Gervinho, Partey headline African performers during international window

The international week concluded for Africa's nations with a legend returning, a new master making his mark, and a one-time star of the future reminding a few observers why it's too soon to write him off.

ESPN runs through the key talking points from the week's friendlies involving African teams as international football finally returned to the continent after 11 months.

Ghana: Partey gives tantalising glimpse to Arsenal fans

Ghana's opponents on Monday, Qatar, currently No. 55 on the FIFA World Rankings, were thoroughly outclassed as the Black Stars ran out 5-1 winners in Turkey, but still Thomas Partey put on a masterclass in the heart of the park.

The Arsenal new boy won't have as much time on the ball in the English Premier League as he enjoyed against the Gulf side, but he should still be praised for a sublime midfield display in which he weighed in with two assists and created four goalscoring chances.

Partey was at the heart of a vibrant display -- and the first victory of CK Akonnor's reign -- as the Black Stars put last week's dire 3-0 defeat by Mali behind them.

The highlight, just after the hour mark, was the midfielder's nonchalant lofted ball from inside his own half to pick out Samuel Owusu darting in behind the Qatar defence.

The Al-Fayha winger made no mistake with the finish, but the genius was in Partey's vision and his delicate execution.

It was a glimpse of what Gunners fans can expect from the midfield powerhouse when the likes of Nicolas Pepe and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang are running in behind opposition defences.

Ivory Coast: Gervinho returns to the Elephants

Patrice Beaumelle acted early in his tenure as Ivory Coast boss to restore Gervinho to the international fold, and the winger returned to the national side almost three years after his previous international appearance, featuring in the West Africans' 1-0 defeat by Japan on Tuesday.

Gervinho netted the winner for the Ivory Coast in their 2-1 victory over Japan at the 2014 FIFA World Cup, one of his finest hours for the national side, hence it was fitting that the Blue Samurai were the Elephants' opponents once again as he returned to the international arena.

The ex-Arsenal wideman actually forced a save from Japan goalkeeper Daniel Schmidt early in the contest, before Japan substitute Naomichi Ueda scored a stoppage-time winner for the Asian side.

Gervinho, 33, doesn't quite have the acceleration and zip he once did, but 18 goals across his past two Serie A seasons with Parma demonstrate that he still has the guile to trouble some of Europe's best defenders.

He can still play a critical role for Ivory Coast, under a coach he knows well from their 2015 Africa Cup of Nations success together, as Beaumelle takes the team into the 2021-2022 cycle.

Nigeria: Iheanacho finally ends goal drought

Kelechi Iheanacho, still only 24, has had his fair share of goal droughts after his arrival on the scene with Nigeria at the Under-17 World Cup in 2013.

He bagged just four English Premier League goals in his first 50 outings with Leicester City -- including only one league goal in the 2018-19 season -- and his slump ultimately had consequences for his Nigeria career.

The forward was cut from the 2019 Afcon squad, with Gernot Rohr ultimately opting for Paul Onuachu and Victor Osimhen, and his goals-to-games ration with the national side was beginning to look as slight as his Leicester contribution.

He hadn't netted in 12 internationals before striking for the Super Eagles in their 1-1 draw with Tunisia on Tuesday -- breaking a drought that stretched back to November 2017; he should have had another goal, also, but fluffed his lines from the spot after Ahmed Musa had earned a penalty.

Iheanacho's barren spell has been a far cry from the early days of his international career, when he scored six in his first 10 outings for the seniors -- including a run of four goals in four consecutive matches during the second half of 2016.

With the Foxes last season, Iheanacho demonstrated that one goal can lead to others, and Rohr will hope his contribution in the 1-1 draw with the Carthage Eagles can prompt an improved threat in next month's double-header against Sierra Leone.

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Morocco: Mmaee star performer of Africa's debutants

With Africa's national teams getting the opportunity to play their first matches since November 2019, there were more uncapped players making their debuts over the past few days than fans typically see during a regular international window.

Cameroon handed maiden caps to six players in their 0-0 draw with Japan on Friday, while Nigerian duo Cyriel Dessers and Chidera Ejuke finally got to debut for the Super Eagles after missing out on March's international window due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The likes of Clark Oduor (Kenya), Alexander Djiku (Ghana) and Farid Boulaya (Algeria) will each also hope their debut represents the start of a fruitful international career, but Morocco's Samy Mmaee was the outstanding African arrival of the international break.

The centre-back had his nationality switch from Belgium confirmed only on Friday before making his debut for the Atlas Lions against Senegal that same evening, and he was arguably the North Africans' best performer as they dispatched the Teranga Lions 3-1, and then drew 1-1 with the Democratic Republic of Congo on Tuesday.

The Sint-Truidense man was positionally aware, athletic and committed in his challenges, and his performances suggested that he could be the long-term successor to Medhi Benatia alongside Romain Saiss in the Morocco defence.