Morocco impress, Ghana crumble, Micho fumes as Africa enters international window

Africa's national teams have returned to competition for the first time in 11 months, with a series of friendlies involving the continent's biggest nations.

North African trio Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria enjoyed outings to remember, but the same could not be said for Nigeria, Ghana and Senegal, all of whom have much work to do before Africa Cup of Nations qualifying resume in November.

Here are the main talking points to have emerged from Africa's international matches so far this window.

Morocco bounce back after Munir decision

Morocco were hoping to welcome former Spain forward Munir El Haddadi to the fold during this window, in light of FIFA's decision in September to allow nationality switches for players who had already represented one side in a full competitive international.

However, only hours before Friday's meeting with Senegal, the Royal Moroccan Football Federation issued a statement announcing that Munir's long-awaited debut had been put on ice after FIFA blocked his nationality switch.

The Atlas Lions were nevertheless the most impressive of Africa's heavyweights on Friday, dispatching Afcon finalists Senegal with ease in Rabat.

The North Africans took a 3-0 lead before Ismaila Sarr pulled one goal back late on, and they were fluid and incisive under Vahid Halilhodzic.

Youssef En-Nesyri, Youssef El Arabi and scored for Morocco, but Achraf Hakimi, playing wide on the right, was their outstanding player, notably providing a fine assist for the opener.

Even without Munir, this performance -- and the result -- suggested that Morocco could be the African team to watch across this next two-year cycle.

Dual nationals lead debutants across Africa

Much has been made of the talent drain to Europe -- Bukayo Saka (England), Adama Traore (Spain), Houssem Aouar (France) all made their debuts during the international break -- it's worth noting that players are committing their futures in the other direction as well.

Munir didn't get the chance officially to switch from Spain to Morocco, but various other players successfully made their debut on Thursday and Friday, some having switched nationality heading into the international break.

For Morocco, Eintracht Frankfurt midfielder Aymame Barkok made his debut having confirmed his switch from Germany, and former Belgium youth international Samy Mmaee started in the heart of the defence for his first international appearance.

Cameroon, who were held 0-0 by Japan in the Netherlands on Thursday evening, handed debuts to six new players, including former Germany Under-18 wideman Franck Evina, once of Bayern Munich.

France-born Farid Boulaya made his Algeria debut as they saw off Nigeria, while Anis Ben Slimane, who represented Denmark at under-19 level, scored on his maiden Tunisia appearance as they dispatched Sudan 3-0.

English League Championship club Barnsley also celebrated the Kenya debut of wideman Clark Oduor, and suggested on their official Twitter handle that there would be a few "new Harambee Stars fans" in the Yorkshire town after their victory over Zambia.

Akonnor gets Ghana tenure off to miserable start

Patrice Beaumelle launched his time as Ivory Coast head coach with an admirable draw against Belgium on Thursday, but C.K. Akonnor's tenure as Ghana boss commenced with a miserable, disjointed 3-0 defeat by Mali in Turkey.

The Black Stars were in the match for much of the first hour, despite falling behind to Hamari Traore's fine opener inside three minutes, and things could have been different had Jordan Ayew converted one of several decent chances.

But the second-half double that consigned Akonnor to a debut defeat cannot be ignored, with Ghana lacking cohesion and looking muddled in defence.

Alexander Djiku of Strasbourg and Brentford's Tariqe Fosu each endured a debut to forget, and Arsenal new boy Thomas Partey was unable to lift the gloom and get Ghana ticking going forward.

Ghana have been in decline since reaching the final of the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations, and this performance demonstrated how much work former Black Stars midfielder Akonnor has ahead of him.

McKinstry outlines expectations for Uganda at 48

Uganda celebrated 48 years of independence on Friday, but Cranes fans were unable to celebrate by watching their team in action as the Ugandan Federation opted to handle the international window slightly differently than their rivals.

The majority of African coaches opted to test their squads in competition against other nations this week but Uganda's Johnny McKinstry opted for a different approach with the Cranes, instead taking them to Dubai for a training camp.

"This break provides an invaluable opportunity for us to reacquaint the players with our objectives and key principles and further develop our game model," the Northern Irish coach told ESPN in explaining the decision.

"Given it has been 11 months since the senior national team were last together, it was imperative that we were able to get back on the field and do some quality work as well as provide the players with an opportunity to come together again personally after such a long absence."

McKinstry, who formerly held the reins with Rwanda and Sierra Leone, was appointed in September 2019 after the departure of Sebastien Desabre, who guided the Cranes to the knockout stages of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt.

"We felt that the best way to do this was to take the entire group away for a training camp, as opposed to playing a series of friendly games as some nations have elected to do" McKinstry said.

"This allows us to maximise our time on the training field and in the classroom, and work on our objectives as a team."

It remains to be seen whether, considering the challenges to come in the coming months, whether McKinstry will be rewarded for taking a different route with the East Africans.

Referee drama overshadows Kenya triumph

One of McKinstry's predecessors in the Uganda fold, Milutin Sredojevic, is back in African international management with Zambia.

Sredojevic coached high-profile African club sides Orlando Pirates and SC Zamalek after leaving the Cranes, and now he is charged with helping the 2012 African champions rediscover their lost lustre after several years in the doldrums.

His tenure began with a disappointing 2-1 defeat by Kenya on Friday, when Zambia were outthought and outgunned by the Harambee Stars.

Emmanuel Chaluba scored for the Southern Africans and should have been credited with another when the ball clearly crossed the line six minutes from fulltime, but it was missed by the officials operating without VAR.

Micho fumed at the refereeing error that denied his side a draw, and he called for the introduction of VAR in the African game.

"We knew Kenya is a strong team and we came prepared," the Serbian coach said.

"I cannot accept the way we conceded the two goals from counter-attacks, because you cannot come away from home and not defend against counter attacks.

"On the last minute incident, that shows why we need VAR in football because everyone can clearly see that was a clear goal."