Your favorite team's season has only just started up, you're psyched to see whatever new signings arrived in the final hours of the transfer window and -- boom! -- everybody leaves. They're off with their national sides and it will feel like an eternity without football.
Except you're not without football. It's just a different kind: same actors, different stage. Like seeing Bryan Cranston in the theater rather than cooking up some meth on your TV in "Breaking Bad." Truth be told, there's plenty to watch out for -- including friendlies and World Cup qualifying -- as players swap club for country, particularly on the heels of a summer which saw most of us hooked on the Copa America and/or the European Championships. (For a full schedule of which games are on ESPN in the U.S., go here.)
Start with the return of Lionel Messi. His retirement from the Argentina national team following the Copa America disappointment in June didn't last long, but that was probably to be anticipated. He's back with a cracker on Thursday, as Argentina host high-flying Uruguay in a South American World Cup qualifier under new boss Edgardo Bauza. They follow up on Tuesday with cellar-dwelling Venezuela.
Meanwhile, if World Cup qualification were ending today, Brazil wouldn't be going to Russia. The Selecao are in sixth place, which is part of the reason why manager Carlos Dunga is gone and Tite is now in charge. He gets a boost -- mostly psychological -- from Brazil's Olympic gold, but, obviously, this is the real deal. Neymar & Co. have a very tricky away trip to Ecuador, joint-top of the group alongside Uruguay, and then host a grudge match against Colombia, who beat them in the Copa America in 2015 and ran them close at the 2014 World Cup.
World champion Germany look to reload and retool ahead of what will be Joachim Low's sixth major tournament (assuming they qualify for Russia) as a head coach. With young talent pushing through in every position, bar centre-forward, Kevin Volland will likely be given an audition up front in the friendly against Finland on Wednesday if not the qualifier against Norway on Sunday.
Expect changes with Italy, too, where Giampiero Ventura, 68 years young, has replaced Antonio Conte. But the real buzz surrounds a first call-up for 17-year-old goalkeeping sensation Gigi Donnarumma. He's been a starter for Milan for the past year. The last kid his age to hold down a job at a big Serie A club? Why, that would be another, Gigi, Buffon, the Italy captain, who is 21 years Donnarumma's senior. Not a bad mentor to have and, if Donnarumma has half the career Buffon enjoyed, he'll rewrite history. An exhibition against France awaits on Thursday, followed by a trip to Israel on Monday.
It's a soft landing for the newly minted European champions, Portugal, who'll take on Gibraltar in a friendly on Thursday and Switzerland in a qualifier on Tuesday without injured Cristiano Ronaldo. No matter, after all, they did win the Euros largely without his services in the final and it will be fun to see how the young guns Renato Sanches, Joao Mario and Raphael Guerreiro continue to develop.
Belgium, the hipster's choice for the Euros (and mine too) have turned to former Everton boss (and ESPN pundit) Roberto Martinez, who called upon none other than Arsenal (and New York Red Bull) legend Thierry Henry to assist him. The squad is brimming with talent and their friendly against Spain on Thursday is must-see TV, before they follow up with a qualifier against Cyprus on Tuesday.
England also have a new boss, "Big" Sam Allardyce, who'll make his debut in a qualifier against Slovakia on Sunday. He gets the unenviable task of dealing with the tabloid press and its often monumental expectations, but as a former tabloid columnist himself, he ought to be used to it. His playing style has been criticized as no-frills in the past, but this England team are built to run and play, none more so than Raheem Sterling, who is in sparkling form. Allardyce is old school, which means that, at the very least, we'll be spared the sight of his centre-forward taking corner kicks, as Harry Kane did at the Euros.
Spain's rebuild after the disappointing Euro exit starts with a new boss, Julen Lopetegui. He's a former goalkeeper turned manager, a rarity in this profession. While there's talent in every area of the pitch, the challenge for him will be choosing the right personnel, with the Chelsea duo of Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas needing to be impress if they want to stick around in a Roja shirt. It's a high profile friendly against their compatriot Martinez's Belgium followed by a cupcake qualifier against Liechtenstein on Monday for the Spaniards.
Having missed out on the Euros altogether, the Dutch rebuilding job is even greater. Boss Danny Blind has shut the door -- at least for now -- on a host of veterans and is charged with making his countrymen once again fall in love with the Oranje. International experience is in short supply -- take the eternal Wesley Sneijder out of the mix and the most capped players is Blind's son, Daley, with 36 -- but there will be enthusiasm aplenty in the friendly against Greece on Thursday and the qualifier against Sweden on Tuesday.
Didier Deschamps' uber-talented Bleus came up just short at the Euros, but the good news is that Raphael Varane returns to bolster the defence. If he can find the right position on the pitch for the world's most expensive player, Paul Pogba, he might well be on to something. The Manchester United midfielder will lead his teammates in a friendly against neighboring Italy, followed by a qualifier against Belarus on Tuesday.
Finally, spare a thought for Russia. They're hosting the World Cup, but are coming off a hugely disappointing Euros where the biggest headlines were made by marauding hooligans rather than the players on the pitch. New boss Stanislav Cherchesov, another former keeper turned coach, has cleaned house, calling up seven uncapped players, including the naturalized Brazilian Mario Fernandes. Plus, playmaker Alan Dzagoev is fit again (Russia plays Turkey on Wednesday). The better news is that the World Cup is some 22 months away, which means there's plenty of time to improve.
Indeed, that applies to almost all the countries hoping to secure a spot in Russia. Only 97 of FIFA's 211 member nations have been eliminated. For the rest, even the minnows, hope springs eternal. Just ask Iceland. Or, better yet, do the Viking clap when you watch their qualifier against Ukraine on Monday.