could very much be on the cards. Playing either as a number nine or as a second striker he is a constant attacking threat. In a team of stars, he will be one of the stand-out players.