African Football: 10 Talents from 10 Less Prominent Footballing Countries – Part one

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The sheer number of countries in the vast African continent means there are many under the radar talents who have the potential to perform at a higher level. 

Part one of this two-part series will look at five African players hailing from five lesser-known African footballing nations: Republic of Congo, Benin, Southern Sudan, Mozambique and Zimbabwe and which club would be perfect for their next move. Part two of this series will analyse five more players from another five less prominent African footballing countries.

Raddy Ovouka (Age: 21, Position: Left Back, Country: Republic of Congo)

Ovouka left the Republic of Congo to join Hearts of Oak in January 2018. Since then, has become one of the best players in the Ghanaian Premier League. He is the modern-day prototype of a full back. He makes forward runs whenever he can, provides attacking width down the left side via overlaps and whips in dangerous crosses with his nice left foot. When he receives the ball in wide areas, he likes to dribble past opponents by facing them up 1v1, dropping a shoulder, shifting the ball and driving into space. 

Ovouka is clever at shifting the play from the defensive third into the midfield and attacking thirds. On receiving the ball from a narrower position closer to his centre-back teammate he cleverly angles his body to indicate he wants to pass the ball wide. Instead, he will take a disguised touch infield to fool his nearest opponent and then drive past them into central midfield and play the ball with his right foot out to his teammate stationed on the left wing. 

Ovouka’s good close control and technique aided by his speed and strength, increase his attacking threat and gives him the confidence to commit opponents and avoid their challenges. This makes him a capable right or left winger too. As an added bonus he is a useful set-piece taker and has a great long-throw. 

Ovouka stands over 1.82m and has a broad muscular frame. This gives him the strength and power to dominate smaller and physically weaker opponents in the air. It also helps him when he is running side by side with an attacker as he can use these traits to step across them, unbalance them and either recover the ball or clear the ball. Even though he is tall for a wing-back his hunched posture when moving with the ball gives him greater balance and enables him to change direction more smoothly when carrying the ball forward. 

To perform at a higher level Ovouka needs to iron out his defensive deficiencies. He sometimes stands face on and flat footed as a wide player travels towards him. This makes it easier for them to go past him because he cannot change or adapt his body stance and position quickly enough to deal with the opponent’s sudden change in direction resulting in them skipping past his challenge or forcing him to foul them. He needs to work on adopting a more side on stance to try and force the opponent inside or outside and in turn be in a better position to make an accurate tackle. He also sometimes lacks awareness of runners in behind him and in between himself and the left centre-back. He therefore needs to ensure he is alert, constantly watching the movements of his wide opponents and positioning himself with a more outward facing body stance when the opposition are in possession to more easily identify and react quickly to such runs. 

A good next move for Ovouka would be to Czech club Sparta Prague. It would be a clever step-up for him. They compete in a decent league which is not world’s away from the Ghanaian Premier League quality-wise which will make it easier for him to adapt. Additionally, he would provide a significant improvement in attacking areas compared to their current left-back Matej Hanoussek due to his superior technical and physical qualities. This would probably enable him to establish himself as their first choice left-back. 

Rodrigue Kossi (Age: 20, Position Defensive/Central Midfield, Country: Benin)

Kossi joined Club Africain in 2018 from Benin club Les Buffles FC du Borgou. He has established himself as a key starter for Club Africain this season after being a rotational player from midway through last season. He is a versatile midfielder who can play in a holding or box-to-box role. He even has the capabilities to play as an attacking midfielder if required. 

Kossi has excellent technical quality. He can manouevre the ball effectively out of tight areas using his tidy ball control and quick feet. Alongside this he can comfortably punch and ping a variety of passes including forward line-breaking passes and switch of play passes off both feet to teammates over short, medium and long distances from central zones of the field. His technique is complimented by his good awarenees and vision that enables him to identify teammates in dangerous advanced positions and execute a well-weighted pass for them to control with ease. 

Kossi has great athleticism. His coordination and balance allow him to slalom past players with the ball in central areas. This also helps him defensively when an opponent attempts to go past him as he can change direction quickly while maintaining balance. In turn helping him to stay with the opponent and win the ball off them and/or impede their intended action. His explosiveness over the first few yards enables him to create distance between himself and an opponent he is attempting to bypass. This also helps him recover nearby loose balls before opponents do. His quickness across the ground is advantageous as he can carry the ball forward speedily especially in transitions which helps counter-attacks. Defensively his speed is an asset because it means he can match quick offensive players stride for stride as they drive towards the final defensive line and/or penalty area and make a tackle or force them to turn backwards thus stifling the attack. Finally, his stamina is good as he can make forward runs when deployed as a box-to-box midfielder to supplement attacks. While he also has the stamina to cover the pitch both vertically when making recovery runs into defensive positions behind the ball and horizontally when running into wider areas to provide help to a wing-back left isolated with an attacker or if the wing-back is not there and he is covering for them. 

