Can Victor Osimhen transfer his form from Napoli to Nigeria for AFCON qualifying?

Africa's senior men's national sides are back in action for the first time in 2023 when Africa Cup of Nations qualifying resumes this week, and all eyes will be on Nigeria's Victor Osimhen to see whether his Napoli form continues.

Nigeria fans will also be keeping an eye on Benin, who are now being coached by former Super Eagles leader Gernot Rohr, while Borussia Dortmund's Sebastien Haller makes his Ivory Coast return after cancer treatment.

Here are the big talking points, the things to watch out for, and a few questions demanding answers ahead of gameweek three in the AFCON qualifying group stage.

Can Nigeria get the best out of Osimhen?

Since the Super Eagles were last in action, Osimhen has established himself among the world's finest strikers, firing Napoli to the brink of the Scudetto and generating reported transfer interest from some of the world's biggest clubs.

His scoring record with the national side is also impressive; he was overall joint top scorer in the last AFCON qualifying campaign, and already leads the way on the road to the Cote d'Ivoire. There's no doubt that he arrives to join the Super Eagles camp this time as a genuine superstar, and with his stock higher than it's ever been.

He surely has the quality to fire the West African giants to a fourth ever continental crown next year, but can head coach Jose Peseiro settle on a tactical approach that consistently gets the best out of Osimhen and helps him recreate his relentless Napoli goalscoring for the Super Eagles?

Haller makes Ivory Coast comeback

As hosts next year, the Ivory Coast don't need to qualify for the AFCON, but they're nonetheless taking part in the qualifying programme and meet the Comoros in a double-header this week.

The fixtures represent the international comeback of Sebastien Haller, who has been named in Jean-Louis Gasset's squad for the first time since his testicular cancer diagnosis last July.

In the intervening months, Haller has undergone chemotherapy and surgery, before making his comeback with Borussia Dortmund in January.

The 28-year-old is understandably taking his time to get back up to speed, but a double against FC Koln at the weekend suggests he's returning to top form.

Haller has the quality to be the long-awaited successor to Didier Drogba - his hero - and Wilfried Bony as the Elephants' talismanic centre-forward, and this international break gives him the opportunity to resume a stop-start international career.

Cameroon without Onana, Chelsea youngster named

Cameroon are set to resume action following a rollercoaster World Cup when they square off with Namibia. They'll be without Internazionale goalkeeper Andre Onana, who hung up his gloves - aged 26 - in the aftermath of Qatar, having fallen out with national team selectors during the tournament.

He was promptly dropped from the starting XI and then exiled from the camp, before announcing his retirement on December 23. Currently being linked with a transfer to Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur, Onana ought to have been establishing himself as the latest great Indomitable Lions stopper.

Instead, an area of strength has become an area of weakness for Rigobert Songs's side, with Saudi-based new No. 1 Devis Epassy joined only by two home-based goalkeepers as options between the sticks.

There is a place for uncapped Chelsea youngster Benjamin Elliott who was born in southwest London and has represented England at youth level.

Electric Mailula set for South Africa debut

Among the many new prospects who could be making their international debuts during this break, few have generated as much excitement as Cassius Mailula for South Africa.

Since Bafana Bafana last got together, Mamelodi Sundowns' Mailula has established himself as one of the most talented wunderkinds on the continent, taking both the PSL and the CAF Champions League by storm with some superb displays.

He's dovetailed magnificently with the PSL's leading scorer Peter Shalulile, and has weighed in with nine goals himself as the Brazilians have taken a stranglehold on top spot.

Even more impressive have been his performances in continental competition, with Mailula bagging three goals in five group-stage games including a double in Sundowns' 3-1 thumping of Cameroon's Coton Sport.

His pace and dribbling ability when redeployed in a left-wing role caused Al Ahly, no less, significant problems, and Mailula certainly has the quality to make an immediate step-up to international football.

Potentially set to be paired with another of the PSL's most watch-able players in Orlando Pirates' Monnapule Saleng, the Mailula era with Bafana Bafana is set to begin against Liberia on Friday.

