The warming relations between Turkey and Russia, which broke down after Turkey downed a Russian Su-24 bomber jet that violated its airspace last year, will continue on the football field today. Turkey and Russia's national teams will play a friendly match in Antalya tonight as the two countries patch up their differences. Turkey, who were miserably bad at Euro 2016, are now trying to prepare ahead of their 2018 World Cup qualification match against Croatia on Sept. 5. The friendly against Russia will be both a rehearsal for the Turkish team and contribute to the warming relations between the two countries. Turkey will host Russia for the first time in 22 years and will be looking for victory with a renovated squad in which stars including Arda Turan have been cast off.
Turkey manager Fatih Terim stunned the Turkish footballing world on the weekend after dropping superstar and captain Arda Turan from the national team ahead of their game with Russia. Turan was not the only established player to be omitted from the squad. Terim dropped Burak Yılmaz, Selçuk Şahin, Hakan Balta, Caner Erkin and Gökhan Gönül. Ever since his re-appointment, Terim has stressed the importance of bringing through young players into the national team and it appears the latest squad is a reflection of that thinking.
A total of 10 players from the under-21 team have been called up to the main squad. The changes come ahead of the squad's first game since Turkey's disappointing Euro 2016 campaign.
Arda Turan is expected to be replaced by newer faces such as Başakşehir's Cengiz Ünder and Fenerbahçe's Salih Uçan. The match will start at 9:45 in Turkey's Antalya province. Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said
World Cup 2018 hosts Russia, who crashed out of Euro 2016 without a win, will also make sweeping changes to their national team.
Vitaly Mutko, Russia's sports minister and football union president, told Interfax. "We are starting from scratch."
Mutko warned that there had been players who had behaved "unprofessionally and incorrectly" and failed to deliver at the Euros, Interfax reported.
"The team will be formed on another basis, one of the priorities being the desire to play for the team," Mutko said, adding that the squad will be formed before a friendly against Turkey. Former international goalkeeper Stanislav Cherchesov was named as the new head coach of the Russian national team on Aug. 11. The 52-year-old has signed a contract until Aug. 1, 2018. Former Russia manager Leonid Slutskiy resigned after the team's disappointing campaign at the Euro 2016 where they finished bottom of group B and failed to qualify for the knockout stages. Cherchesov's first match in charge of Russia will be a friendly against Turkey. Being the hosts, they would not need to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.
Cherchesov has coached a number of clubs in his home country, including Spartak Moscow and Dynamo Moscow. He took over as manager of Legia Warsaw in October, 2015 and helped the club win the Polish league and the Cup.
Elsewhere, Germany host Finland before the start of World Cup qualifying with captain Bastian Schweinsteiger saying goodbye and a handful of fresh faces joining coach Joachim Loew's squad. Germany complete their preparations for the start of their World Cup title defense with a home friendly against Finland today before beginning qualifying for Russia 2018 in Norway on Sunday. The Finland game in Moenchengladbach is to serve as a farewell match for long-serving midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger who is to step down as captain and retire from the national team after 120 appearances. Another veteran, Lukas Podolski, was also supposed to be saying farewell against Finland but injury means this will happen later. Finland finished fourth in Euro 2016 qualifying and have not won in their last six games. They open their bid to reach Russia 2018 against newcomers Kosovo next Monday and also face Croatia, Iceland, Ukraine and Turkey in World Cup Group I.