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CAF Confederation Cup: Standout players from the group stage so far

After featuring eight players who stood out in the first half of the group stage at the 2021-22 CAF Champions League group stage, now we turn our attention to Africa’s other continental club competition, the CAF Confederation Cup. With a greater variety of African domestic scenes represented, there are more previously little-known players who get their chance in the spotlight of CAF competition to make it an interesting tournament to scout. Read on for our list of eight players who have shown their quality and watch their accompanying highlights:

Deon Hotto- Orlando Pirates
DOB: 29 October 1991

We try to focus on younger players when it comes to these lists, but Deon Hotto along with teammate Bandile Shandu have shown their class to boost South African club Orlando Pirates to top spot in Group B. The Namibian playmaker has come up with a couple of highlight reel assists, being involved in at least one goal in each group stage match. Hotto’s wizardry in possession of the ball makes him difficult to dispossess and his final ball is sublime whether he is providing through balls, crosses or free kick services. As long as the 31-year-old remains healthy the Bucs’ attack will be at its peak, but his form must remain strong if the Soweto side wishes to push for a run to the CAFCC final.

Nabil Emad- Pyramids FC
DOB: 6 April 1996

Egyptian power spenders Pyramids FC are the clear favorites to capture this year’s edition of the CAFCC and deep lying central midfielder Emad plays a crucial role. The player known by the nickname “Dunga” is constantly around the ball, acting as an option to relieve pressure and quickly move the ball around with short and long passes. Dunga joined Pyramids from Egypt’s third tier as a 19-year-old in 2016 when the club was known as Al Assiouty Sport in Beni Suef, moving along with the club to Cairo when the team was bought by Saudi Sports Authority chairman Turki Al Sheikh.

Julfin Ondongo – AS Otohô
DOB: 28 March 1997

AS Otohô, champions of the Republic of Congo, have overcome the obstacle of being forced to play their home games in neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo by emerging as candidates to advance out of a competitive Group C. Ondongo is a leader in the center of defense for the club based in the heart of the country with his smart tackling and accurate long passing that suits the team’s direct approach. The soon to be 25-year-old’s status as one of the best players in his country’s domestic league saw him feature for the Republic of Congo in the 2018 and 2021 editions of the African Nations Championship, helping Les Diables Rouges to the quarterfinals last year in Cameroon.

Chadrack Lukombe – RS Berkane
DOB: 14 April 1997

The winger from Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is reunited with the manager who gave him his national team debut with the Leopards in 2017, Florent Ibengé, after an unsuccessful spell in Spanish and French football. Lukombe’s explosive speed and dribbling along with the presence of Ibengé have helped him integrate well with Moroccan club Berkane where he currently has 6 goals in 16 appearances across all competitions. At 24-years-old, Lukombe is putting everything together for a career revival and if he can stay healthy and continue his growing form, Berkane could be a real threat to capture the competition they won in the 2019-20 season.

Ayoub Ayed – Al Ahli Tripoli
DOB: 4 January 2000

The 22-year-old Tunisian central midfielder and loanee from Étoile du Sahel is getting the playing time he needs at top Libyan club Al Ahli Tripoli after playing a rotation role for his parent club. Ayed provides nothing too flashy but finds a way to be in the right place at the right time to shut down opposition attacks and has composure on the ball. Al Ahli are currently in good position to advance out of Group A and Ayed has started all three group stage games so far, making his loan spell a successful one so far.

Philippe Kinzumbi – TP Mazembe
DOB: 30 June 1997

A member of the DR Congo side at the 2021 African Nations Championship, the attacker did not end up participating due to Covid-19 as the Leopards side dealt with numerous absences related to positive tests in Cameroon. Capable of operating on either wing or as a second striker, Kinzumbi is one of Mazembe’s youth products who is receiving more of a featured role as the Congolese powerhouse continues to concentrate more on promoting talent from within rather than purchasing players from other African leagues. The 24-year-old is an excellent dribbler who can deliver a deadly final ball with either foot. The Mazembe attack has been sputtering and Kinzumbi will be key to helping the Ravens find their form offensively.

Marwane Khelif – JS Saoura
DOB: 8 February 2000

Khelif is a promising and versatile defensive-minded option who has played every minute for Algerian club JS Saoura in Group B play so far. The 22-year-old primarily suits up at left back but also can offer a ball-winning presence in the center of midfield. When it comes to his performance at left back, the Saoura youth academy graduate is more accomplished at fulfilling defensive responsibilities due to his aggression in the tackle and strong physical build. However, there are signs of potential in his technical ability and as his role continues to increase he will become a more well-rounded footballer.

Wilfried Gbeuli – USGN
DOB: 16 March 2000

Nigerien club USGN continues to prove they are not a minnow at the CAFCC as the team from Niamey is more than holding their own in a highly competitive Group D, currently sitting in second place. Wilfried Gbeuli is a player who stands out immediately beyond his bleached hair with the soon to be 22-year-old eager to show off his flair when on the dribble. His style is a bit hit-or-miss at times but he is a good finisher with his left foot and has the ability to make that one big play that can tilt the result in his team’s favor. Two of USGN’s final three group stage games are on the road at Simba SC and ASEC Mimosas, making Gbeuli essential for his team to obtain the necessary results to finish in the top-2.

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