Africa's new faces: Real Madrid star with Morocco, Barca wonderkid with Senegal

The first international break after the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations offers national teams across the continent the opportunity to reshuffle their rosters and give new faces the opportunity to impress.

The continent's head coaches -- many of whom are new to the job -- have made the most of the friendly fixtures to introduce some uncapped players to their squads.

Here are ESPN's picks for the most exciting players who could be set to make their international bows for African nations over the week ahead.

Brahim Diaz

Morocco entered the Nations Cup as potential title winners, particularly following their World Cup exploits, but it ended up being a difficult, controversial, and depressingly brief campaign for the 2025 hosts.

Walid Regragui kept his job, and his hopes of building for next year's tournament on a positive footing have been boosted by the 'signing' of Real Madrid's Brahim Diaz.

It's a genuine coup for the Atlas Lions, with Diaz having played -- and scored -- for Spain as recently as 2021 before beginning the process to switch nationalities last year.

Ultimately, the AFCON came too soon, and without him, and with Sofiane Boufal and Hakim Ziyech sidelined, Morocco found themselves short of creativity.

He was welcomed by a crowd of jubilant fans upon his arrival at Salé airport upon his arrival, joined his first training session with his new teammates on Tuesday, and is understood to have claimed his preferred No. 10 short with the Atlas Lions.

Ex-Manchester City academy prospect Diaz, who discussed his nationality switch with Morocco star Achraf Hakimi before committing to the Atlas Lions, now appears determined to make his mark for his new nation.

"I will always do my best to place Morocco at the highest level, that's the most important thing," he told the Royal Moroccan Football Federation. "I'll give everything on the pitch to make the country and my family proud.

"Above all, I want to win important things and make Morocco shine even more."

Diaz follows in the footsteps of Munir El-Haddadi, who also swapped Spain for Morocco, and can look forward to a Nations Cup and a World Cup on home soil within the next six years.

Habib Diarra

There's no nation in Africa right now that's producing talented youngsters with the regularity of Senegal.

The last two CAF Youth Players of the Year -- Pape Matar Sarr and Lamine Camara -- were both Senegalese, and don't bet against Senegal making it three in a row come the CAF Awards this December.

The current favourite is Amara Diouf - the 'New Sadio Mane' -- who's in line to make his second appearance for the national side, but he could face competition from new call-up Diarra.

The 20-year-old, currently on the books of Strasbourg, has represented France at every level up to U-20, but now appears primed to switch to the Teranga Lions.

He was conspicuous in his absence from Thierry Henry's squad for the France youth side for this international break, and now appears set to follow in the footsteps of his father, Samba, who represented the West Africans twice in the late 90s.

Aliou Cissa failed to convince Diarra to switch loyalties last summer, but now appears to have got his man and the youngster could make his debut against Gabon on Friday, or Benin four days later.

Mikayil Faye

Another new arrival in Senegal's squad, as Cisse looks to the future, is 19-year-old Faye, who is enjoying a magnificent season with Barcelona B.

The teenager moved to Catalonia from Croatian side NK Kustosija last year, having previously graduated from the Diambars academy.

Comfortable in the heart of the defence, or on the left side, he was a member of the Senegal U-17 team that contested the U-17 World Cup five years ago, but now appears in contention to make his bow for the seniors.

Having been named in Xavi Hernandez's Barcelona first-team squad ahead of this month's LaLiga game against Real Mallorca, Faye's stock is rising, and he appears primed to be a fixture in the Lions squad for over a decade to come.

Racing Club de Lens were interested in the defender as recently as January, while the likes of Chelsea, Borussia Dortmund and Tottenham Hotspur have also been linked to the precocious talent.

David Akologo?

Keeper Akologo is one of four new faces named in the returning Otto Addo's squad for Ghana's friendlies against Nigeria and Uganda, with Ibrahim Osman, Nathaniel Adjei, and Mohammed Diomande the other uncapped players in the squad.

Akologo's journey is particularly interesting, with Ghana's move for him appearing purely reactionary after the 27-year-old was handed his first international call-up for Bolivia earlier this week.

Indeed, the stopper falls into a very niche category of players eligible both for an African nation and for Bolivia, having lived in the South American country for the last four years.

His adopted country initially approached him about switching nationalities last year, and earlier this week, the stopper was seen training with Bolivia ahead of their FIFA Series friendly against Algeria.

Will Akologo make a last-minute switch to ditch Bolivia for the Black Stars, or has the keeper made his bed with La Verde?

Benjamin Tanimu

The Nigerian media may have made a big deal of the fact that new call-up Tanimu doesn't even have a Wikipedia page at the time of his invitation, but should Super Eagles fans be getting excited about the defender's inclusion?

The 21-year-old recently made the intriguing career move of swapping NPFL side Bendel Insurance for Tanzania's Ihefu Sports Club, becoming part of the Ubaruku-based club's Africa-wide recruitment policy.

He learned about his call-up by his name being tagged on social media by the official @NGSuperEagles handle, and should offer extra competition in the heart of the defence.

"I'm most excited & thankful to the NFF and the coaching crew for the invitation," the young defender wrote on his Twitter handle. "Clarion Call heard: to serve Nigeria with all strength!"

Moussa Sylla and Modibo Sagnan

Eric Chelle remains in Mali's top job following their dramatic quarterfinal Africa Cup of Nations exit at the hands of the Ivory Coast, but he doesn't appear entirely happy with his squad.

The former Eagles international called up almost a dozen uncapped players ahead of the friendlies against Mauritania and Nigeria, even though not all of them will be able to feature for the West Africans.

SC Bastia's Cheick Keita, keeper Lassana Diabaté of Valenciennes, and Habib Keita, currently with Clermont Foot, will all miss out due to administrative reasons.

However, France-based duo Sagnan andSylla do appear primed to make their international debuts.

The former is a central defender, signed for Montpellier for a fee around the €3.5m mark earlier this year, having previously represented Real Sociedad and Utrecht among others.

Born in France, he could have also represented Burkina Faso, and has represented the land of his birth at U-23 level.

Sylla, who's likely to be an option on the right flank, celebrated his call-up by adding the Mali flag to his Instagram profile, and has had a hand in 15 goals for Ligue 2 Pau this season.