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Players who emerged during the AFCON U-20 group stage

The talent on display at the Africa U-20 Cup of Nations in Mauritania has been plentiful with players from all positions excelling. After a group stage that featured surprises and breakout performances, here is a list of players who have caught the attention of Pan-Africa Football:

Abdul Fatawu – Ghana (Standfast Babies)     DOB: 8 March 2004

One of the youngest players in the competition at 16 looks like a seasoned pro when he’s on the ball. Abdul Fatawu is a player who isn’t even in the Ghana Premier League currently, making his name last season with Division One side Standfast Babies where he accumulated goals and assists. The young attacking midfielder/forward possesses a magical left foot and excellent close control of the ball to go along with ability on set pieces. Highlights below show how the sky is the limit for Fatawu and his emergence is easily one of the stories of the tournament.

El Mehdi Moubarik – Morocco (FUS Rabat)     DOB: 22 January 2001

On the other end of the age spectrum, central midfielder El Mehdi Moubarik is among the tournament’s more professionally experienced players at 20. Moubarik has already made a couple of starts for FUS Rabat in Morocco’s Botola Pro, so he had no problem playing at a high speed from the start. Particularly impressive was his performance against Ghana where Moubarik constantly disrupted any rhythm the Black Satellites tried to develop. At his best when reacting and zipping around to break up attacks.

Moustapha Ouédraogo – Burkina Faso (ASFA Yennenga)   DOB: 31 December 2001
Yacouba Nasser Djiga – Burkina Faso (Vitesse FC)   DOB: 15 November 2002

The central defense pairing of captain Moustapha Ouédraogo and Yacouba Nasser Djiga have headlined a physical and punishing Burkinabé side. Both are approaching ten appearances this season in domestic football as regulars at their clubs and are still under 20 at this point. A perfect pairing, Ouédraogo is a bit smaller but makes up for it with crunching challenges and leadership. Djiga is taller yet more technical and comfortable with the ball at his feet on either foot. The clips below start with Ouédraogo followed by Djiga.

Silly Sanghare (#23 in picture) – Mauritania (Chamois Niortais)     DOB: 24 February 2001

It is a shame that the hosts will not be part of the tournament any longer, if anything because it means we will not see anymore of Silly Sanghare. The winger never saw a defender (or three) that he could not dribble by and his swashbuckling style of attacking was a joy to watch. Part of Mauritania’s European-based contingent, Sanghare just turned 20 and has yet to make his professional debut in France at Chamois Niortais.

Steven Sserwadda – Uganda (KCCA FC)     DOB: 28 August 2002

A sparkplug of a midfielder building his reputation as a supersub at club level, Sserwadda’s role increases more and more for the Uganda Hippos in the tournament. The 18-year-old started out in his usual substitute role but coach Morley Byekwaso trusted him for the full 90 in the important match against Mauritania. Sserwadda responded by showing his two-way capabilities throughout and has shown ability in the final third with two well-taken finishes.

Momodou Bojang – Gambia (Brikama United)     DOB: 19 June 2001

Gambia continue to defy the odds in their path to the quarter-finals and its easy to see why with players like forward Momodou Bojang leaving it all on the pitch. His work rate is on another level and Gambia needed his engine when facing teams such as Ghana and Morocco. In addition Bojang has the combination of the ability to move quickly with the ball while doing well with his back to the goal.

Mohammed Essahel- Morocco (Mohammed VI Football Academy)     DOB: 17 February 2003

One of three members on the Morocco squad who is currently at the well-reputed Mohammed VI Football Academy, Essahel is a tricky attacker showing the ability to fit in any attacking role. Excellent dribbler and capable of using either foot to cross. Intelligent on or off the ball and is efficient with his touches. Turned 18 during the tournament.

Percious Boah – Ghana (Dreams FC)     DOB: 23 October 2002

Ghana’s Black Satellites have underwhelmed in the tournament but individual moments of brilliance are keeping them in contention. Percious Boah’s late-game heroics in qualifying got Ghana to the tournament with free-kicks and pure goalscoring instincts. The Dreams FC striker announced himself in Ghanaian domestic football with a brace after coming on as a substitute to help his club team to a victory. Boah will need to show he can contribute to the buildup as a #9 more but his flair for exciting goals makes him one to watch.

Fongain Meyapya – Cameroon (Fauve Azur)     DOB: 10 February 2001

Cameroon have been one of the teams with a physically imposing squad that has done well to emerge as a contender. A player who exemplifies this is Fongain Meyapya, a mountain of a central defender who is unmatched in the air. A lumbering figure, Meyapya has some ability with the ball at his feet for long passing and stays calm when defending under distress. A prototypical center-back, Meyapya turned 20 during the tournament and will have more to prove in the knockout stages.

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