Who? Turkey - Iran
When? May 28, 20:15 (CET local time)
Where? Başakşehir Fatih Terim Stadium, Istanbul
Iran (Uri Levy)
Iran will face Turkey as a preparation for their 2018 World Cup group B clashes with Spain, Portugal & Morocco.
After their friendly against Uzbekistan, who they won 1-0, coach Carlos Queiroz has made few changes in the provisional squad he began the preparations for the tournament with.
These aroused huge questions among the Iranian fans. The main omission was one of Iran’s best defenders ever - Esteghlal’ Seyed Jalal Hosseini. Hosseini, 36, a key member in Team Melli for years, but now young Ali Gholizadeh will attain more responsibility in the World Cup.
Another crucial cut was Charleroi’s striker, Kaveh Rezaei, who scored 16 goals in his debut season in Belgium. Having a variety of options up front, Iran had to release one forward of their loaded front line. Versus Turkey it is likely that Iran’s attack will be led by AZ Alkmaar’s Alireza Jahanbakhsh, who finished the season as the top scorer in the Netherlands & Sardar Azmoun, who is expected to be a key figure in the squad after another impressive year with Rubin Kazan.
Iran’s captains are two players involved in a controversy - Masoud Shojaei and Ehsan Hajsafi. The two have been a target for Iranian politicians and media, after they played with their Greek ex-club, Panionios, against Israeli Maccabi Tel Aviv. Many called for their ban, but the ones who did supported them were the Iranian fans who made #NoBanForOurPlayers one of Twitter’s most trending topics in 2017. While the Political storm raved, Shojaei end up winning the league with AEK Athens, while Hajsafi became an indispensable part of Olympiakos. The two experienced and talented figures will lead the way for Team Melli against Turkey, and in Russia.
Meanwhile, Queiroz was quoted that he will leave Iran after the World Cup. Yet, it seems unlikely that Portuguese will drop such a significant project, as Iran will play the Asian Cup in January 2019 in the UAE, and the process he started in the country is still ongoing.
Turkey (Yossi Medina)
The Turkish national team failed once again to qualify for the World Cup. Their next mission is to prepare for the UEFA Nations League, in order to make an important step for Euro 2020. Turkey has been drawn to a tough group alongside with two teams that will take part in the World Cup: Russia and Sweden.
The coach, Mircea Lucescu, preferred to call up a lot of unexperienced player and there is only one play in the squad that have more than 50 caps, Mehmet Topal. Yet, Lucescu has few of the best Turkish players nowadays, including Everton striker, Cenk Tosun, and Roma young midfielder, Cengiz Ünder.
The biggest surprise in the squad is the absence of Galatasaray players. The Turkish champions had three representatives in the national team squad during the last year, Selçuk İnan, Serdar Aziz and Tolga Ciğerci, but none of them got a chance in this international break.
It will be the first match of the national team that will be played in Istanbul since November 2015. Back then, Turkey hosted Greece at the same stadium, Başakşehir Fatih Terim Stadium. The venue is expected to be full with excited local fans.