Connect with us

Talent Radar

5 Young Players to Watch at the African Cup of Nations 2015

With Africa’s premier continental competition upon us, Sami Faizullah has a look at 5 young players (aged 22 and below during the start of the tournament) that could make an impact.

African Cup of Nations 2015

Often described as the hotbed of footballing talent, the AFCON represents an opportunity for the world to cast their views on the footballing talents of the vast African continent. Though plenty of the participants venture into Europe fairly early, many escape the popular views despite playing in some of the more established leagues. The African Cup of Nations provides a platform to see the beauty the continent has to present.

The following five young players stand-out among the 16 participating nations who could make an impact in Equatorial Guinea. Talent Radar will certainly be keeping a keen eye, and you should to!



Who? The Ghanain has been impressing viewers in the Bundesliga with the leagues surprise package, FC Augsburg, showcasing professionalism and intelligence in his role at left-back. He was a part of our Talent Radar 100 Young Players to Watch in 2015.

Why? With a possible 3-5-2 formation expected to be displayed by Avram Grant’s Ghana, the onus is firmly on the full-backs to ensure the success of the approach. Baba will be deployed on the left side with the expected formation maximising the 20-year-old’s ability as he looks to constantly switch between attacking and defensive phases. His runs down the flank mirror that of a winger, with quality crossing to go with it, but his willingness to commit into tackles (sometimes over-commit), allow him to function as a vital cog in the system.

Expectation (Team): The decision to appoint Avram Grant weeks before the tournament was met with understandable surprise. The Israeli hasn’t been in active coaching for nearly three years with his only national team job being back home some 9 years ago. With a difficult group and a mind-boggling coaching decision by the board, the Black Stars may well disappoint at the AFCON.



Who? Part of Anderlecht’s youthful and successful side, Mbemba is one of the 6 Belgium based players in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s AFCON side, and arguably one of the best defenders in the whole tournament. He was a part of our Talent Radar 100 Young Players to Watch in 2015 (and the 2014 list as well).

Why? A solid body structure to boast with his contribution to the attacking side as well, Mbemba is the definition of a ‘beast of a defender’. While not the most tactically intelligent, he more than makes up for it with spectacular tackles and last ditch challenges. He can shackle a forward and dampen his game, but he may struggle slightly to smartly mark; again, not something that necessarily holds him back. But the biggest stand-out point of Mbemba is his ability going forward, while he’s a genuine threat in the air and with the use of his strength, he is remarkably composed on the ball, keeping up with the modern times of a ball-playing defender.

Expectation (Team): Though DR Congo aren’t one of the stronger African footballing nations, the groups set are such which makes qualification to the next round a reachable target. With Group A (along with Group B) also lacking a solid favourite, DR Congo might just prove to be the surprise package of the AFCON.



Who? Having come through from the Samuel Eto’o Football Academy in Cameroon, and continued his development at the famed La Masia academy in Barcelona, there are very few scenarios that could have been better for a players’ footballing education than the one experienced by Ondoa.

Why? The goalkeeping position has been a bit of a struggle for Cameroon, which ultimately led German coach Volker Finke to give then 18-year-old Fabrice Ondoa, an opportunity. The teenager didn’t disappoint after debuting against Ivory Coast in a 4-1 win at the qualifiers for this tournament. The Barcelona B man is now full of confidence, with his manager’s backing, as he leads the traditional powerhouses of African football as the first choice keeper. Having learnt from arguably the world’s best coaches and systems, the World is eagerly awaiting to see just what the academy has produced.

Expectation (Team): A side struggling to regain the highs they’ve experienced in the past, with only a slight crawl being displayed in recent times back to that summit, expectations are high for the four time African champions despite a tricky group to navigate. Though progression from the group stage was usually a given, this time it might be a bit surprising but it would be the bare minimum expected.



Who? Having opted to represent the country of his parents as opposed to that of his birth (France) a few months back, Bentaleb has seen his domestic and international career grow. With opportunities at Spurs aplenty, international recognition is at it’s peak having appeared at the World Cup as well.

Why? The 20-year-old represents an upcoming breed of the Algerian diaspora, setting the country apart from much of Africa. Given his roots, Nabil Bentaleb has developed within a European football upbringing, and this displays in his football. A more tactical intelligence often lost in young African midfielders is ever-present in the Spurs youngster. With his neat and tidy on the ball control further assisting his overall footballing ability. It’s this European intelligence that’ll help Bentaleb reach new highs at the African Cup of Nations, with the pressure something to be dealt with it.

Expectation (Team): Facing some stiff challenge in a competitive group, Algeria won’t have it easy. But having been the most impressive African side and a rare opposition that actually looked capable of getting one over eventual champions Germany at the World Cup, anything less than a last four berth will be a bitter disappointment. With their only African triumph going back 25 years, we may well see a desire from the North African nation to emerge victorious.



Who? Having been one of Ligue 1’s most prolific strikers in his last season in France, Aboubakar developed a solid reputation which attracted the interests of FC Porto. But the Cameroonian hasn’t lived up to similar expectation, his weaknesses exposed but a stronger belief in getting it right at Africa’s biggest stage.

Why? Even when Aboubakar was in form with Lorient in France, there were some who didn’t cave into his hype, with their opinion proving to hold true in hindsight. But the 22-year-old still has a large part of his career ahead of him, a chance to prove his doubters (particularly in Portugal) wrong and an opportunity once again to showcase the endearing combination of power, pace and strength. Aboubakar can best be described as a raw goal-scorer, and Finke’s Cameroon will need plenty of it if they are to meet their objectives.

