The Dream Team United; Our u/23 All-Star Select (Week 1)

African Cup of Nations 2015

As we celebrate the end of the first week of football at Africa’s grandest football stage, we at GSV have took it upon ourselves to assemble our all-star team of u/23 lads that have amazed and astounded us thus far in the 30th edition of the African Cup of Nations. These lads have put their hands up and shown that there will be abundant talent on show in the coming editions of the Afcon, talent that could grow into a crop of players that fly the African flag high across the football fraternity. With no further delays, we give you the u/23 version of The Dream Team United; in an unorthodox 3-6-1 for an unrivalled sense of balance.

GK – Felipe Ovono [July 26th, 1993] (21) {Deportivo Mongomo} Equatorial Guinea

The National Thunder have surprised all and sundry in this Afcon with their enterprising attacking play, yet their two draws have come with the help of a young man who seems to have a set of golden gloves on his hands; in a young squad packed with international born and based talents, Ovono has showed that he has the ability to hold his own and establish himself as a talent that will be Equatorial Guinea’s number one stopper for the next decade. Ovono has only conceded the single goal in his countries two encounters so far, for a lad many expected to pick a few balls out of his net in this competition, he has done very well for himself thus far.

RCB – Daniel Amartey [December 21st, 1994] (20) {F.C. Copenhagen} Ghana

Ghana have been a nation on the rise again in the African football fraternity, their talented side has been strengthened by top quality players coming into the national team fold and establishing themselves as fixtures from a relatively young age. The Black Stars have been fortunate enough to keep supplementing their peaking stars with talented young lads year after year for a while now, this Afcon 2015 tournament saw them add a few more young stars to their growing galaxy; one such player is a young man that made his competitive debut in the opening encounter loss against Senegal and displayed a defensive level of maturity beyond his years. Daniel Amartey is the type of central defender Mama Africa has been producing for years; strong in the tackle, quick across the ground, good in the air and not too shabby with the ball at his feet. Amartey could be the type of central defender that Ghana can build their defence upon for years to come.

CB – Eric Bertrand Bailly [April 12th, 1994] (20) {RCD Espanyol} Ivory Coast

When one talks about the current generation of Ivory Coast’s side, they don’t always tend to rave about its defensive solidity and their ability to keep out more than the score on a less than offensively penetrative game; yet all that looks on the brink of changing now that the guard is being handed over to the next crop of talented lads on the rise. Eric Bertrand Bailly is a modern age central defender, good on the ball and defensively more aware than the average 20 year old centre back can attest to being; Bailly has all the tools to become the cornerstone of The Elephants’ defence as they rebuild an aging side in the coming months. There are bags of potential in the lad and one can only hope that it continues to be harnessed well as he develops into one of Mama Africa’s premier central defenders.

LCB – Rivaldo Coetzee [October 16th, 1996] (18) {Ajax Cape Town} South Africa

When Rivaldo Coetzee first broke into the Bafana Bafana squad at the start of their Afcon Qualifying campaign, even the most optimistic advocates of youth development at senior national team level could not have predicted just how well the lad would fare in his role as the cover defender in a side that enjoyed playing the brand of attacking football that encourages the fullbacks to get forward and occasionally leave the defenders to deal with even more pressure than they would be content to deal with. Rivaldo has become such a vital part of how South Africa defend that the 20 odd minutes he spent on the field for them in this tournament so far, were the most solid and composed the side has looked in their entire campaign. The young lad has shown that he has the abilities to grow into one of the finest central defenders Mzansi has produced in their history; confident in the tackle, bags of pace to burn and a physical stature that allows him to compete against the more brutish forwards, Valdo adds a dynamic passing range to an already impressive and well rounded game to make for one exciting star of the future.

RWB – Serge Aurier [December 24th, 1992] (22) {Paris Saint-Germain} Ivory Coast

If you talk about Africa’s premier right fullback and the name Serge Aurier does not come up, you aren’t conversing with an enlightened football mind, the young Ivorian has grown into an all action fullback with the positional sense of an experienced lad, a trait he combines well with his on the ball ability to make for one great prospect in the coming years. Serge has made that Ivory Coast right flank his own with his great engine allowing him to get up and down the channel, contributing on both ends and showing the quality to make things happen for his nation. He may be yet to play his best game in this edition of the Afcon 2015 tournament, yet the lad has already proven that there are few in the African football fraternity that can match him for ability; and the truth is that even fewer lads can match him for potential either.

