The international break has been a harbinger of defeat for Fiorentina, as the team's struggles in the first game back have become as certain as a Facundo monster-tackle. Now, though, there's room for extra concern, since everyone in Serie A will be aiming to take the leaders down a peg or three, including the pacey and ruthless Napoli they'll face when league play resumes. Until then, though, here's what the lads who've drawn international duty will be up to.
World Cup qualifiers
Gerardo Martino has called up Facundo Roncaglia to his Argentina squad, which will begin their World Cup qualifying campaign. They face off against Ecuador tomorrow--Thursday, October 8th--at 9 PM local time in Buenos Aires. They'll then travel to Asunción to take on Paraguay on Tuesday, October 13th, at 10 PM local time. As the top ranked team in the world, they'll expect and be expected to roll through both fixtures. Due to his experience in a three-man backline, Ronca could actually add to his 7 caps, although he's probably third choice at best. Gonzalo Rodriguez, meanwhile, continues to be inexplicably excluded from the setup in favor of the uneven (to put it charitably) Martín Demichelis. José María Basanta (still technically a Fiorentina player, albeit on loan at Monterrey) was also left out.
Matías Fernandez is back in the saddle for Copa America holders Chile, as they'll also aim for World Cup qualification. They'll open up in Santiago against Brazil tomorrow--Thursday, October 8th--in Santiago at 8:30 local time. Their next game is Tuesday, October 13th at 9:15 PM local time against Peru in Lima. Only Jorge Sampaoli knows if he'll start Matigol; he was god in the Copa America (that penalty), but can't get on the pitch for Fiorentina.
Euro 2016 qualifiers
Nikola Kalinic and Milan Badelj are both still in the team for Croatia's Euro qualifiers, although Ante Rebic wasn't selected this time around. Sitting third in Group H (trailing Italy by four and Norway by two), Ante Čačić has already led his side to the playoff at minimum, although he'll be hoping for Norway to drop some points; if that happens, and Croatia can manage a win and a draw, they'll vault into second and avoid the playoff. With Mario Mandzukic unavailable, Nikola Kalinic has a good chance to start up top. Milan Badelj will probably start from the bench.
Davide Astori is Fiorentina's only Italian international, as Manuel Pasqual is still recovering from a leg injury, Giuseppe Rossi is still trying to regain fitness, and Federico Bernardeschi is still leading the U21s. Antonio Conte has Italy sitting pretty atop Group H, already assured of qualifying for the Euros; a win and a draw will guarantee first place in the group. Astori is probably the fourth-choice center back, but his recent club form could propel him past Andrea Ranocchia in the pecking order.
Jakub Błaszczykowski is Fiorentina's lone Polish international, as Rafał Wolski has, not surprisingly, dropped out of the setup. The Poles, under manager Adam Nawałka, sit second in Group D (trailing rivals Germany by two points) and are assured qualification, although they need to keep cranking out results to avoid a possible playoff game. They play tomorrow--October 8th--at 8:45 PM local time in Glasgow against fourth placed Scotland, who'll be desperate for a win to keep their hopes alive. Poland returns home for a game against an equally desperate third placed Ireland, in Warsaw at 8:45 PM local time, in a game that could decide second place; a win or draw will put Poland through. Expect Kuba to play a starring role in both games, as he's one of the most talented players in the side.
Anghel Iordănescu has Romania sitting in second place in Group F, trailing a surprising Northern Ireland team by one point and leading Hungary by three. A win and a draw in their next two games--tomorrow (Thursday, October 8th, in Bucharest at 8:45 PM local time) against Finland and Sunday (October 11th, in Tórsvøllur at 6 PM local time) against the Faroe Islands--will assure them second place, and, if Northern Ireland stumbles, could put them into first. Ciprian Tatarusanu will continue as the team's unquestioned number one.
Serbia, under manager Radovan Ćurčić, are one of the more disappointing teams in the qualification stages. Sitting last place in Group I, they've underperformed, but the lowlight is a forfeiture against Albania that involved fans storming the field, a drone with a flag, and general ugliness. With just a single point following a three point deduction, they've been eliminated for awhile, although they could still generate some excitement tomorrow--Thursday, October 8th, at 8:45 PM local time in Elbasan--at rivals Albania, and to trip up group leaders Portugal on Sunday, October 11th, 6 PM local time in Belgrade. Nenad Tomovic has been playing at center back for them, which seems unlikely to change at this late juncture.
Srečko Katanec's Slovenia has done much better. Sitting third in Group E, they'll be hoping for Switzerland to slip up, allowing them to snatch second place and avoid the playoff. Working in their favor is that they play second-bottom Lithuania tomorrow, October 8th, at 8:45 PM local time in Ljubljana, and then play at last placed San Marino on Sunday, October 11th, at 8:45 PM local time. Josip Iličić has been and will continue to be the star man, joined by former Viola midfielder Jasmin Kurtic, who is not a star man.
Federico Bernardeschi will continue his starring role with the U21s in their Euro qualifiers against Slovenia tomorrow, and then against Ireland on Saturday. As the leading scorer, he'll be front and center for the Azzurini.
Besides the previously mentioned non-called players, Uruguay's refusal to bring in Matías Vecino seems absurd, especially considering a) how overmatched they looked in the midfield last World Cup, b) the several young midfielders they've called up, and c) how good he's been at everything. Marcos Alonso could also be deserving of a cap, considering how excellent he's looked all year, although his compatriot Mario Suarez has probably fallen even further from contention during his brief stint in purple. Borja Valero, of course, remains hilariously underappreciated at the international level.