Turkey versus Greece: A friendly for bittersweet neighbors

Published 16.11.2015 23:38

Turkey will host Greece today in a friendly game eight years after the two neighboring countries, which share a past marked with hostilities and friendship, last played against each other. The two countries' prime ministers are expected to watch the Istanbul match together

Greece and Turkey will square off in a friendly match today in Istanbul eight years after the last match between two teams. The match will offer further reconciliation between two countries whose history has alternated between hostilities and instances of friendship as the leaders of the two countries will watch the game together in Istanbul's Başakşehir stadium. Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu invited his Greek counterpart Alexis Tsipras to the game and barring a last-minute change in schedule, Tsipras, who will be in Turkey for a two-day visit today and tomorrow, is expected to attend.

The two teams have played nine games since their inception with Greece winning just one of them. Their last match was in October 2007, again in Istanbul, for Euro 2008 qualifiers and ended with a 1-0 win for Greece.

The friendly is an opportunity for the Turkish national team to sharpen its skills ahead of Euro 2016, which they qualified for in third place in their group, following a 2-1 victory against Qatar in an away game last week. Turkey have enjoyed a boost in its FIFA world rankings in which they advanced 19 spots and secured 18th place in November. Greece, on the other hand, have witnessed a disappointing streak after wrapping up Euro 2016 qualifiers in last place in their group. The country, which dropped to 37th place in FIFA world rankings, will struggle to stage a comeback after suffering a 1-0 defeat to Luxembourg four days ago in a friendly game. Today's match will be the first time Michael Skibbe, Greece's German coach, will return to Turkey as coach after coaching stints at Turkish teams Galatasaray, Eskişehirspor and Karabükspor between 2008 and this October.

Turkey's probable line-up against Greece are largely players from Turkish clubs including Ozan Tufan, Yasin Öztekin, Olcay Şahan respectively from Fenerbahçe, Galatasaray and Beşiktaş. But coach Fatih Terim also invited Kaan Ayhan of Schalke 04 who plays for the Turkish U-21 national team. Turkish internationals Arda Turan from Barcelona, Hakan Çalhanoğlu from Bayer Leverkusen and Atınç Nukan from RB Leipzig are also expected to play in today's match while Serdar Aziz, who suffered an injury in Qatar match, was excluded. Greece's probable line-up includes Orestis Karnezis (Udinese), Stefanos Kapino (Olympiakos), Markos Vellidis (PAS Giannina), Georgios Tzavellas (PAOK), Konstantinos Manolas (Roma), Evangelos Moras (Hellas Verona), Sokratis Papastathopoulos (Borussia Dortmund), Jose Holebas (Watford), Loukas Vyntra (Hapoel Tel Aviv), Vassileios Torosidis (Roma), Kyriakos Papadopoulos (Bayer Leverkusen), Dimitrios Siovas (Olympiakos), Stelios Kitsiou (PAOK), Alexandros Tziolis (PAOK), Andreas Samaris (Benfica), Panagiotis Tachtsidis (Genoa), Sotiris Ninis (Panathinaikos), Athanasios Petsos (Rapid Wien), Dimitrios Pelkas (PAOK), Konstantinos Mitroglou (Benfica), Stefanos Athanasiadis (PAOK), Nikolaos Karelis (Panathinaikos), Apostolos Giannou (Asteras Tripolis), Christos Aravidis (AEK), Konstantinos Fortounis (Olympiakos). The Turkish national team had restored its winning streak after a humiliating defeat to Brazil in November 2014. Since then, the team won eight out of 10 matches and scored a draw in the remaining two. Twenty goals in the past 10 matches crowned the success.

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