Ah, the international break. A perfect time for a jumpy, nervous team like Fiorentina to forget everything that’s worked for it thus far and completely fall apart in the first match back. Fortunately, the Viola players on international duty should be able to keep things focused (right?), so let’s catch up on who’s doing what.
World Cup qualifying
Jose Pekerman has selected Carlos Sanchez for 4th-ranked Colombia’s pair of matches. The Cafeteros sit in 4th in the CONMEBOL standings and have been shaky enough that Pekerman’s probably a bit anxious. A tilt against a surprisingly stout Paraguay in Asuncion (Thursday, 6 October at 12:30 AM CST/7:30 PM ET) and a rematch against Uruguay—who smashed them 3-0 earlier in qualifying—in Barranquilla (Tuesday, 11 October 9:30 PM CST/4:30 PM ET). Sanchez is a Pekerman favorite and crucial to allowing the creative players license to get forward, so should start both matches in combative holding role.
Milan Badelj and Nikola Kalinic have both been called up for Ante Cacic’s squad. Now sitting at 14th in the FIFA rankings, the Vatreni (Blazers, which is a solid nickname) take on Kosovo in Shkoder, Albania (Thursday, 6 October at 7:45 PM CST/2:45 PM ET) and then travel to Tampere for a match against Finland (Sunday, 9 October at 6 PM CST/12 PM ET) after being held to a draw against Turkey in their first fixture. The Croatians will be favored in both of these matches. Badelj should start in the holding midfield position in the 4-3-3, while Kalinic will probably continue in his role as first striker off the bench.
Giampiero Ventura picked both Federico Bernardeschi and Davide Astori, hewing closely to his predecessor’s squad choices. While the marquee matchup against Spain in Turin (Thursday, 6 October at 7:45 PM CST/2:45 PM ET) has drawn headlines after the Azurri knocked la Furia Roja out of the Euros this past year, the trip to Skopje to take on Macedonia (Sunday, 9 October at 4:45 PM CST/11:45 AM ET) could prove tricky as well. Both Viola players will probably start from the bench against Spain, although Berna’s versatility and energy could easily win him a substitute’s cap, as well as a start against Macedonia.
Ciprian Tatarusanu will resume his usual place between the stick for the Tricolorii, as manager Christoph Daum seems to have forgiven him his terrible performance at the Euros. With the long journey to Yerevan to take on Armenia (Saturday, 8 October at 5 PM CST/12 PM ET) followed by a match against Kazakhstan (Tuesday, 11 October at 7:45 PM CST/2:45 PM ET), Tata has a good chance to earn a pair of clean sheets.
No surprise as manager Srecko Katanec has tapped Josip Ilicic to pull the strings in attack for the 67th-ranked Slovenians. After a disappointing draw against Lithuania, the green shirts take on Slovakia in Ljubljana (Saturday, 8 October at 7:45 PM CST/2:45 PM ET) under the watchful eye of Nicola Rizzoli, then travel to Wembley for a tilt against England (Tuesday, October 11 at 4 PM CST/11 AM ET). Ilicic generally plays a slightly deeper role for the national setup than he does for Fiorentina, but his creativity is crucial if they’re to take points in either match.
Although they’re ranked 9th in the FIFA rankings, the Charruas currently lead CONMEBOL qualifying with 16 points from 8 matches. Oscar Tabarez has called up Matias Vecino, despite his ignominious Copa America Centenario performance and recent injury issues. They host Venezuela in Montevideo (Thursday, 6 October 12 AM CST/7 PM EST), then travel to face Colombia (Tuesday, 11 October 9:30 PM CST/4:30 PM ET). Given his recent fitness problems, Vecino may start from the bench, but his energy could play a key role, especially against a physically powerful Colombia side.
U19 Euro qualifiers
Ianis Hagi has gotten his first call to the side, skipping the U18 level entirely. It’s not a huge surprise, as Romania’s U19 team has been shambolic recently; manager Andrei Spier has lost all 3 of his matches in charge. With matches at the Netherlands on Thursday 6 October, at Norway on Saturday 8 October, and against San Marino on Tuesday 11 October, young Ianis is almost certain to get some match time. We’ll be keeping a close eye on his performances.
U21 World Cup qualifiers
Kevin Diks gets the nod from new manager Art Langeler for matches against Turkey on Thursday 6 October and at Cyprus on Tuesday 11 October. Diks has a chance to start, although there’s strong competition from Groningen’s Hans Hateboer and PSV’s Joshua Brenet.
It’s no surprise that Bartlomiej Dragowski has been selected for friendlies against Ukraine and Montenegro on Thursday 6 October and Monday 10 October, respectively. He’s the unquestioned number one for the Poles; hopefully, the confidence that comes with that assured role will return to Florence with him and keep him from getting too frustrated about his lack of play time.
Edgardo Bauza has continued the time-honored tradition of ignoring Gonzalo Rodriguez, although he’s happy to call up the desiccated corpse that we once called Martin de Michelis. Gonzalo, for his part, seems resigned to never playing for la Albiceleste, and will instead spend his break in Florence with his family.
Although he was in the Copa America Centenario and Olympic squads, Carlos Salcedo has been dropped for friendlies against New Zealand and Panama. Manager Juan Carlos Osorio has instead called up a group of youngsters and fringe internationals, mostly to see how the new boys do in the international setup. Expect el Titan to return to el Tri when the real matches start back up.
Khouma Babacar remains inexplicably absent from Aliou Cisse’s plans for the World Cup qualifier against Cabo Verde, although the word is he may finally give the Babacar Named Desire his first cap soon. The player is clearly excited to get a chance to join the Lions of Teranga, and his red hot goalscoring form should be a big boost for them.
Manager Slavoljub Muslin has surprisingly dropped Nenad Tomovic from his World Cup qualifying squad for matches against Moldova and Austria. It’s a bit surprising, as Nenad’s the 4th-most capped active Serbian defender, but he should make his way back to the Eagles soon.
Borja Valero remains excluded from the Spain setup, and it’s hard to see Julen Lopetegui changing that.
You might think it’s strange that Maxi Olivera, as the reigning domestic player of the year, wouldn’t even get his first call-up to the national team. Well, you’d think that until you remembered that Tabarez is famously averse to bringing new talent into his squad, choosing instead to rely on long-in-the-tooth veterans. Sebastian Cristoforo‘s recent injuries make him even less likely to get a call, although he’s certainly got the quality.