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AFCON - Football: Five breakthrough stars

We've enjoyed an entertaining Africa Cup of Nations tournament over the last few weeks and as ever, there have been surprise results along the way.

As well as some of the big-name players, there have also been a number of new names that have come to the fore in Cameroon and we have selected five breakthrough stars who could be ones to follow over the coming years.

Selim Amallah (Morocco)

Morocco made it to the quarter-finals this time around and Selim Amallah was one of the stars of his country's AFCON campaign.

Surrounded by players who ply their trade in some of Europe's top leagues, Amallah has raised his game and came away from the tournament with a goal and two assists, after playing in all five of Morocco’s matches.

The midfielder impressed during their unbeaten group stage, scoring the opening goal in their 2-0 win over Comoros whilst also providing an assist for the second.

At the age of 25, Amallah has played the majority of his professional career in Belgium, making over 50 appearances for Mouscron before joining Standard Liege in 2019.

But his displays in this tournament will have had scouts from some of the bigger European leagues making a note of his name.

Ibrahima Kone (Mali)

Mali finished top of Group F, with two wins and a draw, before suffering a penalty shootout defeat to Equatorial Guinea in the last 16.

Ibrahima Kone is certainly a player that caught the eye and one we may be seeing more of in Europe over the coming years.

The 22-year-old bagged three goals in the tournament and ended AFCON with a 67 per cent shot accuracy.

Having impressed playing in Norway for Haugesund and then Sarpsborg, the striker has recently agreed a four-year deal to join French club FC Lorient.

Lorient are currently second bottom in Ligue 1 and Kone could make his debut in their home clash with Lens on Sunday 6th February, with the hosts available at 23/10 to collect the three points.

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Dango Ouattara (Burkina Faso)

The surprise package of this Africa Cup of Nations has been Burkina Faso, reaching the last four after beating Gabon and Tunisia in the knockout stages.

The Stallions have never been crowned champions of Africa and they missed out on the 2017 tournament altogether, but they headed to Cameroon looking to build on an unbeaten qualifying campaign.

The majority of their squad is under 30 and it has been a teenager that has caught the eye, with Dango Ouattara making the headlines.

The 19-year-old scored the winning goal in the quarter-final win over Tunisia, before then being sent off in stoppage time.

Ouattara, who only made his international debut in December 2021, also plays for Lorient in France and only made his debut for the Ligue 1 outfit at the start of the 2021/22 season.

Although he’s still a raw talent, he clearly has ability and could be one to watch over the next few years.

Jim Allevinah (Gabon)

With Gabon missing their most recognisable player, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, they needed the rest of their squad to step up to the plate.

One of those that shined in Cameroon was attacking midfielder Jim Allevinah, who scored two goals en-route to Gabon reaching the knockout stages.

The 26-year-old scored a late equaliser in his country’s draw with Ghana, before netting the opening goal in a 2-2 draw with Morocco.

Despite being 1-0 down and having a man sent off in the last-16 tie with Burkina Faso, Gabon took the game to extra-time but eventually went out 7-6 on penalties. Allevinah going off injured in the second-half of normal time was a blow.

He currently plays his football in Ligue 1 with Clermont and is another who bigger clubs will be keeping an eye on over the remainder of the season.

Younn Zahary (Comoros)

There will have been some people that had never heard of Comoros the country, let alone their players, ahead of this tournament!

But the small east-coast island certainly made a name for themselves when making their AFCON debut, reaching the round of the 16.

Comoros came through a group which included some big names, with Ghana crashing out having finished bottom of Group C. They then ran Cameroon close, only losing 2-1 having had their squad hit by injury and illness.

One of the key factors for Comoros' success was the performances of centre back Younn Zahary, who made his international debut in 2019.

Zahary currently plays his football for Cholet in the French third tier, but there could be some bigger clubs eyeing his services in this summer’s transfer window.

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