Yet another round of World Cup qualifiers begins on Friday evening, and this time around, there are 13 Napoli players reporting for duty. Here's the matches you should pay attention to, if only to make sure all of the partenopei come back to Naples in one piece.
Italy vs Bulgaria (September 6)
Italy vs Czech Republic (September 10)
Both Christian Maggio and Lorenzo Insigne have been called upon to potentially help the azzurri clinch a place in Brazil...ok, I'm lying. I have no idea how to determine whether two wins for Italy will get them to the World Cup, or to the playoff round. But they've got a four point lead over Bulgaria, and five points over the Czechs, so it sure seems logical that getting six points would more or less do the trick.
Bosnia and Hercegovina vs Slovakia (September 6)
Slovakia vs Bosnia and Hercegovina (September 10)
Slovakia have a tough task ahead of them: back to back matches against Group G leaders Bosnia. The repre are seven points back in their group and, despite a coaching change, could only manage a 1-1 draw with Liechtenstein their last time out. You'd think with the form of Marek Hamšík, Slovakia could muster up a challenge in these two matches, but our favorite midfielder is well-known for going missing while on duty for his country.
Scotland are already out of the race, while Belgium are assured of at least a second place finish. This game seems an easy one for Dries Mertens and friends, but with Croatia just three points back, the Belgians won't be taking this lightly.
Macedonia vs Wales (September 6)
Macedonia vs Scotland (September 10)
Macedonia aren't yet out of the race, but that's pretty much because they have a game in hand on most of Group A. After six matches, Macedonia have just four points and are unable to qualify directly. But maybe a little magic from Goran Pandev can give the strugglers a boost?
Switzerland vs Iceland (September 6)
Norway vs Switzerland (September 10)
Napoli's trio of Swiss midfielders are looking to cement their hold atop Group E, where they hold a four point lead over...Albania, interestingly enough. Their competition can't entirely be discounted, but it seems likely that Gökhan Inler, Valon Behrami and Blerim Džemaili will be on their way to Brazil.
You know what is just dandy? Napoli players being involved in pointless friendlies against South American nations. Let's just hope Pepe Reina and Raúl Albiol don't get themselves needlessly injured. The duo likely won't see much playing time against Finland. And hey, did you know Spain are a measly one point above France? Huh.
How strange is it to not care about Uruguay? Sigh. Moving on. Juan Zúñiga and Pablo Armero are hoping to bring Colombia level with Argentina, who strangely enough have not called up Gonzalo Higuaín for Tuesday's match against Paraguay. The Colombians face a tough match against Ecuador, who are also right up there at the top, but seem poised to make it down to Brazil next summer.
Side note: the 13th Napoli player on international duty is Josip Radošević, who is called up for the Ukraine-Croatia U21 qualifier.