By 90Min
June 21, 2019

The Africa Cup of Nations 2019 kicks off on Friday night as hosts Egypt face Zimbabwe in the Group A curtain-raiser in Cairo.

We all know about Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Hakim Ziyech but who else should you watch out for at AFCON? 

Well, whether you want to get informed on your club's next transfer target, impress your mates, or just improve your football hipster credentials, we've got you covered...


Mbwana Samatta (Tanzania)

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Samatta capped a terrific 2018/19 by winning the Belgian First Division with Genk and top scoring in the regular season with 20 goals. For his efforts he was awarded the Ebony Shoe for the best African or African origin player in the division - an honour previously bestowed on Vincent Kompany, Romelu Lukaku and Youri Tielemans.


After his first prolific season in Europe since moving over from TP Mazembe in 2015, the 26-year-old striker may now start to turn more heads. He's already been linked with Leicester, Watford and Aston Villa, as well as Roma. 

Expect his name to feature more in the gossip columns of the near future if he fires Tanzania out of a difficult Group C featuring Algeria, Senegal and Kenya.


Youssef En-Nesyri (Morocco)

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After coming through the ranks at south coast Malaga, 22-year-old En-Nesyri announced himself to La Liga with a breakout campaign at new side Leganes in 2018/19.


The 21-cap international, who scored during Morocco's 2-2 draw with Spain at the World Cup last summer, bagged 11 in all competitions last season as Leganes comfortably avoided relegation.


The forward hit an incredible vein of form shortly after the turn of 2019, scoring six in three games in the space of two weeks during January and February. With three of those coming against Real Betis, En-Nesyri became the first Leganes player to get a hat-trick in La Liga.


While most are aware of teammate Hakim Ziyech's prowess, En-Nesyri could be one to watch as Morocco aim to go all the way in Egypt.


Samuel Chukwueze (Nigeria)

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Another breakout star in La Liga, Chukwueze was a rare beacon of light in a fairly dismal season for Villarreal.


The 20-year-old, who can play on the right or as a central striker, is a fine dribbler with an abundance of pace and an eye for goal, drawing lofty comparisons to Bayern Munich and Netherlands legend Arjen Robben.


He scored eight in 2018/19, particularly catching the eye with a goal and assist in the thrilling 4-4 draw against Barcelona in April. His end product is only expected to increase for Villarreal next season - if they keep hold of him. Liverpool among others have already been linked.

Part of the Nigeria team that won the Under-17 World Cup in 2015, he has just two caps for the senior side so far. If given the opportunity, AFCON 2019 could be the tournament where he announces himself as an international star.


Michael Ngadeu-Ngadjui (Cameroon)

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A January transfer target for Fulham, Ngadeu-Ngadjui took the unusual path to professional football by moving to Germany to study civil engineering in his youth.

After time with a number of lower league sides in Germany, the 6 ft 3in centre back made the move to Botosani in Romania and later to Slavia Prague in 2016.

Voted the First League's best defender in 2018/19, the 28-year-old has lifted two Czech titles and two Czech Cups, as well the last Africa Cup of Nations in 2017.

Now captain of the Indomitable Lions under Clarence Seedorf, he aims to defend the trophy as leader in Egypt. 


Baghdad Bounedjah (Algeria)

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Bounedjah's goalscoring stats at Qatari club Al-Sadd (now managed by Xavi Hernandez) look like a typo.

In 59 Qatari Stars League games since 2015, the Algerian forward has 82 goals. In 88 games in all competitions, he has 112.

His tally of 39 in 22 league appearances (including seven in one game) is unsurprisingly a new record, while in the calendar year of 2018, the 27-year-old scored 58 goals in total - the most of any player in a top tier professional league. For context, Lionel Messi got 51.


Although considerably less prolific at international level, Bounedjah is an outside bet for AFCON 2019/s top goalscorer on odds generally priced at around 20/1.


Denis Onyango (Uganda)

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34-year-old Onyango is little known outside of Africa but regarded as one of the finest players playing on the continent and quite probably the best goalkeeper.

A 70-cap international for Uganda, he moved to South Africa in 2006 where he has spent the majority of his career. After winning three Premier Soccer League titles with Super Sport United, he has since won a further three with current side Mamelodi Sundowns and was voted the 2016 African-based Africa Player of the Year.

The key man in a well-organised defence, Onyango will be busy at AFCON 2019, as they seek to win their first game since 1978. His biggest challenge may be keeping out Mohamed Salah as Uganda face hosts Egypt on matchday three in Group A.

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