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Euro 2020 - Seven players of African origin you may not know, but should

Alexander Isak may have the intelligence, aggression and explosive pace to fill Zlatan Ibrahimovic's boots for Sweden at Euro 2020 and beyond.. Michael Campanella/Getty Images

You've read ESPN's Euro 2020 preview -- the star players, the big predictions, the potential Golden Boot winners -- but what about those players you may not have heard of before?

Here are seven UEFA European Championship-bound players with African origins, each with a story to tell.

Nuno Mendes (Portugal)

Mendes heads into the tournament as a relative unknown, but with both Manchester clubs rumoured to be considering him for a future transfer, don't expect it to stay that way for long.

The 18-year-old has enjoyed a breakout season with Sporting Club in Portugal, where his speed with the ball at his feet and some delightful technical ability have regularly caught the eye.

His role in Sporting's title success earned him a spot in Portugal's squad, and expect him to get some game time with the reigning champions even though he may not unseat Raphael Guerreiro as the starting left-back.

Born in the Angolan community of Sintra, Mendes cost Sporting an initial €250 -- yes, you read that correctly -- but his contract with the Leoes is currently protected by a €45 million buyout clause.

He follows in the footsteps of Portuguese-Angolan internationals such as Jose Aguas, Joaquim Santana, Fernando Peyroteo and current teammate William Carvalho.

Nikolai Alho (Finland)

The first of several members of a cosmopolitan Finland side to feature in this list, Alho is likely to be the starting right-back for Suomi during the tournament.

He was born to Ghanaian-Finnish parents, whom he has never met after being adopted, and became the first Person of Colour to represent the national side when he made his debut against Oman in 2014.

Like Netherlands duo Memphis Depay and Quincy Promes, he has cultivated an avenue for musical expression, having bought recording equipment with his first football pay cheque.

He subsequently sang and rapped -- in English -- on several singles released since 'Standing Right Here' hit the Finnish charts in 2013.

His music passion burns still, with Alho having founded the Finnish record label 325 Media in 2015 alongside fellow footballers Veltteri Moren and Jesse Joronen.

Alho is one of six players of Ghanaian origin set to compete at the competition.

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Cody Gakpo (Netherlands)

Gakpo forced his way into the Netherlands team at the expense of Tottenham Hotspur forward Steven Bergwijn, and now has the opportunity to prove he belongs at this level.

PSV Eindhoven fans -- and Eredivisie defences -- will already be convinced of the forward's merits, with him having scored seven goals in the Dutch top flight this season.

He also finished the year as the joint-fifth most consistent dribbler in the division, and is a sight to behold when in full flight with the ball at his feet.

He's a homegrown talent at the Philips Stadion, having been raised in the shadow of the ground before being promoted from the PSV academy to Jong PSV to the seniors.

Still eligible for Ghana and Togo through his parents, Gakpo has represented the Netherlands at every age group from Under-18 to Under-21, and he created more goalscoring chances than any other player at the recently concluded Under-21 Euros.

He heads into the tournament without having received a senior cap.

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Glen Kamara (Finland)

One of two players of Sierra Leonean origin set to feature at Euro 2020 -- the other is Chelsea and Germany centre-back Antonio Rudiger -- Kamara will be no stranger to observers of the Scottish Premiership.

He's coming off the back of a sensational season with Glasgow Rangers, for whom he was a key figure as Steven Gerrard's side won the title without falling to a single defeat.

Working alongside Gerrard -- one of the finest central midfielders of his generation -- is clearly benefiting Kamara, whose use of the ball, agility in possession, and intelligence under pressure, have seen him tipped for a big move this summer.

Gerrard also offered Kamara -- who he has described as a 'Rolls-Royce' -- his full support when the midfielder was the victim of racist abuse by Slavia Prague's Ondrej Kudela during the club's UEFA Europa League run.

The 25-year-old was born in Finland to Sierra Leonean refugees fleeing the country's decade-long civil war.

He was on Arsenal's books after the family moved to London, but moved to Dundee in Scotland in 2017 having never made a Premier League appearance.

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Ben Cabango (Wales)

Part of a sporting family, Cabango's Angolan father, Paulo, moved to the U.K. in the late 1990s and decided to take his coaching badges in order to act as a coach for his son's team when the Wales international was a youngster.

This meant a period of adaptation for Cabango Sr.who was a basketball player in his youth, but sporting versatility clearly runs in the family with Cabango's younger brother Theo playing rugby union in the Cardiff Blues academy.

For the elder Cabango brother, however, it was football all the way, with his Welsh mother, Alysia, getting him hooked on the sport during his early years.

"I was five years old at the time and my mum basically forced me to go [to football], just to do something with my time, because I was just a ball of energy back then," he told Wales Online in 2019.

"I instantly took a love to football and have just carried it on since then.

"My ambition is to reach the top, to probably play in the Premier League one day, hopefully for Swansea City."

For now, it's the Euros, where Cabango will become the first British person of Angolan descent to play in an international tournament.

Pyry Soiri (Finland)

It is rare indeed that a player is a universal hero with fans of another national side, but that is exactly what happened to Finland winger Soiri in 2017.

His goal against Croatia in a World Cup qualifier may have been inconsequential for the Finns, but it was enough to sent Iceland through to the tournament for the first time in the nation's history.

That goal made Soiri the toast of Iceland, and he received a personal acknowledgement from national president Guoni Johannesson.

He's not quite as celebrated in his homeland, but he will likely offer versatility and direct running from the bench and could catch the eye against tiring defences.

The winger's father is Namibian, although he spent his childhood in various East African countries, including Mozambique and Tanzania, due to his mother's postings with the Finnish Government.

The prospect of an international career with Namibia once appeared to be an option before he nailed his colours to the Finns' mast.

"I won't mind being called up [by Namibia] for a camp but for now I have not decided if I will one day play for Finland or Namibia," he told journalists, as per the Namibian. "It's still too early to say."

Alexander Isak (Sweden)

Observers may recognise something of the Zlatan Ibrahimovic about Isak at the Euros, and that isn't because he's replacing the Sweden great as the national side's frontman at the tournament.

They are big shoes to fill, but Zlatan's injury absence has opened the door for the 21-year-old -- and he may have the intelligence, aggression and explosive pace to fill them.

Eyebrows were raised when Borussia Dortmund allowed Isak to depart for Real Sociedad, and 33 goals in the past two La Liga campaigns represents a seriously encouraging return for a frontman who was 20 when the 2020-21 season began.

Indeed, only five players -- including Luis Suarez, Karim Benzema and Lionel Messi -- scored more than Isak's 17 goals in the Spanish top flight this season.

Born in Solna to Eritrean parents, Isak's father taught another Swedish-Eritrean -- ex-Real Valladolid striker Henok Goitom -- the local language of Tigrinya, and the elder forward is excited about Isak's of making an impact at the Euros.

"At his age, he's still young and he's good on the ball," Goitom told Reuters. "He's explosive over the first five metres, the first five steps, he can play as a lone striker or one of two forwards."