In the defensive midfield role Kossi demonstrates positional intelligence. He is great at picking up a position in the box just in front of the near post on the edge of the six-yard box behind his wing-back team when they are faced with an opponent 1v1 on the wing. This positioning enables him to block any low crosses or floated crosses played into that area. It also means that if the opponent manages to wriggle free of his teammate, he is close enough to quickly close them down forming another barrier of defence. He also adopts a clever body stance when defending attacks. He is usually facing inward or outward, slightly side on. This stance helps cut off some forward passing angles by encouraging the opponent to dribble or pass the ball in the direction he is facing as that dribbling or passing lane is more easily accessible. It also enables him to react quicker if the ball is played forward into space as he is positioned well and ready to chase after the ball as well as change direction easily to block spaces or close down a different opponent nearby if they are passed the ball. 

A move to Yeni Matalyaspor in the winter or summer transfer windows would be beneficial to Kossi and allow him to continue his progression. With Yeni Matalyaspor’s best player Burundian international midfielder Youssouf Ndayishimiye attracting strong interest from more prestigious European clubs like Anderlecht he is likely to depart soon. Kossi would be a fine replacement for Ndayishimiye and could slot seamlessly into Ndayishimiye’s role in the side. Like Ndayishimiye if he could adapt and display his ability a move from Yeni Matalyaspor to a bigger club would present itself within a year to 18 months. 

Joseph Kuch Nyuar (Age: 20, Position: Left Wing, Country: Southern Sudan)

Nyuar is a versatile attaching prospect who predominantly plays as a left sided attacker but can also play as a second striker or centre-forward depending on the formation and tactical system. 

Nyuar has good physical qualities. He is quick and has great acceleration which he uses to his advantage when attempting to evade opponents’ pressure. He also demonstrates decent balance which is useful as it enables him to produce a body swerve while in possession to fool an opponent to create enough space to sprint by them.

What is noticeable about Nyuar is that he is fearless when he receives the ball in wide areas. He will always try and drive with speed and purpose as he approaches defenders forcing them to either: back off giving him more space to make a decisive action like a cross or shot; or commit themselves and make a tackle which he sometimes overcomes with a touch which takes him away from the tackling leg/s of the opponent. 

Technically Nyuar needs some refining. His first touch is not always sharp and his dribbling style is somewhat clumsy and unconventional. Although his determination, balance and speed make him quite effective in 1v1’s. He can improve his first touch by repeatedly working on training ground exercises that focus on him receiving the ball played from different heights and angles at varying speeds when unmarked and under pressure. His ball carrying style can be smoother and more effective if he works on taking more precise, delicate touches as he travels with the ball rather than heavier touches which are harder to utilise to dribble past opponents and make it easier for opponents to have an opening to win the ball. 

Even though Nyuar is an attacking player, he is resolute and rugged in his defending. He makes life uncomfortable for defenders through persistent physical pressure when he loses the ball and tries to win it back off them or when an opponent tries to go past him. His work-rate, fighting spirit and competitiveness are evident in these situations. 

Nyuar has performed well at international level and it has been reported that he has scored almost 50 goals over the last two full seasons for his club Amarat United in Southern Sudan. As such he needs to play at a higher level to develop and reach his potential. A wise next step would be to Ugandan club Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) FC. They have an experienced manager who is good tactically and at developing young talent as shown by his success with Mustafa Kizza, Alan Okello and Muhammed Shaban. Nyuar would receive plenty of minutes because they only have two established wingers and two recognised strikers. Providing he can adapt to the higher level of football in Uganda he can become an effective and important player for them with his attributes. Possibly being capable of taking a further step-up in a few years. 

Luis Miquissone (Age: 25, Position: Attacking Midfield/Right Wing, Country: Mozambique)

Since joining Simba SC in January 2020 from Mozambican club UD Songo, Miquissone has developed into one of the most talented and influential players, currently playing in Africa. Although he is short in stature at just 1.70m he makes up for this with wonderful balance, coordination and suppleness. This enables him to bamboozle opponents with his sharp turns, body swerves and movements. Complimenting this is his blistering speed and acceleration over short distances, particularly his explosiveness from a standing start which allows him to fly past markers before they get a chance to make a tackle. Due to his small stature, he can be physically dominated by stronger opponents and displaced of possession too easily which is a concern. To help limit this problem he needs to ensure that he receives the ball on the half turn free from physical pressure, in the attacking third, where he can use his physical and technical attributes to cause havoc for defences. This requires him to improve his spatial awareness which is discussed below. 

