Hello and welcome to Sports Mole
's live text coverage of the international friendly meeting between Russia
and Turkey at the VEB Arena in Moscow. The home side are playing their final match before next week's World Cup opener against Saudi Arabia, giving manager Stanislas Cherchesov one last chance to run the rule over his side.
The visitors failed to qualify for the quadrennial competition, meanwhile, and are therefore using this match as preparation for their UEFA Nations League clash against the same opposition later this year. It is fair to say that all eyes are very much on Russia this afternoon, though, as they are the host nation for the World Cup and starting places are still up for grabs.
RUSSIA XI: Akinfeev; Smolnikov, Ignasevich, Kutepov; Zhirkov, Zobnin, Golovin, Gazinskiy, Samedov; Dzagoev, Smolov
TURKEY XI: Serkan; Ozbayrakli, Ayhan, Soyuncu, Kaldirim; Kahveci, Yokuslu, Tekdemir; Yazici, Karaman, Cengiz Under
Starting with a look at the home team, Cherchesov has selected pretty much seven or eight players that we can expect to see start next Thursday's showdown with Saudi Arabia. Igor Akinfeev is the veteran of this Russian side, even if he is still just 32 years old, while Aleksandr Golovin, Alan Dzagoev
and Fyodor Smolov are also standout names. Those three are tasked with interchanging; Dzagoev in particular being given licence to roam around the field.
Sbornaya have had some serious bad luck in terms of their defensive options, so there is added pressure on those talented forward players to make an impact across the three group games. Cherchesov will again go with a back three today, utilising Yuri Zhirkov and Aleksandr Samedov
down the flanks, with Krasnador's Yury Gazinsky among those hoping to hold down a spot in central midfield.
In terms of the visitors, manager Mircea Lucescu
has decided to change things around a bit from the 2-2 draw with World Cup-bound Tunisia a few days ago. Everton striker Cenk Tosun is left out of the starting lineup, meaning that Kenan Karaman will lead the line. Yusuf Yazici and the extremely talented Cengiz Under will start on either flank, meanwhile, in what we can expect to be a 4-3-3 formation.
Russia automatically qualified for the World Cup, of course, having been named as the host nation eight years ago. It is fair to say that the Federation was in a better state back then, with their successful Euro 2008 campaign fresh in the memory, a number of players thriving in the Premier League and Zenit St Petersburg one of the UEFA Cup powerhouses. Now, they head into the World Cup on home soil with one of their weakest-ever groups.
Friendlies are not exactly a good way to judge the quality of a side, but Russia did play three competitive games at the Confederations Cup last summer. An opening-game win over New Zealand was positive enough, albeit in a match that you would expect them to win, before losing to Portugal and Mexico to exit the competition at the group stage. A similar outcome in the World Cup would be a disaster.
Russia's group is very weak, though, by virtue of the tournament hosts being among the top seeds. Uruguay are expected to sail through in top spot, leaving Sbornaya to battle it out with Egypt and Saudi Arabia for second place. Cherchesov's men will simply be looking to make it through to the last-16 stage, aiming to become just the second side to exit their home tournament at the first hurdle.
The home side have failed to win any of their last six friendlies since a 4-2 triumph against South Korea in October, most recently losing 3-0 to Brazil - the Selecao really stepped things up in the second half of that one - and also losing to France and Austria. The 1-0 reverse in Innsbruck last week was yet another reminder that this Russia side is pretty weak, and they have their work cut out to even make it out of Group A.
Turkey are ranked a lot higher than Russia at 37th in the world, although their opponents' ranking has taken a battering since Euro 2016 as they have played just three competitive fixtures - each at the Confederations Cup a year ago. The visitors finished fourth in their qualifying group behind Iceland, Croatia and Ukraine with four wins from their 10 matches - not a great return, but pretty much par for the course as they were fourth seeds.
The Crescent-Stars are on a four game unbeaten run after beating Republic of Ireland and Iran, while also playing out a couple of 2-2 draws with Montenegro and Tunisia. Cenk Tosun and Caglar Soyuncu scored in that most recent match in Geneva, the latter finding a way through in the 90th minute to keep the unbeaten run intact. Lucescu appears to have made his team hard to beat; now he will want to turn draws into wins.
This will mark Turkey's final match of the season, as they do not return to action until the autumn when taking on Russia in the UEFA Nations League. This will therefore be the first of three matches between these two sides over the next four months or so, with Sweden the other side in that three-team group. That inaugural competition offers a potential backdoor route to Euro 2020, so Lucescu will want his players to hit the ground running.
PREDICTION! With this being Russia's final pre-World Cup friendly, Stanislas Cherchesov will be desperate to see a big performance from his side. Possibly seven or eight of those in the starting lineup look assured of a place in the side that will face Saudi Arabia in nine days' time, meaning that others have a chance to show their manager just why they deserve to be in consideration. I'll back a 2-1 home win.
Both sets of players are now out on the field of play at the 30,000-capacity VEB Arena in Moscow, which has sold out for this match. Russia have spent time training in Austria but results have not been great heading into their home World Cup; a big performance is therefore needed today to instil some belief not just in their own ranks but also among supporters. Kick off is now just moments away...
KICKOFF! Referee Ovidiu Hategan gets us up and running in the Russian capital! I said a little earlier that this one had gone down as a sell out, but there are plenty of empty seats spread out around the ground.
Turkey pressing high up the field to win the ball back from their opponents. A cross into the box is blocked behind for a corner, which the home side are able to deal with in an efficient manner. The Crescent-Stars are on top early on.
The visitors are dominating possession in the opening five minutes of the match, barely giving Russia a sniff. Sbornaya did just mount their first attack, though, with a cutback into the middle being cleared by an opposition player.
