AFCON 2019 scout: The little-knowns ready to impress

Check a list of the unfamiliar faces who can leave their mark at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt

Ahram Online , Wednesday 19 Jun 2019,
Africa Cup of Nations
Africa Cup of Nations

Pepe (Cote d'Ivoire)

Ivory Coast

The Elephants are ready to unleash a new heavyweight in Nicolas Pepe. The Lille forward has taken the Ligue 1 by storm, scoring 22 goals and making 11 assists. He was only outclassed by France World Cup winner and PSG prodigy Kylian Mbappe.

His outstanding performances earned him the Marc Vivien Foe prize, awarded for the best African player in France. He is a pacey and talented winger who can score with both legs and is good in aerial duels too.

He is set to play his first major tournament with Cote d'Ivoire at 24.

He was part of the team that featured in the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations but failed to get any playing time and the defending champions were eliminated from the first round.

But he has made giant strides in his career since then and has partnered with Crystal Palace forward Wilfred Zaha to form a deadly striking partnership.

Pepe is already under the radar of Premier League giants Manchester United and Liverpool, who will be watching him closely in Egypt. It will be an important tournament for his future.


Mbaye Diagne (Senegal)


Diagne is set to spearhead Senegal's terrifying frontline alongside Sadio Mane and Keita Balde.

The powerful striker has had a dream season in Turkey, scoring 30 goals in 29 games to secure the Golden Boot award.

He's managed his tally playing for two clubs, having played the first half of the season with Kasimpasa before moving to Turkish giants and eventual champions Galatasaray.

He is a proven goal scorer as he had scored over 100 goals in 154 club games so far. He was picked by Antonio Conte at Juventus in 2013 while he was playing at AC Bra in Serie D, but they decided to loan him out to help him gain top-flight experience.

Since then, he has had goal-scoring sprees at Ajaccio, Lierse, Al-Shabab and Újpest FC before moving permanently to Chinese side Tianjin Teda in 2016.

The 27-year-old is eager to make an impact with the Teranga Lions. Last year, he announced that he had left China to join Kasimpasa to have a chance of breaking into Aliou Cisse's 23-man squad for the World Cup.

He didn't get that chance as he only made his debut for Senegal on 9 September, 2018 during an Africa Cup of Nations qualifying game.



Andy Delort (Algeria)


He only became Algerian in May. Delort, who played for the France youth team, acquired his Algerian passport last month and was a last minute call-up for the Desert Warriors' squad.

He replaced injured striker Harid Belkebla and made a dream start to his international career, coming off the bench against Mali to score the winner in a 3-2 victory in Algeria's final warm up game before the Africa Cup of Nations.

"I am the happiest person in the World. Last week I was on holidays and today I score the winner on my international debut. It's like a dream. I would like to thank the supporters, coach and all my teammates for their support," he said after the game.

The 27-year-old is an imposing striker who had his best season this year in the Ligue 1, scoring 14 goals and making 7 assists.

It's his best top-flight performance as he had only won the Ligue 2 top scorer with Tours (24 goals) earlier in his career.

A successful African Cup of Nations campaign will boost his career and with the likes of Riyad Mahrez and Yacine Brahimi playing behind him, he will surely be fed.


Francois Kamano (Guinea)


The Guinean forward would be hard to stop on the flank. A speedy winger who can play on both flanks, Komano can outrun any defender.

The 23-year-old developed this season into a more complete forward, scoring 13 times for French side Bordeaux and dishing out three assists. He has already been approached by Serie A clubs in Italy but French giants AS Monaco are reportedly closing on signing him as part of their rebuilding process.

Kamano, who played 26 times for Guinea and scored five goals, made his international debut in 2013 but has yet to feature in any major tournament.

He declined to participate in the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations as he was helping struggling Bastia in a tough season, while the Syli National missed the 2017 edition in Gabon. He has a chance to make amends in Egypt.


Mbwana Samatta (Tanzania)


The Tanzania captain has just signed off a great season in Belgium, leading RC Genk to their first league title since 2011 and claiming the Ebony Boot prize awarded to the best player with African roots in the Belgian league.

The 26-year-old striker scored 23 goals in the league, second only to Tunisian striker Hamdi Harbaoui who netted 25.

Such achievements marked a natural progress given that Samatta, who played 45 times for Tanzania and scored 17 goals, had already proved his worth in Africa.

He led TP Mazembe to the 2015 African Champions League title, finishing as the top scorer with seven goals, which earned him the African-based footballer award by CAF in early 2016.

Leading his country back to the Nations Cup for the first time since 1980, Samatta hopes to make an impact in his first major tournament to move forward with his career and maybe seal a move to a top European league.



Percy Tau (South Africa)

South Africa

The diminutive striker's form with Belgian Royale Union Saint-Gilloise suggests that he can impress on his first Nations Cup appearance.

Tau had a season to remember, scoring 13 goals and creating 13 others in only 35 appearances with the Belgian outfit, whom he joined from Premier League club Brighton last summer after failing to acquire an English work permit.

He was named as the Belgian second-division's best player.

"A loan is always good. It helps a player to get there and grow. I will also get time to work on myself, and improve on things that I think I need for a longer run,"' Tau told Brighton's media channel.

"I'm happy with my path because I have done it before and things have worked out in my favour."

Tau, who won the African Champions League with South Africa's Mamelodi Sundowsn in 2016, is expected to spearhead his national team's attack at the Nations Cup.

"I think it's [the Nations Cup] huge for everybody. But luckily enough for me it comes at 25 years of age. It will be my first time [in the tournament] and the other guys as well, so it’s good for the national team. We are able to go there and win it," he said.

(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)


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