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Five under-the-radar African World Cup stars to watch

The World Cup can be a valuable opportunity to watch players who wouldn't usually grace our television screens and to get a glimpse of up-and-coming talents who haven't yet been exposed to Europe's major leagues.

It's also a good chance to see how some of the game's younger stars fare against more established opponents, while also seeing whether an old-timer who's never perhaps got the recognition he deserves can enjoy one final hurrah.

You've read a lot about the Mohamed Salahs and the Sadio Manes of the continent ahead of this World Cup, but here are five under-the-radar African stars who you should also be keeping tabs on in Russia.

Brian Idowu is well placed to dislodge the unpopular Elderson Echiejile on the left side of Nigeria's defence on the eve of the tournament after impressing for the Super Eagles during the pre-tournament friendlies.

He's been included in the squad ahead of the more versatile Ola Aina, and his lively work down the flank could help Gernot Rohr facilitate a transition to three at the back with more thrust from his widemen.

Idowu was born in Russia, plays for Amkar Perm in the domestic top flight, and marked his international debut for the West African giants with a goal off the bench against Argentina in November's Krasnodar friendly.

Anice Badri: Tunisia are in danger of being left short offensively this summer after being denied the services of Youssef Msakni and Yassine Taha Khenissi due to injury.

They're big losses, particularly with England and Belgium in their first two matches, but Badri could be a potential problem-solver for coach Nabil Maaloul.

He's a versatile option whose flexibility means he's a contender to fill various offensive positions, notably as a second striker, as an option on the right or providing thrust from a midfield role.

The 27-year-old has two goals in his last three matches, and is coming into form - and prominence - at just the right time for the Carthage Eagles.

Abdallah El Said: While Egypt are dependent on Mohamed Salah, who's their one world-class talent, talk of them being a one-man team are borderline insulting for a squad that contains various other talented individuals.

One such player is El Said, who netted twice during qualification including the winner against Congo-Brazzaville in October 2016.

At 32, the creative midfielder is no young buck primed to break onto the scene, and having just secured a move to Saudi Arabia's Al-Ahli, he's unlikely to be at the heart of any transfer rumours either.

However, what he will do is provide central support for Salah, help to knit this side together, and maybe weigh in with a goal or two.

Sofyan Amrabat faces something of a battle to get on the pitch in Russia, but he has Herve Renard's backing and clearly has done enough to earn the coach's faith despite a tricky year at Feyenoord.

His tenacity and battling qualities make him a good fit for this Atlas Lions squad, and memorably held his own in the Dutch heavyweights' Champions League clash with Manchester City during this season's group stage.

Amrabat and compatriot Karim El Ahmadi were two of the Eredivisie's top three most prolific foulers during the 2016-17 campaign, and he looks primed to be his club teammate's long-term successor at international level.

Moussa Konate: Senegal have a wealth of attacking options, although it remains to be seen exactly how Aliou Cisse will shuffle his pack in order to get the best out of the options available.

Competition is intense, but one player who ought to be figuring prominently in the coach's plans is Konate, who offers speed and relentless work rate as a line-leader.

He hasn't necessarily progressed as many would have hoped, but he appears to have the faith of Cisse and demonstrated, with 13 goals in 33 Ligue 1 outings, that he can hold his own against some fine defenders.

Two goals for Amiens against Paris Saint-Germain, no less, in May was a thrilling window into just what Konate is capable of when he's enjoying a good day, and he also found the net in Monday's friendly victory over South Korea.

Ed Dove is the Soccer Editor for KweséESPN. Follow him on Twitter @EddyDove.

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