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Wafu Cup of Nations: Six 'Who's that guy?!' players to watch

The sixth edition of the West Africa Football Union Cup of Nations kicks off in Thies, Senegal, on Saturday, with 16 of the region's sides -- with Sierra Leone having replaced guests Morocco -- contesting the two-week competition.

Morocco had been invited to participate in the tournament for the first time, after Sierra Leone were banned from international football by FIFA earlier in the year, but the North Africans withdrew on Tuesday.

Morocco's Football Federation had planned to send the country's under-23 squad to the tournament, but leading clubs in Morocco refused to release players for the tournament, prompting the federation to withdraw.

Sierra Leone, who are WAFU members, hence were called up to take back their slot after their ban had been lifted by FIFA.

Past editions of the tournament have thrown up some star players and memorable performers, some of whom have used it as a launch pad to greater things in their career.

Which of the players set to compete at the Wafu Cup of Nations in Senegal could emerge as a star at the tournament?

Nouh Mohamed El Abd (Mauritania)

Mauritania isn't typically considered to be a hotbed for African talent, but that may change after the Wafu Cup of Nations.

The northwest African nation boast several exciting prospects in its squad in Senegal, including El Abd, a six-footer for Nouakchott-based FC Tevragh-Zeina, showing potential to go onto greater things.

He is a central defender who can also play full-back, and boasts the technique to set him apart from some of the other players in his position in Senegal.

Augustine Okrah (Ghana)

Unlike a few of the other players on this list, who are still making their way in the senior game, Okrah has already 'been there and done that'.

The diminutive forward is back in Ghana after spells in Egypt, with Smouha, and Sudan, with both Omdurman giants Al-Merreikh and Al-Hilal. He also represented Hacken BK in Sweden and featured for Northeast United in India before returning home to play for Asante Kotoko.

His movement, footwork and invention could help Ghana prise open opposition backlines, while his experience, set-piece quality and recent form - he scored in the CAF Champions League victory over Etoile du Sahel - make him a potential star of the tournament.

Richard Nane (Togo)

Togo arrive at the WAFU Cup of Nations in fine fettle, having dispatched Nigeria 4-1 in the first leg of their African Nations Championship qualifier in Lome on Sunday.

Admittedly, that was only the first leg of a double-header, and they still have work to do to book their spot at the CHAN tournament, but that convincing performance will ensure their 'dark horse' status heading into the tournament.

Nane was the star man in that triumph, netting in the 16th and 67th minutes as the Sparrow Hawks battled back from a goal down, and he will surely relish the chance to face Nigeria again in the first round of the WAFU Cup of Nations.

The forward certainly has momentum, having also scored the winner for reigning Togo league winners ASC Kara as they advanced to the first round of the CAF Champions League last month.

Pape Seydou N'Diaye (Senegal)

The goalkeeper is the most accomplished player in the hosts' squad, having already been called up to the full Teranga Lions side -- making his full debut in 2016.

N'Daye was also a part of the squad that travelled to Gabon to contest the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations, but he has struggled to muscle his way back into the senior reckoning ahead of the likes of Alfred Gomis and Edouard Mendy.

His presence is a clear asset for the hosts as he looks to reassert himself, while, at 26, he appears ripe for a move away from his homeland.

Mark Karlay (Liberia)

Liberia will not lack firepower when they contest the WAFU Cup of Nations this month, with the West Africans boasting plenty of players who can trouble the opposition defence.

Lone Stars coach Robert Lartey opted not to use Jestino Jackson, but he can call on the dual threats of Mark Yallah and Mark Karlay, both of whom scored 18 goals in the nation's second tier last term.

The latter, formerly of Pags FC, since secured a move to domestic heavyweights LISCR FC in August. He can be guilty of lacking concentration in the final third and missing chances, but still he could prove to be a handful for opposition backlines.

Nabil Yarou (Benin)

Another central defender who could catch the eye in Senegal, Yarou arrives at the tournament fresh from winning his nation's Super Cup with Buffles FC du Borgou.

As captain of his club, he'll bring leadership to The Squirrels' backline, while he also leads by example and will put his body on the line to protect the West Africans' goal.

The centre-back has progressed physically in recent seasons, while his positioning and game-reading are notable qualities that will make Benin tough to break down.

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