Emerging stars to watch at Africa Cup of Nations 2012

2012-01-15 07:27

Demba Ba (Senegal)
Ba will arrive at the biennial continental competition boasting 15 goals in 17 starts for Newcastle United so far in the campaign.

So potent is the 26-year-old in front of goal that he has netted two hat-tricks already this season.
Ba – voted the English Premiership Player of the Month for December – has been capped 11 times by the Lions of Teranga.

His coming of age in the demanding Premiership has made Senegal believe that the West African nation possesses the next big thing since the emergence of El-Hadji Diouf at the turn of the century.

Jordan Ayew (Ghana)
Not much is known about Jordan Ayew apart from being the son of the Black Stars’ legend Abedi Pele Ayew.

For those who have tracked the progress of the 20-year-old Olympique Marseille striker, Jordan’s performances in France during the first half of the season suggests that he is steadily coming out of the shadows of his more famous sibling Andre, who is his team-mate at the French Ligue 1 club.

He is likely to get extended game time during the tournament, especially with the fitness of striker Gyan Asamoah still in doubt.

Cheick Tiote (Ivory Coast)
A combative midfielder in the mould of Alexander Song of Cameroon and Arsenal, Tiote’s tough tackling and basic playing style has benefited the Magpies midfield since his arrival from from FC Twente in 2010.

Apart from his physical strength, the 25-year-old packs a good shot too.

He appeared in all of Ivory Coast’s 2010 Fifa World Cup matches and he is expected to be key in the Elephants’ quest for another Afcon title since 1992.

Mehdi Carcela-Gonzalez (Morocco)

Arsenal’s Marouane Chamakh might be the Atlas Lions’ star attraction but look out for Mehdi Carcela-Gonzalez.

The 22-year-old attacking midfielder plays for Russian Premier League big spenders Anzhi Makhachkala, which is coached by Brazilian legend Roberto Carlos.

Born to a Moroccan mother and a Spanish father, Carcela-Gonzalez is a product of the Standard Liege Academy in Belgium.

He had a chance of representing Belgium but opted for the Atlas Lions and was handed his first cap against Niger in March last year.

Charles Kabore (Burkina Faso)
The Stallions’ have never really lit up the scene since their quarterfinal finish during the Afcon finals they hosted in 1998.

But when it comes to individual talent, Burkina Faso is always blessed with such players and the latest is Olympique Marseille’ defensive midfielder Charles Kabore.

A workhorse in coach Didier Deschamps’ midfield at the French Ligue 1 side, the 23-year-old has gained valuable experience from playing regular Uefa Champions League football.

A versatile midfielder with a big engine to last the entire match, Kabore also has leadership qualities that saw Deschamps entrusting him with the captaincy at one stage.

Jerome Ramatlhakwane (Botswana)
Ramatlhakwane, nicknamed “JJ”, gave a sneak preview of his profile on the continent during the qualifiers when his five goals in eight matches took the Zebras to their maiden Afcon finals appearance.

His clever runs into spaces, plus his first touch, makes Ramatlhakwane an important member in coach Stanley Tshosane’s ambitious team.

He will be one of the few players that will play in the tournament despite being clubless.

This after he parted ways acrimoniously with Santos last month when the PSL DC ordered the Cape Town-based club to release the 26-year-old striker from his contract.

Evans Kangwa (Zambia)
Kangwa finished as the top scorer during the Metropolitan Cosafa Under-20 Championships in Botswana last month.

The 17-year-old Nkana Red Devils striker earned his first cap in Chipolopolo’s warm-up mat
ch against Angola last month and he is already touted as a successor to striker Christopher Katongo.

His goal-scoring exploits in the Zambian league is the reason Kangwa is on the wanted list of Absa Premiership champions Orlando Pirates.

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