Odilon Kossounou has been a standout performer for Bayer Leverkusen this season. INA FASSBENDER/AFP via Getty Images

The 2023 Africa Cup of Nations finally kicks off this weekend after it was delayed from last summer due to concerns over the weather conditions in host country the Ivory Coast.

Featuring 24 of the continent's premier men's national teams, the tournament will begin on Jan. 13 and end on Feb. 11. But who are the young players under the age of 23 you need to keep an eye on?

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Odilon Kossounou, 23, CB, Bayer Leverkusen - Ivory Coast

Scouts heading to the Ivory Coast will undoubtedly be tracking the home nation's defensive colossus. Considered by many to be the best defender in the German Bundesliga this season, as Leverkusen have dominated proceedings, Kossounou has taken his game to a new level.

While his defensive qualities have never been in doubt, the young defender has radically improved his distribution and, having adapted well to coach Xabi Alonso's back three, the 6-foot-3 centre-back has also made a habit of stepping up with the ball, often carrying it past the first line of pressure in the process (1.90 progressive carries per 90 minutes.)

Leverkusen will surely see plenty of interest in signing the former Club Brugge defender over the next months.

Salis Abdul Samed, 23, DM, Lens - Ghana

Abdul Samed has emerged as a key component for club and country (especially with the injury-enforced absence of Thomas Partey) over the past year. The defensive midfielder is exceptionally disciplined, picks up possession, presses the opposition and shifts the ball quickly and purposefully.

Now in his third season as a Ligue 1 regular, when Abdul Samed is not in the side it is clear to see how the midfield structure suffers. With his relentless movement off the ball, he always offers passing options and makes his teams tick.

Mohamed Amoura, 23, FW, Union St.-Gilloise - Algeria

One of the revelations of the Belgian league since his €4 million transfer from Swiss side Lugano in the summer. Despite predominantly being fielded as a left winger (he can feature as a "False No. 9" too) and the fact he does not take penalties, Amoura has scored 12 league goals this season. Indeed, he has found the net seven times in the last seven fixtures, including one against Liverpool in the 2-1 win in the Europa League.

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Equipped with a low centre of gravity and an astonishing change of pace, Amoura poses a significant threat when he picks up the ball in wide-left positions, where he can take on defenders or hit an early shot.

An excellent dribbler (5.7 progressive carries per 90 minutes), he makes forceful runs off the ball and constantly turns up in danger areas (illustrated by an astounding 8.6 touches in the opposing box per 90 minutes.)

Lameck Banda, 22, FW, Lecce - Zambia

Having played in Russia and Israel, the speedy left winger is starting to make a positive impression in Serie A. Arguably at his best in the transitional phase of the game, Banda's combination of high-speed running, excellent ball-carrying and unpredictable dribbling patterns make him a tremendous force on the break.

Though only 5-foot-7, the Zambia international features impressive upper-body strength which makes him hard to knock off balance and forces opponents to double up to mark him or stop him through illegal means.

While he's at his most efficient when cutting in from the left onto his right foot, Banda is also a fine crosser of the ball, habitually targeting the area between the goalkeeper and the penalty spot with tantalising inswingers.

Lamine Camara, 20, CM, Metz - Senegal

Named the African Young Player of the Year in 2023, Camara is an industrious box-to-box midfielder with outstanding stamina and work ethic. But the 20-year-old is not just about industry, graft or determination: in late October he scored one of the Ligue 1 goals of the season as he spotted the Monaco goalkeeper off his line and spectacularly took on a shot from inside his own half.

Camara has been pivotal in the success of Senegal's youth sides over the past few years, with great things expected from him as he builds his career in European football.

Bilal El Khannouss, 19, CM, Genk - Morocco

A lot is expected of the talented Bilal El Khannouss. Isosport/MB Media/Getty Images

A dominating central midfielder who can play as a No. 8 or No. 10. Rated by many as the next superstar to come from Morocco, El Khannouss switched allegiances after featuring for Belgium's youth sides and a lot expected of him.

A supremely talented flair player -- the variation and precision in his forward passes are of a high standard -- he's also disciplined enough to track back, press and regain possession through tackles (2+ successful tackles per 90 minutes.)

El Khannouss has reportedly been monitored by big Premier League clubs such as Liverpool and Manchester United, and when the 19-year-old eventually leaves Belgian football, the fee is likely to beat the €36.5m transfer record paid by AC Milan to sign Charles De Ketelaere in 2022.

Kamory Doumbia, 20, AM, Brest (on loan from Reims) - Mali

While Doumbia's career might not yet have fully taken off, he's one of the most in-form players coming into the tournament. The 20-year-old signed off his Ligue 1 year with four first-half goals in Brest's 4-0 home win against Lorient before he was taken off after an hour. Moreover, he's scored four goals for his country in the last four competitive international games.

While he's still looking to find consistency, the energetic attacking midfielder is more than capable of making an immediate impact from the bench.

Karim Konaté, 19, FW, FC Salzburg - Ivory Coast

Tor-Kristian Karlsen is a Norwegian football scout and executive and is the former chief executive and sporting director at AS Monaco. He will write regularly for ESPN on the business of soccer and the process of scouting.

Unusually for a teenager based in Africa, Konate triggered huge interest from European clubs as a 16-year-old following outstanding performances for ASEC Mimosas in his home country. In the end, Salzburg had to fend off competition from several other European clubs to land the striker in a €3.5m deal in July 2022.

On the evidence of his first year-and-a-half in Austria, there's every chance that Konate will follow the same path Karim Adeyemi, Erling Haaland and Patson Daka did at Salzburg on his way to a European top league. In addition to being athletic, active -- his off the ball movement sees him arrive frequently in goal-scoring positions -- and opportunistic, the 19-year-old is excellent in the air and strikes the ball well with both feet.

Faris Moumbagna, 23, ST, Bodø/Glimt - Cameroon

A relative newcomer at international level, Moumbagna only picked up his first cap in November on the back of a remarkable year with the Norwegian champions. And his road to European football has been anything but ordinary.

The powerful, left-footed forward spent two seasons in the United Soccer League with Bethlehem Steel before arriving in Norway at Kristiansund. But it took a move to Bodø/Glimt before he found consistent goal-scoring form.

A clinical finisher who can score from a variety of angles and positions, he leads the line well and is at his best when he can take advantage of his outstanding speed to run in behind the defensive line.

Adamo Nagalo, 20, CB, FC Nordsjaelland - Burkina Faso

Not yet a regular in the side, the ball-playing centre-back has still attracted admirers in the Premier League and Bundesliga. Mobile, elegant, excellent at early interceptions and athletic, Nagalo stands out for his skills on the ball -- he often touches it 70-plus times during a match -- and is capable of finding passes between the lines or pinpointing runners from deep.

A joy to watch, Nagalo's unwavering confidence means he is happy to travel forward with the ball, often deceiving the first line of pressure with a risky dribble or a change of pace.