AFCON Rising Stars to Watch

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The CAF Africa Cup of Nations 2023 came to a close on Sunday, with Ivory Coast celebrating their victory in the capital city of Abidjan.

Throughout the one-month football extravaganza, several talented young players produced their best on the international stage, laying solid foundations for their futures. 

Looking ahead, the upcoming highlights on the football calendar include the June qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup 2026 and the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament in Paris, scheduled for July and August, a good opportunity for football betting fans wondering where it is legal to place bets on sporting events in Zambia for example. With that in mind, we look at five of the most promising talents from the AFCON 2023. 

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Oumar Diakite – Ivory Coast

Oumar Diakite’s stunning backheeled winner in Ivory Coast’s AFCON quarter-final against Mali was one of the tournament’s best moments. His celebration for the goal earned him a second booking, which cost him a place in the semis, but he came on as a substitute during the finals against Nigeria. 

As the team prepares for the World Cup 26 qualifiers in June, Diakite’s form will be crucial. Last November, he played a role in the team’s strong start, featuring in their 9-0 win over Seychelles and starting in the 2-0 victory over Gambia after coming on for Simon Adingra.

Nene Dorgeles – Mali

Dorgeles made an impact at the AFCON with a stunning goal against his country of birth Ivory Coast in the quarter-finals. Despite Mali’s elimination, the 21-year-old’s performance could not go unnoticed. His focus now turns to Mali’s participation in the Paris 2024 Olympics. 

Thapelo Maseko – South Africa

The South African winger made an immediate impact, scoring just five minutes after coming on as a substitute in a 4-0 victory against Namibia at the AFCON. However, his tournament was cut short by injury during their quarter-final win against Cabo Verde.

Although Maseko missed the World Cup 26 qualifyiers last November, coach Hugo Broos is likely to call on him for the next round of games in June. 

Bilal El Khannouss – Morocco

The Genk attacking midfielder was also part of Morocco’s impressive Qatar 2022 campaign. At just 18, he was the youngest member of the Atlas Lions squad and debuted in the play-off for third place, a 2-1 loss to Croatia.

Now 19, the Belgium-born midfielder started in Morocco’s first World Cup 26 qualifier – a 2-0 win over Tanzania – under coach Walid Regragui. He also made the Africa Cup of Nations squad in January 2024.

El Khannouss was also part of the victorious U-23 Africa Cup of Nations team, earning a spot at the Paris Olympics. In 2024, he aims to represent his country in World Cup qualifiers in June before competing at the Olympics.

Lamine Camara – Senegal

Following his brace in the 3-0 victory over Gambia at AFCON 2023, Camara emerged as the tournament’s best young player, solidifying his role as a key player for Senegal in their ongoing World Cup 26 qualification campaign.

2023 proved to be a breakthrough year for the attacking midfielder. He was named the best player at the U-20 AFCON, African Young Player of the Year, and won the African Nations Championship 2022.

Senegal faces Congo DR and Mauritania in June’s World Cup qualifiers, with hopes pinned on Camara to maintain his stellar form.