Rohr back in the game with Benin

Having departed Nigeria's Super Eagles in late 2021, on the eve of the Nations Cup, experienced head coach Gernot Rohr is back in the African game after being appointed by Benin.

Rohr made little secret of his displeasure with his handling by the NFF in the aftermath of his departure, and having taken over one of Nigeria's nearest neighbours, he may well have a point to prove.

There's no doubting Rohr's experience; the ex-Bordeaux man has overseen Gabon, Niger and Burkina Faso over the last 13 years, yet accusations of a lack of imagination and adventure continue to accompany him.

With zero points from their opening two games, Benin are up against it, but a double-header against Rwanda represents an opportunity for the 2019 qualifiers to reignite their campaign.

"We're up against a near-impossible challenge," Rohr told journalists ahead of the fixture, "but that just means we have nothing to lose."

For the team, as for the coach, perhaps, as he looks to reboot his reputation on the continent.

Hughton takes the reins with Ghana

Another fascinating African managerial debut this week will be at the Baba Yara Sports Stadium in Kumasi, where Chris Hughton takes over Ghana's Black Stars for the first time.

Previously the side's technical advisor as part of Otto Addo's backroom staff, Hughton agreed a 21-month contract with the GFA to oversee the Nations Cup qualifying campaign and - probably - the tournament itself.

A former Tottenham Hotspur rightback and assistant manager, Hughton brings a wealth of experience to the post having previously been head coach at Newcastle United, Birmingham City, Norwich City and Brighton & Hove Albion in the Premier League.

He'll be keen to take the positives from a World Cup showing that sparkled on occasion but ultimately ended with a tame exit to Uruguay, and Hughton will relish working with some of the brightest young talent on the continent.

"The longer term," he told journalists ahead of the Angola bout, "is about developing players and bringing them through the system, but that takes time.

"There's no doubt that, as a team who played at the World Cup with the youngest team, we have an eye on development."

Can Hughton prepare for the Black Stars' future, while also masterminding the end to an over-four-decade wait for continental gold?

Avram Grant takes over with Zambia

Former Chelsea boss Avram Grant has the unwanted distinction of being a defeated finalist as a head coach in both the Champions League and Africa Cup of Nations, having fallen short at the final hurdle with both Chelsea and Ghana.

Now, six years after leaving the African game when he departed the Black Stars, he finds himself back on the continent after taking over Zambia's Chipolopolo in December.

In the intervening years he held a brief interim role as technical advisor at Indian Super League NorthEast United, and it will be fascinating to see how the latest chapter of Grant's atypical managerial career -- he's also worked in Thailand and Serbia since leaving Stamford Bridge -- progresses.

In Zambia, he's taking charge of arguably Africa's biggest underachievers in recent years, with the COSAFA heavyweights failing to qualify for the last three tournaments.

Their double-header against Lesotho should prove an early indication as to whether Grant can inspire a talented squad headlined by Leicester City's Patson Daka.

Morocco face Brazil in friendly

Zimbabwe's disqualification from the qualification campaign had left Morocco with a blank schedule for this international window, and the FRMF duly responded by lining up a prestige friendly with Brazil in Tangier.

It's the first time the two sides will meet since the 1998 World Cup, and represents the Atlas Lions' first action since their historic run to the semifinals in Qatar - the first African team to reach the final four.

Expect an emphatic Atlas Lions love-in as almost all of the World Cup heroes return to action in front of their own fans, and victory over Neymar-less Brazil - in front of their adoring public - could prompt celebrations to match those that accompanied their quarterfinal success against Portugal.

Will any minnows become AFCON debutants?

With the AFCON having been expanded from 16 to 24 teams for the last two editions, some of the continent's traditional minnows have been able to muscle their way into the tournament and taste qualification for the first time.

In 2019, Madagascar, Mauritania and Burundi made their debuts, while Comoros and Gambia reached the high table for the first time in 2021.

Will there be another first time qualifier this time around? Options are limited, and don't hold your breath for the likes of Lesotho, South Sudan, Eswatini and Sao Tome e Principe to upset the applecart.

The best bet could be the Central African Republic, who will recognise that their double-header against Madagascar represents a golden opportunity to fuel their aspirations of a maiden AFCON appearance.