Expectation (Team): A side struggling to regain the highs they’ve experienced in the past, with only a slight crawl being displayed in recent times back to that summit, expectations are high for the four time African champions despite a tricky group to navigate. Though progression from the group stage was usually a given, this time it might be a bit surprising but it would be the bare minimum expected.

Written by Sami Faizullah

Sami Faizullah

Sami Faizullah

Co-founder and Chief Editor here. Obsessed with tactics. Keen follower of young players. Creator of #TalentRadar. Appeared in A Football Report's list of "Best in Football Writing 2012".
Sami Faizullah

100 to Watch


Talent Radar1 hour ago

2017-18 Performance Rankings: Top 10 Young Defenders – Edition 1

Football News 24/7  Our Talent Radar Rankings, along-with our Talent Radar Team of the Week documents the progress of youngsters across Europe,...

Tactical Analysis1 hour ago

Tactical Analysis: Juventus 4-0 Torino | Home side too strong to play against

Ryan Tank writes a detailed tactical analysis about the Serie A match that ended Juventus 4-0 Torino. Torino suffered from...

Scout Report2 hours ago

Scout Report: Axel Tuanzebe | Manchester United’s defensive starlet

Ravi Inder Gill takes a look at Axel Tuanzebe, Man Utd’s young defender waiting in the shadows. In today’s game,...

Extra17 hours ago

Interview: Brandon Fernandes on experiencing football outside India, a longer ISL, and FC Goa’s upcoming campaign

Outside of the Boot gets the chance to sit down with FC Goa’s talented midfielder, Brandon Fernandes There’s been a lot...

Scout Report1 day ago

Scout Report: Ousmane Dembélé | Barcelona’s Versatile Winger

Miles Olusina breaks down the abilities of the canny Barcelona and France winger Ousmane Dembélé as he embarks on his...

Scout Report1 day ago

Scout Report: Steven Bergwijn | PSV Eindhoven’s rising star

Wang Yulin takes a look at PSV’s exciting Dutch attacker Steven Bergwijn When you think of the team ‘PSV Eindhoven’,...

Opinions2 days ago

Hanoi FC: The Vietnamese Champions struggling to connect with the locals

Trong Nhan Doan looks at the peculiar case of Hanoi FC Most of the time, the most successful team is...

Opinions2 days ago

Expected Goals: A Pioneering Method of Analysing Football

The Football Code has a look at expected goals, a new metric set to revolutionize statistics-based analysis of football Football...

Tactical Analysis4 days ago

Tactical Analysis: Athletic Bilbao 1-2 Atletico Madrid | Clash of two organised sides

Ryan Tank analyses the mid-week La Liga clash that ended Athletic Bilbao 1-2 Atletico Madrid The clash of two organized...

Tactical Analysis4 days ago

Tactical Analysis: Schalke 0-3 Bayern Munich | Ancelotti’s men secure hard fought win

Ryan Tank analyses the mid-week Bundesliga match that ended Schalke 0-3 Bayern Munich. Schalke: Fahrmann, Kehrer, Naldo, Nastasic, Caliguri, McKennie...

Talent Radar5 days ago

2017-18 Performance Rankings: Top 5 Young Keepers – Edition 1

Our Talent Radar Rankings, along-with our Talent Radar Team of the Week documents the progress of youngsters across Europe, with those featuring in...

Opinions6 days ago

Déjà vu on Tyneside: Why Newcastle are being left short-changed by familiar failings

Jeffrey Gamby-Boulger looks critically at Newcastle’s repeated failings in recent years and why Mike Ashley is the root of those problems. ‘It’s the same...

Hipster Guide6 days ago

Hipster Guide 2017-18: UEFA Europa League | Part Two

Oliver McManus takes us on a journey through some of the more obscure parts of Europe as he tells us...

Series1 week ago

Tactical Philosophy: Leonardo Jardim

While this website has made its name focusing on the lesser known youth of this beautiful sport, and combined it...

Talent Radar1 week ago

Talent Radar 2017-18 Young Players’ Team of the Week #4: Pietro Pellegri and Joshua Kimmich feature

A regular feature on our website is the Talent Radar Team of the Week with the best young players compiled...

Tactical Analysis1 week ago

Tactical Analysis: Tottenham Hotspur 0-0 Swansea City | Tottenham’s half space focus against Swansea’s compact block

Ryan Tank provides a tactical analysis of the Premier League game that finished Tottenham Hotspur 0-0 Swansea City  Tottenham attacked...

Scout Report1 week ago

Scout Report: Maxwel Cornet | Lyon’s latest starlet

Josh Sippie breaks down Maxwel Cornet, Lyon’s dynamic attacker. Olympique Lyon just have a knack for plucking supremely talented youth...

Scout Report1 week ago

Scout Report: Marcos Llorente | Real Madrid’s young midfielder

Karan Tejwani provides the lowdown on Real Madrid’s talented midfielder, Marcos Llorente. Real Madrid have made smart purchases from Spanish...

Scout Report1 week ago

Scout Report: Eddie Nketiah | Arsenal’s academy talent

Josh Sippie takes a look at highly-rated Arsenal academy striker Eddie Nketiah. Arsenal’s youth ranks are always going to be...

Scout Report1 week ago

Scout Report: Douglas Luiz | Girona’s skilful midfielder

Anderson Moura analyses Girona’s (via Manchester City) talented Brazilian, Douglas Luiz. When Pep Guardiola accepted the Manchester City job, he...

Talent Radar Award History

Subscribe via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this site and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Young Player Rankings 17-18

More on Outside of the Boot