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Players who impressed at the 2023 Africa U-17 Cup of Nations (Part 2)

Player descriptions by Pan-Africa contributing writer Deolu Akingbade

In the first part of our column on players who impressed at the 2023 Africa U-17 Cup of Nations we identified five stars who led their teams deep into the competition but there were plenty of others who did excellently on the big stage. Below, Pan-Africa Football contributing writer Deolu Akingbade highlights five more players who caught his attention in Algeria as well as the notice of football scouts all over the world in part two:

The Africa U-17 Cup of Nations launched world superstar striker Victor Osimhen’s rise to prominence. Osimhen led all scorers with four goals for Nigeria at the 2015 edition before leading the Golden Eaglets on their victorious campaign at the 2015 FIFA U-17 World Cup with an astounding ten goals in Chile.

Click here to read Part 1
Amara Diouf- Senegal (Génération Foot [SEN])
DOB: 7/6/2008

Aside from Metz’s Lamine Camara or Dynamo Kyiv’s Samba Diallo, Amara Diouf is arguably Senegal’s biggest talent following his phenomenal AFCON U17. He won the Golden Ball, scoring five goals and two assists in six matches. Despite his young age, the 14-year-old (!!) has a lot of game knowledge. He’s an excellent playmaker who sees the field but also gets in scoring situations thanks to his attacking intelligence. Coupled with a finishing touch, impressive pace, and pretty good dribbling skills, it’s no wonder Diouf is earning comparisons to Victor Osimhen for his scoring or Khvicha Kvaratskhelia for his wing-oriented playstyle.

Fouad Zahouani- Morocco (Mohammed VI Academy [MAR])
DOB: 18/4/2006

Although Zahouani was forced to sit out Morocco’s heartbreaking loss to Senegal in the final, his contributions to the youth team have been immeasurable. The defensive-oriented full-back is firm, cutting out passes and winning duel upon duel. He’s aggressive and strong, and although he resorts to fouling when tasked with facing a slippery winger, he can definitely learn from that in the future. Zahouani embodied a Moroccan team that played pragmatically, often playing conservatively and even cynically while bouncing off counter-attacks quickly. He is a defensive stud, fearless when flying into slide tackles, and solid when it comes to possession. He’s certainly one of the best defenders to come out of the Mohammed VI Football Academy.

Siyabonga Mabena- South Africa (Mamelodi Sundowns [RSA])
DOB: 18/2/2007

Going into the tournament, Sundowns winger Siyabonga Mabena was the most hyped-up prospect to enter the tournament by far. Although he didn’t end up that way, Mabena had a pretty good tournament despite South Africa’s flop. Mabena showed a technicality that rivaled Themba Zwane and Marcelo Allende at Sundowns, dizzying defenders with an array of dribble moves. He’s fast and nimble, powerful on the wing, and has all the right qualities to be a legendary winger. Although his season is done for now, he could get some minutes in the PSL, where we can really see the extent of his abilities.

Light Eke- Nigeria (C&C FA [NGA])
DOB: 14/4/2006

Despite the Nigeria U17’s relatively disappointing campaign, Eke has been a light in an otherwise dim situation for the Flying Eaglets. He’s not just a killer scorer with an eye for goal or a powerful dribbler who controls the wings, but also a sophisticated playmaker with a breezy touch and a knack for incisive through-balls.

Emmanuel Mwanza- Zambia (Kafue Celtic [ZAM])
DOB: 25/12/2006

Mwanza has already picked up interest from Locomotive Tbilisi. Based on his stellar performances from this U17 AFCON tournament, Mwanza seems ready to play for the Georgian team, or even in (dare I say it) a top-10 European league. Mwanza racked up three goals in three games, accounting for 75% of his team’s goal count. He’s solid in 1v1s, shifty in attack, and is a great shooter who converts a lot of his chances.

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