Steve Mvoue: Who Is Cameroon’s AFCON-Bound Wonderkid?

Clarence Seedorf has named the 17-year-old midfielder, the star of the Indomitable Lions’ U-17 Afcon success, in his provisional squad for Egypt.

When Steve Mvoue netted a hat-trick in Cameroon’s 7-1 demolition of the Central African Republic in the U-17 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers in Equatorial Guinea, the 16-year-old could never have imagined that he’d be named in the Indomitable Lions provisional squad for the Africa Cup of Nations a year later.

Yet after winning the age-grade tournament with Cameroon in Tanzania last month, the Azur Academy midfielder was a surprise inclusion in Clarence Seedorf’s preliminary squad for the continental showpiece this summer.

Mvoue may not have made his senior debut yet, but he appears to be following in the footsteps of four-time African Player of the Year Samuel Eto’o, who debuted for the squad at the age of 16, and midfielders Stephane Mbia and Alexander Song, who took the same youthful path in 2005.

Fabrice Olinga, who netted on his debut against Cape Verde in 2012, is another recent example of a starlet who was promoted to the senior set-up after starring as a youngster. After becoming Malaga’s youngest goalscorer, he was named in Cameroon’s squad for the 2014 World Cup.

Could Mvoue, now 17, also make the cut for Cameroon’s final tournament squad, and just how good can this precocious talent become?

Mvoue was decisive in the qualifiers for the U-17 Afcon; he scored three times as Cameroon walloped the Central African Republic in the UNIFFAC tournament last year, and then helped the Central African nation reach the final with one of the semi-final goals against hosts Equatorial Guinea.

Cameroon went on to win the tournament, and the Yaounde native top scored with four goals, winning the attention of ex-U-17 Lions coach Lucien Mettomo.

“If Mvoue is already very strong at his young age, it is thanks to his technique in motion and his dribbles,” the 2002 World Cup defender told the Cameroon football association’s official website.

“He must work harder on his tactical repositioning, and especially his defensive play, in order to continue to progress.”

Mvoue’s composure and elegance for one so young also stand out, while he’s capable of passing efficiently and effectively, and plays with an infectious joy in the heart of the park.

He wasn’t fazed by teams’ attempts to disrupt him or close him down during the Afcon, instead demonstrating his ability to turn, spin away, and escape with the ball when pinned down in tight spaces.

In Tanzania, Wamba Leonel and Alioum Moubarak shared three goals as Cameroon marched on to clinch the U-17 Afcon trophy, but Mvoue was named Player of the Tournament for his excellence in the midfield.

Prior to the competition, he’d scored three times in preparatory games in Turkey and Rwanda, and was named Man of the match in the latter.

He also has pedigree.

His mother Regine led the Lionesses to the Women’s Afcon final in 1991, and his elder brother Stephane Zobo, who is on the books of Toulouse, scored both goals in Cameroon’s 2017 U-17 Africa Cup of Nations campaign in Gabon.

“I pray that one day I can feature in the senior team and win titles too,” the wonderkid told the U-17 Afcon website.

Mvoue certainly has competition if he’s to make the Afcon squad — Seedorf has named a sprawling 37-man preliminary squad — but this early recognition is evidence that Cameroon have a genuinely exciting talent on their hands.

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