Miquissone is a fantastic technician with great flair and artistry in his play. His delightful left foot enables him to manipulate the ball finely in tight areas and create the space required to spin away from an opponent or take a shot at goal. When dribbling, the ball is like a magnet to his left foot as he takes soft silky touches while travelling with the ball. He incorporates skills, fakes, shimmies and dummies while dribbling which tricks defenders into thinking he will strike the ball or move in a specific direction but instead he will move in different direction with the ball, breaking clear from the opponent and riding their challenges. Equally his ball striking technique with his sweet left foot is excellent especially his long-range shooting and crossing from slightly deeper on the flanks. Despite his reliance on his left foot for most actions in possession he looks comfortable shooting and crossing with his right foot if required as opposed to the awkwardness that tends to befall many left footers trying to strike with their right foot. 

Even though Miquissone is the creative hub for club and country, he does not neglect his defensive duties and is quite an industrious player. He is quick to recover into a helpful defensive position when possession is lost. He also presses opponents in possession to try and disrupt or dispossess them. This was evident during Mozambique’s 2-0 defeat to Cameroon in the 2nd leg of their 2022 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifier. 

Sometimes Miquissone struggles to find space in the final third when deployed as an attacking midfielder. On occasions he will be stood too close to an opponent that teammates deem it too risky to pass him the ball or has stationed himself in an area where the passing route to him is blocked by an opposition player’s position. As a result, he can be marked out of matches and his overall effectiveness limited. He therefore needs to improve his spatial awareness to better identify pockets of space between the lines in the final third to receive the ball. He can do this by consistently and repeatedly scanning for space in the final third, finding and entering space and demanding the ball be played forward to him quickly. If it does not come, he can move again into a different slice of space and ask for the ball once more. It is important he does not get disheartened if teammates fail to find him as eventually, they will, and he will be in a threatening position with space to exploit. 

At 25, Miquissone is approaching the peak of his career. He has recovered from his underwhelming time in South Africa and should now be looking to take the next step in his career in this window or in summer 2021. An intelligent move for him would be to Dutch club FC Twente. They have established themselves as one of the better clubs in the Eredivise since their return to the top-flight at the start of the 2019/2020 season. The technical style of football in the Netherlands would be perfect for him and would allow him to express himself effortlessly. This would not be the case in more intense, aggressive and physical European leagues. Additionally, if he joined in the winter window, he would provide more creativity and ingenuity from the right-wing than Vaclav Cerny has produced and could also act as an excellent back-up attacking midfielder for the on-loan Luka Ilic. 

Prince Dube (Age: 23, Position: Centre-Forward, Country: Zimbabwe)

The Zimbabwean born striker, Dube, has started to show his undoubted potential since moving to Azam FC in August 2020 following an unsuccessful spell in South Africa. 

Dube is around 1.80m and has a wiry frame which provides him with sufficient physical presence to cope as a lone centre-forward. To become a more effective centre-forward he needs to build his upper body strength. He can do this by implementing a strength programme to build some additional muscle on his upper body. This will help him hold off defenders better and retain possession when challenged with his back to goal from imposing centre-backs. A key attribute of his profile is his lightning speed and acceleration. This is especially advantageous when he makes smart runs in behind a defence because when he receives the ball, he has the speed to race towards goal and shoot without being caught by chasing defenders. Despite his height he lacks aerially presence. He has little impact in aerially duels from open play and fails to win most headers he challenges for. To become a greater aerially competitor he needs to improve the timing of his jumps. He can do this by working on more aerially duels in training to enhance the timing of his jumps that he can then replicate in matches. Alongside this, he can do squats with barbell weights to build up stronger quadriceps, hamstrings and calves which will give him a greater upwards spring. 

During Dube’s time in both Zimbabwe and Tanzania he has demonstrated his accomplished finishing ability. He is capable of finishing from anywhere inside the box with both feet and has scored the odd goal with his head too. He likes to produce one touch finishes in the box which shows his sharpness and decisiveness in front of goal. 

Dube needs to tighten up his first touch as it can be loose resulting in him losing possession more often than he should. This may be a technical flaw, a lack of concentration or a combination of both. He therefore needs to work on his first touch through repeated training ground exercises that force him to take a pristine first touch to prevent losing the ball. Parallel to this he needs to ensure he has maximum focus when the ball is played into him to ensure his first touch is crisp to reduce the chances of losing possession. 

Currently sidelined with a forearm injury Dube would not be able to transfer this window but could move in the summer window. A great move for him would be to Belgian top division club Zulte Waregem because they could provide him with the opportunity to harness his characteristics in a higher-level competition. He would provide speed and intelligent off-the-ball runs that stretch opposition defences, something that they lack as their centre-forwards are more static, target men type players. His acquisition would give the manager greater tactical versatility as he could play as part of a front two or as a lone centre-forward depending on the match plan devised by the manager. 

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