World Cup: African Youngsters tipped to shine in Russia

Senegalese Ismaila Sarr (right) is among the African youngsters to watch in Russia. Net photo.

Leo Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Neymar da Silva Ronaldo, and Neymar da Silva are some of the world’s biggest names currently in Russia for the 2018 World Cup. But, as with every other major tournament, the FIFA World Cup has always provided a platform for young talents to prove themselves.

It is with no doubt that a host of new young players will emerge and stamp a mark in Russia.

Germans Lukas Podolski and Thomas Muller as well as Colombia international James Rodriguez were almost unknown to the face of the world until they put up magical performances for their respective countries in the previous FIFA World Cup.

This year’s iteration will be no different.

Today, Saturday Sport looks five African youngsters likely to shine in front of one of the biggest sports audiences – the ongoing 21st edition of the football World Cup.

Ismaila Sarr

The Senegalese youngster joined for French Ligue 1 side Rennes for almost €20m last July, just one year after signing his first professional contract with another French side Metz and scoring five league goals in a 31 appearances for the club.

The 20-year old made his international debut in 2016 and scored three times from eleven caps in the senior national team. He has been tipped by analysts and experts to follow in the footsteps of the Liverpool star and compatriot Saido Mane – largely because of the similar pace.

The winger silenced a packed crowd in Osijek, when he netted against Croatia in the 48th minute last week in his side’s warm-up match before they headed to Russia.

Nonetheless, he is yet to replicate the flashes of promise shown at club level.

Mahmoud Abdel Moneim

The Egyptian Mahmoud Abdel Moneim is nicknamed Kahraba – meaning electricity in Arabic.

The 23-year-old winger is on loan at Saudi Arabia’s Al-Ittihad from Egyptian giants Zamalek.

Since making his debut with the Egyptian senior national in 2013, the winger has scored two goals from 16 appearances.

He won the African Youth Championship with Egypt in 2013, scoring in the final’s penalty shoot-out. Moneim was also named in the team of the tournament and finished the tournament as a joint second-highest scorer.

Onyinye Wilfred Ndidi

Aged 21, the Nigerian versatile midfielder joined former English Premier League champions Leicester City for a reported fee of £17 million, in December 2016.

He made his international debut in October 2015 while playing for the Super Eagles against DR Congo in qualifiers of the African Cup of Nations.

Onyinye started his football career as a forward at Genk in Belgium before switching to play as a central defender for Nigerian youth side at the 2013 Africa U-17 Championship.

He scored his first English Premier League for Leicester in a 3-1 win over Liverpool in February this year.

Other Nigerian youngsters to watch out for in Russia include; Kelechi Iheanacho (Manchester City), Francis Uzoho (Deportivo La Coruna), KAA Gent’s Moses Simon.

Keita Balde

The 23-year-old Senegalese forward has enjoyed a spectacular first season at Monaco where he scored eight goals, from 23 appearances, for the French giants.

He is yet to prove himself in the national team but there is no doubt about his prodigious talent.

Sofyan Amarabat

Born in the Netherlands, the 21-year-old midfielder made his debut for Morocco earlier this year, but as an effective box-to-box midfield, he is expected to be the long-term successor to either Mbark Boussoufa or Karim El Ahmadi.

At club level, he plies his trade at Feyenoord Rotterdam in Dutch topflight league – Eredivisie.

The former FC Utrecht star is the young brother of Morocco international Nordin Amrabat.


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