LWB – Baba Rahman [July 2nd, 1994] (20) {FC Augsburg} Ghana

When one looks at the premier left fullbacks of the modern game, they all have the unique skill set that allows them to dominate defensively while adding a great deal of dynamic play to the attack of their sides. Baba Rahman is one of the most defensively astute young left fullbacks in the entire football fraternity, a great one-on-one defender with the tenacity to get stuck in and leave an attacking player feeling like he has been ineffectual after spending time trying to get the better of the young lad. Having also made his senior national team bow on Africa’s grandest stage and showing the glimpses of ability that have many raving about his abilities, Baba is a lad with a very bright future in the game. One of Ghana’s brightest stars so far on the defensive end in his tournament and a young man that seems to grow in confidence with each game he plays in the jersey of The Black Stars, Rahman will continue to grow in leaps and bounds.

B2B – Chancel Mbemba Mangulu [August 8th, 1994] (20) {RSC Anderlecht} DR Congo

One cannot help but admire the progress Chancel Mbemba Mangulu has made in his career to date, an astute reader of the game with the engine to cover a lot of ground without tiring as he continues to get about the field winning tackles and breaking up offensive moves for his side. The DR Congo are blessed to have an elite level industrious midfield player with the ability to protect their defensive line while aiding in the retention of the ball with a great degree of competency, Chancel is a player whose star continues to rise with each game and its only a matter of time before he develops into a premier midfielder with the aptitude to become a general for any side whose midfield he marshals.

DLP – Nabil Bentaleb [November 24th, 1994] (20) {Tottenham Hotspur FC} Algeria

Nabil Bentaleb is probably one of the finest midfielders of his generation, strong and aggressive while also very technically well versed; Nabil has all the hallmarks of a top level midfield general with the passing vision of an artist of the highest quality. The hard working nature of his game on and off the field means that he continues to grow in leaps and bounds with every game and training session and he adds a true touch of class to playing midfield in the modern age. Blessed with a body that most would spend years in the gym for, Bentaleb keeps adding a new dimension to his game as he aspires to become an elite level superstar in the coming seasons. Algeria’s pressing game revolves around his ability to play at a high level with ease while pressuring their opponents into making mistakes and using his passing range to pick out his teammates as they break forward.

AM – Naby Keïta [February 10th, 1995] (19) {Red Bull Salzburg} Guinea

If one thought of the young attacking players that flew into Equatorial Guinea for this tournament, Naby Keïta was not one of the top names to come to mind; yet the lad has held his own against some top class opponents and he has shown his ability to get involved offensively while also getting stuck in and mixing it up defensively. His passing vision and direct running ability have been marvellous to watch at times, the teenager has shown that ability has little to do with age and he will continue to get better as he grasps the nuances of playing football at the international level. Naby has an ability to turn a game on its head in an instance, an ability we look for in an attacking midfield player; there is an abundant amount of potential in the lad and one gets the feeling he will fulfil that potential in the years to come.

AM – Iván Salvador Edú [December 11th, 1995] (19) {Valencia Mestalla} Equatorial Guinea

One of the standout young talents in this Afcon 2015 has been the skilful and visionary Iván Edú, the young lad has been a star in a young squad that has played with the type of passion you wouldn’t expect from lads that weren’t born in the tiny country. Iván has helped repay the faith the gaffer showed in a group of young lads that many didn’t give a second thought to before their opening game heroics. It has been fairytale stuff for the lad and his mates as they had been expected to be the whipping boys in Group A, Edú’s stock as risen considerably with every mazy run he has gone on and every well weighted pass he has made. It is well worth applauding how he has showed his class in a tournament packed with established stars and even inspired his side where more decorated campaigners have failed, this young lad will continue to develop into one of Africa’s finest unsung heroes as this tournament goes on.

CF – Mohamed Yattara [July 28th, 1993] (21) {Olympique Lyonnais} Guinea

Guinea may be the team to watch offensively in a group that produces draws at an alarming rate, their defensive acumen is inspiring to watch at times, yet it’s their ability to get forward and create chances in abundance that makes them a threat in this tournament. One of their brightest players going forward is the talented young man named Mohamed Yattara, he brings an all action game to his side and provides a great focal point for offensive attacks. It is no secret that he needs to develop more composure in front of goals, yet the lad has already shown the aptitude to develop into a leading forward for his nation in the years to come. Yattara adds great value to the pressing game with his ability to press from the front and give the opposition defenders little time on the ball to build from the back; it’s his application to playing his heart out for the side that marks him as a different calibre of forward.


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