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Will the Egypt 2019 Africa Cup for the U23 throw up new stars? That will be determined as the competition, which enters its third edition kicks off this Friday.

Apart from the three tickets for the 2020 men’s football event that are at stake, already eyes are on the potential stars. Among those picked for special attention is Nigeria’s Kelechi Nwakali.


The midfielder was the Nigerian captain in the U-17 FIFA World Cup Chile 2015 where he guided them to their record fifth title, winning the Golden Ball in the process.

Currently featuring for the Spanish side, Huesca, will he live up to expectation? He is expected to be on parade with the Nigerian side, which take on Cote d’Ivoire on Saturday in a West African derby.

Also being focused on is Egypt’s Ramadan Sobhy, teammate of Nigeria’s Junior Ajayi at the fanatically supported Al Ahly of Cairo.


Sobhy, who had previously played in England for Stoke City and Huddersfield Town was among Egypt squad in FIFA World Cup, Russia 2018. He also was among The Pharaohs side that finished Africa Cup of Nations Gabon 2017 as losing finalists. He played in the previous edition of U-23 Africa Cup of Nations, Senegal 2015, scoring once.

Squaring up against Sobhy in the opening match of the Egypt 2019 is Mali’s Aly Mallé. A winger with Turkish side, Balikesirspor, Malle won the bronze ball in the U-17 FIFA World Cup Chile 2015, scoring two goals and assisting as much as Mali finished the global tournament as runner ups.

Also to be on parade is Cameroon’s Eric Ayuk. Like Mali’sMallé, he also plays in Turkey. But his club is Osmanlispor.

He scored twice in the qualifiers. He is a regular starter with his Turkish side, and scored once in this season’s league.

The Ghanaian star to watch is Owusu Kwabena who plays for


Cordoba, in Spain. He has three caps with the Black Stars and was a part of Ghana squad in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations, also in Egypt. He scored four goals in the U-23 AFCON qualifiers.

On Saturday when Nigeria takes on Cote d’Ivoire, the player to watch out for is Christian Kouamé. The player who wears shirt number 11 and features for Italian side, Genoa, scored twice in the qualifiers.

He has been in a brilliant form with Genoa, having scored five goals and assisted three in Serie A this season.

In the South African squad is Luther Singh who plays for Morirense in Portugal. He won the Golden Boot as top scorer of the U-20 Africa Cup of Nations Zambia 2017. He scored two goals in five caps with senior Bafana Bafana side.

The star player to watch out for in the Zambian squad is Patson Daka of Red Bull Salzburg in Austria. He was voted best player when Zambia won the U-20 Africa Cup of Nations at home in 2017. He won CAF Youth Player of the Year award for the same year.


Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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