Herve Koffi – Goalkeeper, 25, Burkina Faso/Charleroi
Koffi was one of the breakout stars of Burkina Faso’s run to the semi-finals back in 2017. Relatively little-known at the time, the second-generation international announced himself with an outstanding performance in the quarterfinal win over Tunisia.
By the end of the tournament, he transferred from ASEC to Lille. But things did not quite take off for him in France. After a couple of loan moves, he found stability in Belgium with Charleroi and remains a very strong goalkeeper who can help Burkina Faso live up to their “dark horses” tag.
Odilon Kossounou – Defender, 21, Ivory Coast/Bayer Leverkusen
In the summer of 2021, Bayer Leverkusen paid a Belgian record fee to sign Kossounou from Club Brugge.
The fee was eye-catching, especially for a centre-back barely out of his teens.
His awareness, strength – belying his slim frame – and skills with the ball are noteworthy, and he continues a tradition of excellent Ivorian central defenders.
Achraf Hakimi – Defender, 23, Morocco/Paris Saint-Germain
Hakimi is simply the best right-back in Africa and one of the best in the world.
While his club rap sheet – Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, Inter Milan and PSG – tells its own story, the fact he is still only 23 makes his status all the more impressive.
Hakimi’s ability to carry an entire flank is key to Morocco’s attacking play, as are his low deliveries across the box. Watch out for him to torment every left-back he comes across in Cameroon.
Abdou Diallo – Defender, 25, Senegal/Paris Saint-Germain
Diallo made his international debut in March last year but has been almost ever-present, partnering Kalidou Koulibaly, who has question marks over his fitness currently, and allowing Cheikhou Kouyate to play in midfield where he is natural.
On his day, Diallo is a classy operator with a slick left foot and brilliant defensive instincts, but being thrust into such a critical role so early in his international career is no picnic. If it goes well, Senegal will be close to impassable at the back.