The next Salah? Six African wonderkids to watch after U-20 Afcon

The U-20 Africa Cup of Nations concluded this weekend, as Ghana defeated Uganda 2-0 in Saturday's final, and there was no shortage of talent to keep an eye on.

The fixture was the highlight of a compelling three-week showcase of Africa's next generation of talents, as the stars of tomorrow competed for one of the continent's most prestigious youth prizes.

The U-20 AFCON has long offered supporters of the continent's game the chance to catch a glimpse of some of Africa's brightest young talents, with various big names earning their stripes in the tournament.

In previous editions, the likes of Mohamed Salah and Yaya Toure showcased their nascent qualities before a watching world, while players such as Emad Moteab and Uche Nwofor clinched the Golden Boot before going on to senior international careers with Egypt and Nigeria respectively.

Here are ESPN's top six stars from the 2021 U-20 AFCON.

Abdul Fatawu Issahaku

Attacking midfielder Fatawu was certainly the most eye-catching player at the tournament, and was responsible for his own mini Goal of the Tournament competition after two -- and nearly three -- sensational efforts from range.

He struck in Ghana's opening romp against Tanzania -- a left-footed effort from just inside the opposition half -- and then followed that up with the opener in their final group game against Gambia.

Fatawu could have added a third goal with an audacious Pele-esque half volley from inside his own half against Gambia, and also demonstrated his big-game mentality with an assist for Daniel Afriyie in the final.

Currently with Steadfast FC in his homeland, Fatawu also impressed with his versatility, his intelligence and confidence -- particularly considering he is only 16.

The midfielder, who boasts a superb left foot, was named as Player of the Tournament, and it will be fascinating to see whether he can build on this impressive introduction.

Derrick Kakooza

Despite ending up on the losing side in Saturday's final, Kakooza can nonetheless look back on a fine campaign in which he ended as the tournament's top scorer.

He bagged five during the course of the contest, including the opener against Mozambique and the late winner against hosts Mauritania in the group stage.

His showing against fancied Tunisia in the semi-final, when he netted a hat-trick -- the first of his career -- in a thumping 4-1 triumph for the East Africans, was the outstanding performance of the tournament, with the Carthage Eagles unable to cope with the attacker.

Kakooza's key assets are his composure, off-the-ball movement and eye for goal -- qualities that will serve him well as his career progresses.

"Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn," Kakooza wrote on Twitter after the final. "It didn't go the way we wanted, but it's a pleasure we broke the odds."

Daniel Afriyie Barnieh

With two goals in the final against Uganda, pressure will also be on Afriyie to see if he can build on this showing, or whether he will be another Ransford Osei, for whom a double in a triumphant U-20 final for Ghana proved to be the highlight of his career.

Afriyie's opener, to settle any Ghanaian nerves, showcased his intelligent movement at a set piece -- getting ahead of the Ugandan defenders to athletically turn home a corner at the near post.

His sumptuous first touch set him apart from some of the tournament's other players, while his poaching ability was on show for Ghana's second, as he reacted quickest to a deflection to finish calmly with his left-foot at the far post.

The 19-year-old currently represents Hearts of Oak, and excels either on the left side or as a leading man.

He was reportedly offered a trial by French side SC Amiens in late 2020, and while a formal move ultimately didn't materialise, expect his performances in Mauritania to have piqued the interest of European club scouts.

Lamarana Jallow

One of the stand-out performers of the group stage -- and yet another reason why Gambia fans can be very excited about their footballing future -- Jallow was particularly impressive in the Scorpions' 1-1 draw with Tanzania.

He was named Man of the Match in that contest, as the East Africans struggled to cope with his direct running through the middle, his ability to beat a man and his powerful physique.

There were times when Jallow opted to shoot rather than play in a better placed teammate, but he did net the winner against Ghana in the group stage to take Gambia into the knockout rounds.

After another fine display against the Central African Republic, the midfielder had averaged two goalscoring chances created per match, won almost as many free kicks, and confirmed his ability to carry the ball effectively.

Fellow Gambians Wally Fofana and Jawra Lamin were unfortunate to miss out on this list, with the latter also making CAF's Team of the Tournament.

Blondon Meyapya Fongain

Cameroon will be disappointed by their narrow quarterfinal exit at the hands of Ghana, as they fell to the eventual champions on penalties following a cagey 1-1 draw.

However, their elimination shouldn't come at the expense of a largely immaculate group stage, in which they topped their pool with maximum points -- including victory over Uganda -- having conceded just once.

Their defensive performance was due in no small part to the performances of Meyapya, who captained the Lions with maturity, power and immense aerial presence.

Still playing with Fauve d'Azur despite being 20, Meyapya has been rewarded for his excellent performances with a call-up to the Indomitable Lions' senior side.

"It was a massive surprise," he told the Cameroon federation upon his call-up. "I wasn't waiting for it, but I'm really delighted.

"I never had any contract with the head coach, who has surprised me, but this is a stage that I always wanted to reach."

Ibrahim Danlad

A third Ghanaian player in this list -- although left-footed Percious Boah is particularly unfortunate to miss out after netting three goals -- Danlad was named Goalkeeper of the Tournament after underpinning the Black Satellites' success.

It's a hard road for African goalkeepers to convince enough on the continent to secure moves to Europe, but Danlad might just make it after registering four clean sheets in six tournament outings.

He gets down quickly to block shots, demonstrated his agility with saves from close range, made a decisive save in the penalty shootout victory over Cameroon, and appeared to grow as the tournament wore on.

There are some elements of his game that need work -- notably a tendency to parry efforts back into dangerous areas -- but the Asante Kotoko stopper certainly did his nation proud during the course of the competition.