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Players who impressed at the 2023 Africa U-17 Cup of Nations (Part 1)

The 2023 Africa U-17 Cup of Nations is complete as Senegal captured yet another continental trophy in an African national team competition. There were numerous players who made impressions in Algeria and Pan-Africa Football identified ten players who are ones to watch for the future. In the first part of our column on players who impressed, Andrew Olsson identifies five players who boosted their reputation in world football:

Mali won the 2017 edition of the Africa U-17 Cup of Nations thanks to the contributions of midfielder Mohamed Camara, who earned a move to Red Bull Salzburg due to his performances. Camara now plays at AS Monaco in France’s Ligue 1.

Click here to read Part 2
Serigne Fallou Diouf- Senegal (Sahel Atlantic FC [SEN])
DOB: 31/12/2006

A leader and commander of the Senegalese defensive unit, Fallou Diouf displayed his composure in important moments for the champions including when he was handed the ball by Amara Diouf to convert from the penalty spot and equalize in the final against Morocco. Diouf won over ninety percent of his aerial duels in Algeria and displayed a willingness to be responsible for distributing from the back. With his impressive physical profile, Fallou Diouf’s advanced level of technical skill and leadership make the central defender a player who could play at the highest level of European club football if he continues his rapid progression.

Lassina Traoré- Burkina Faso (Rahimo FC [BFA])
DOB: 10/1/2007

A left back who showed the ability to contribute on both defense and attack, Traoré was a reliable presence for the Burkinabé defense with his impressive showing on 1v1 duels as well as a high work rate and eagerness to get involved. The Rahimo player has already been in the matchday squad for his team on one occasion but should receive an opportunity to gain his first professional minutes in club football next season. If Traoré can improve his efficiency in the attack and decision making, particularly his crossing and dribbling, the 16-year-old will be drawing offers from clubs abroad once he becomes eighteen years old.

Abdelhamid Ait Boudlal- Morocco (Mohammed VI Academy [MAR])
DOB: 16/4/2006

The captain and heart of the Atlas Cubs had a couple of matches where he was impossible to get past with his highlight performance being in Morocco’s 1-0 group stage victory over Nigeria. It is fitting that Ait Boudlal and Serigne Fallou Diouf scored in the final for their respective teams because both players are clear leaders who displayed ambition and were not afraid to take on important distribution duties. The Mohammed VI Academy product appears to be more than ready to follow in the footsteps of a prior graduate of the academy, West Ham United’s Nayef Aguerd, who is currently excelling in Europe and with the Morocco senior national team.

Taha Benrhozil- Morocco (Mohammed VI Academy [MAR])
DOB: 18/6/2006

It is a well known fact that goalkeepers take a longer time to reach the peak of their performance but Benrhozil was remarkable and deserving of a mention. Another member of the Morocco team from the Mohammed VI Academy, Benrhozil played the role of a star in Morocco’s group stage victory over Nigeria and was massive in the penalty shootout victory over Mali in the semifinals. The young keeper failed to properly deal with an aerial ball on the winning goal from Senegal in the final but generally did well when claiming crosses. The most important thing for Benrhozil to focus on moving forward is his distribution, a skill that tends to be lacking with young goalkeepers.

Mamadou Doumbia- Mali (AS Black Stars [MLI])
DOB: 18/2/2006

Amara Diouf is the headline player in a competition that featured numerous talented attackers but Mamadou Doumbia is the best forward prospect. The striker has a perfect physical profile and is showing all the instincts that scouts look for in young goal scorers. He is also comfortable with his back to goal and continuing to show signs of improvement with the ability to hold the ball up and distribute to his fellow attackers. Doumbia scored in four out of five matches for Mali at the competition and the first touch he produced before scoring the only goal in Mali’s first match against Burkina Faso was magical. In a Mali squad that possesses a high level of quality throughout the squad, Doumbia managed to stand out the most and was the best pure striker in the competition.

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