GOAL’s Ed Dove profiles the African wonderkids who could make a major impact in Qatar
Jackson is yet to represent Senegal, but there were no surprises when he was named in Aliou Cisse’s Senegal squad, having emerged as one of the revelations of the season in La Liga.
The forward has had a hand in four goals for Villarreal so far this term, as well as netting in the Europa Conference, prompting rumours of a transfer to Newcastle United or Aston Villa.
With Sadio Mane set to be absent through the group stage at least, Jackson could be one of the players to step into Senegal’s starting XI and help them compensate for the Bayern Munich superstar’s absence.
Cameroon’s Wooh is another youngster who could be stepping into some famous shoes this World Cup.
Perhaps one of the reasons why the Indomitable Lions made the shocking call to cut the experienced Michael Ngadeu-Ngadjui from their starting XI is because they know, in Wooh, they boast a deputy option of genuine pedigree.
The 21-year-old has featured in Ligue 1 for Lens and current club Rennes, and even played for the latter in the Europa League earlier this year.
A superb athlete, he has demonstrated he has all the fundamentals to become an excellent centre-back.
Abdul Fatawu Issahaku
Sporting Lisbon have reportedly inserted a $62 million release clause in the winger’s contract following the strong early impression he’s made in Portugal, testament to how impressed they’ve been with the youngster’s talent.
He opened his account for the Black Stars in September, as they defeated Nicaragua, having previously represented the national side at the Africa Cup of Nations earlier this year.
Just 18, and having been linked already with the likes of Liverpool, Issahaku has already featured in the Champions League, but will he be afforded an opportunity to shine at the World Cup?
Anis Ben Slimane
Once tipped for the Denmark national team, Ben Slimane ultimately opted to represent the land of his parents, making his debut in 2020 having previously represented the Europeans at U-19 level.
He’s excelled at Brondby, where he played 27 times in 20-21 as they ended their 16-year wait for a Danish title, and also featured for Tunisia at the Africa Cup of Nations earlier this year.
A towering midfield presence, Ben Slimane may struggle to make Tunisia’s starting XI, but could make an impact from the bench.
Named on the Golden Boy longlist, and one of the finalists for the Caf Young Footballer of the Year award, Sulemana has already been linked with the likes of Manchester United and Liverpool, and certainly appears destined for great things.
The wideman has already impressed in one of Europe’s major leagues—he had a hand in six goals in Ligue 1 for Stade Rennais last term—and could prove a threat cutting in from the Black Stars’ left flank in Qatar.
Despite concerns that injury might keep Ezzalzouli out of the World Cup, the Barcelona man—currently on loan at Osasuna—has made the cut, and will now be hoping to star in Qatar.
Amine Harit’s injury and Zakaria Aboukhlal’s fitness concerns bump Ezzalzouli higher up the pecking order, and the 20-year-old has the talent to trouble defences in Group F.
He made 10 La Liga outings for Barca last term—scoring against his current club—and it’s testament to his quality that his place in Morocco’s plans has not been dented by his refusal to honour a call-up to the Nations Cup earlier this year.