With the 2014 World Cup in Brazil a day away, we look at six young African players who could set the world alight at the upcoming showpiece event.
Kenneth Omeruo – Nigeria
Current Club: Chelsea
Having recently signed a new contract at English giants Chelsea, Kenneth Omeruo is one of the most talked about defenders on the African continent. After spending the past two seasons out on loan, Omeruo is being blooded by Jose Mourinho for the future and the level-headed centre-back, who has been a regular under Stephen Keshi, is certainly one to keep an eye on as the Super Eagles look to build on their African Cup of Nations triumph with a strong showing at the World Cup.
Ahmed Musa – Nigeria
Current Club: CSKA Moscow
Caps: 37 (5 goals)
Ahmed Musa has enjoyed a healthy scoring record over the past season, helping CSKA Moscow as they retained the Russian Premier League title. The elusive forward, who will certainly be one of the fastest players at the upcoming World Cup, might not have the best strike rate at international level, but the speedster is a constant threat and will give defenders not a second’s rest. Musa has been courted by big clubs in Europe in the past and a big World Cup might see him on their radar yet again.
Christian Atsu – Ghana
Current Club: Chelsea
Caps: 21 (5 Goals)
Probably the most talked about youngster on the list is Christian Atsu, who has dazzled international football pundits with his wizardry. The Black Stars winger, who signed for Chelsea in September last year before being immediately loaned to Vitesse, has been one of the most talked-about African players, with big things expected from the youngster. The former Porto attacker showed his class with a superb goal in a 6-1 rout of Egypt as Ghana booked their place at the World Cup finals, and the future Blue will have to show that type of form as the Black Stars look to make it through the group of death.
Serge Aurier – Ivory Coast
Current club: Toulouse
Ivory Coast fullback Serge Aurier has enjoyed a strong few seasons at French Ligue 1 club Toulouse and has subsequently drawn attention from bigger clubs in Europe, including Arsenal where he is tipped to replace French right-back Bacary Sagna. Aurier made his official debut for the Elephants in June last year and is the leading player in a crop of youngsters breaking into the senior team with the West Africans’ ‘golden generation’ now reaching its end.
Nabil Bentaleb – Algeria
Current club: Tottenham Hotspur
Midfielder Nabil Bentaleb burst onto our TV screens with impressive displays for English Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur over the past season and became a regular for Spurs under Tim Sherwood, keeping the likes of Moussa Dembele, Sandro and Ettiene Capoue on the bench. Having played for France at youth level, Bentaleb pledged his international future to Algeria earlier this year and is now set to feature for the Fennec Foxes at the World Cup. Algeria have a number of youngsters coming through the ranks, playing their football at the top level and could well be an African force in the coming years.
Fabrice Olinga – Cameroon
Current club: Malaga
Caps: 7 (1 goal)
At only 18 years of age, Fabrice Olinga will be one of the youngest players at the World Cup this year. Having already made his debut for the senior team in 2012, it is no surprise Olinga has drawn comparison to Cameroon captain Samuel Eto’o, whose career with the Indomitable Lions also started in his teens. Olinga spent the season on-loan at Belgium club Zulte Waregem and, despite not seeing regular game time, the quick footed striker made it into Volker Finke’s side. At 16 years and 98 days he became the youngest goalscorer in Spanish La Liga history when he scored for Malaga in a 1-0 win over Celta Vigo.
Other youngsters to keep an eye on: Riyad Mahrez, Saphir Taïder, Rashid Sumaila, Ogenyi Onazi and Cameroonian Vincent Aboubakar, who finished the French Ligue 1 season with an impressive 16 goals.
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