This international break might have come at the just right time for Napoli as it gives manager Maurizio Sarri time to consider his options up front — does he continue with the 4-3-3 and hope that Manolo Gabbiadini rediscovers his form, or does he keep playing Dries Mertens as a false nine? Dries just hit a hat trick for his country in their 8-1 rout of Estonia in the latest round of World Cup Qualifiers, so he is definitely in good form at the minute.
Mertens’ first goal was from a corner where the ball was rolled to him outside the box and he smacked it into the net. He came close to scoring another one that was a very similar move from the last corner, this time his volley went narrowly wide. His second goal was a deflected cross, and his third came from a cheeky chip over the keeper from inside the box. The Belgian played on the right wing and was a thorn all night in Estonia’s side, perhaps giving Sarri the option to be looking to try him on the right for Napoli more often an try to utilize this ability to volley from outside the box for Napoli’s corners.
Marek Hamsik scored the fourth and final goal in Slovakia’s 4-0 win over Lithuania. His goal was a goal that should be scored by him more often at Napoli, arriving late into the box to finish off a nice move and cross. Too many times in Napoli games the ball lands at the edge of the box or around the penalty area and nobody is close enough to try have a shot, something we’ll hopefully start seeing more of from Hamsik and others in the near future. Il Capitano will not be playing in Slovakia’s friendly against Austria on Tuesday, he will be returning to Napoli early to focus on Saturday’s game in Udine.
Faouzi Ghoulam’s Algeria lost 2-0 to Nigeria. After the match Ghoulam received a poor review, with many feeling that he was mediocre in defense and just a little better going forward — the very same complaints that have been made of him in the azzurri shirt this season. The left back had been suffering from muscle fatigue in the days before the game and had to have medical attention a couple of times during the game, and ultimately went back to Naples nursing a reported groin injury.
Lorenzo Insigne came on in the 67th minute for Giacomo Bonaventura in Italy’s 4-0 win against Lichtenstein. Insigne looked lively when he came on and delivered a couple of dangerous crosses that should have been finished. Manolo Gabbiadini was called up to the original squad but returned shortly after to Napoli suffering from muscle fatigue. Look for Insigne to start tomorrow night’s friendly against Germany.
Pepe Reina remained on the bench during Spain’s 4-0 victory over Macedonia while Jose Callejon came on in the 87th minute for Vitolo. Elseid Hysaj played 79 minutes in Albania’s nine-man implosion against Israel where they lost 3-0.
Nikola Maksimovic played the full 90 in Serbia’s 1-1 draw with Wales. Kalidou Koulibaly’s Senegal lost to 2-1 to South Africa. Koulibaly had a penalty called against him for handball but on closer inspection it was clear that the ball was nowhere near his hand and hit his leg instead.
Elsewhere, Vlad Chiriches played the whole game in Romania’s 3-0 loss to Piotr Zielinski’s Poland. Zielinski played 80 minutes. He also got 32 minutes in Poland’s 1-1 draw with Slovenia on Monday night. Marko Rog who has become accustomed to the bench at Napoli got in some much-needed practice riding the pine on the Croatia bench. Omar El Kaddouri also remained on the bench in Morocco’s 0-0 draw with the Ivory Coast.
As I am new here to the Siren’s Song I wanted to say hello and that I look forward to writing plenty more. I used to contribute to the Napoli Offside, and am glad to be writing about our beloved team again. Forza Napoli!