Slightly better from the World Cup hosts, as they attempt to knock the ball into midfield from the back. It is still Turkey who are looking the more composed in possession, without being able to do a great deal in the final third.
CHANCE! A good defensive header from Zhirkov at the expense of a corner, from which rumoured Arsenal target Caglar Soyuncu ghosted in and sent a headed chance wide of the target. It was an awkward one, but he should have been doing better.
Turkey not just in control of the match but also now creating chances, with Soyuncu - who netted a late goal in the 2-2 draw with Tunisia last time out - coming close from 10 yards out. The home side unable to really get going so far.
Russia's best opening of the match so far, as Smolov had acres of space to run into. The forward attempted to cut inside and was sent tumbling on the edge of the box, but referee Ovidiu Hategan felt that it was a fair challenge.
A cross from Turkey's left is rather disappointing, as it ends in the side-netting of Akinfeev's goal. Fifteen minutes played at the VEB Arena and, like in Russia's last friendly, this contest has yet to really take off.
Russia win themselves a free kick in a dangerous position around 25 yards from goal, which Aleksandr Samedov curls towards the back post. The ball went right the way through without a touch, though, and we await the first shot of the match.
CHANCE! Another free kick for Russia, this time from a deeper position for Yuri Zhirkov to swing into the area. Aleksandr Golovin was the player closest to making contact, but he could not quite turn it home at full stretch.
The home side certainly growing into the match over the past few minutes, but they are heavily reliant on set-pieces. That has also proved to be the case for Turkey, with their only opening coming from a right-sided corner kick.
Credit to Russia for taking control of the match; they were second best in the opening 15 minutes or so but have since looked the better side. Not been a great match for the neutral, mind - still zero shots of any note at either end.
More than a quarter of the way through this friendly clash and the sides have shared a half-chance apiece so far. This is panning out in a similar manner to Sbornaya's meeting with Austria last week, which they went on to lose 1-0 in Innsbruck.
A nice passing move from Russia culminates in Zhirkov's cross being played straight into Serkan Kirintili's hands. That is pretty much the first thing the Turkey goalkeeper has had to do all afternoon.
We are a third of the way through the match and it is fair to say that it can only get better... hopefully! A couple of dangerous Turkey crosses into the box are dealt with by Russia - one up high and the other down low.
The overall possession count is split right down the middle at 50-50. It has been an evenly-contested match on the whole, with Turkey starting the brighter but fading as the half has gone on. Half time is now fast approaching in Moscow.
There has been a definite increase in tempo from Russia over the past couple of minutes. With the increased pace comes the chance of mistakes being made, though, and Turkey should have done better when counter-attacking a few moments ago.
A reminder that Russia begin their World Cup campaign in nine days' time with a meeting against Saudi Arabia. On the basis of their last couple of friendlies, that match may not go down as a classic.
GOAL! RUSSIA 1-0 TURKEY (ALEKSANDR SAMEDOV)
From their first serious attempt of the afternoon, Russia take the lead! It was a well-taken goal, too, as Alan Dzagoev slipped the ball through for Aleksandr Samedov, who dinked it over Turkey keeper Serkan Kirintili from a tight angle.
Hasan Ali Kaldirim had a shot kept out by the experienced Igor Akinfeev at the other end a minute or so before that Russia opener. The visitors now need to step things up as they are chasing a goal against the World Cup hosts.
Russia have looked the better side since that strike from Samedov. Just a few minutes to go until half time, giving both managers a chance to possibly freshen up their sides. Can Turkey find a response before then?
SAVE! The ball bounces around inside Turkey's box but they eventually manage to clear their lines. After surviving a bit of a bombardment, Turkey countered and Kenan Karaman's header was right at Igor Akinfeev.
HALF TIME: RUSSIA 1-0 TURKEY
Dzagoev was so nearly in for a second Russia goal right at the end of the first half, but the pass through to him had too much on it and Kirintili was able to collect. A fairly lively 10-minute spell to conclude the half, with Russia going into the break a goal to the good.
Rumoured Arsenal target Caglar Soyuncu ghosted in at the back post early on but could not quite direct an awkward headed chance on Igor Akinfeev's target. Turkey had been on top at that point and soon tightened their grip on proceedings, without being able to damage the home side.
Sbornaya soon grew into the match, with Yuri Zhirkov swinging in a dangerous free kick from deep that was marginally out of Aleksandr Golovin's reach at the back post. Neither side could muster a serious effort on target prior to the breakthrough moment, which arrived 10 minutes before the interval.
Aleksandr Samedov made the most of his big opening when it arrived, latching on to Alan Dzagoev's through-ball and delicately dinking the ball over Serkan Kirintili from a tight angle. Russia looked the better side in the build-up to half time, but Turkey created the next clear-cut opening for Kenan Karaman to head straight at Akinfeev.
There are a combined 26 players on the sides' benches this afternoon, so we can surely expect a raft of changes over the remaining 45 minutes. Stanislav Cherchesov
will understandably be the happier of the two managers at the midway point, with his side sitting on that slender one-goal lead.
RESTART! We are back under way at the VEB Arena in Moscow. Turkey have made a change at the interval, bringing on Oguzhan Ozyakup for Yusuf Yazici, while Russia remain the same from the end of the opening 45 minutes.
Russia fail to make the most of a big chance as Smolov is flagged for offside. Turkey gave the ball away and were left completely open at the back, but the pass into the striker's path was a fraction of a second too late.
Turkey with a little more urgency about them in this second half, but already we have seen that it can come at a risk. Russia will have space to pounce on; they have to do far better than they did in that previous attacking move.
Turkey actually made a couple of changes at the break; Yunus Malli
was also brought on for Irfan Kahveci. The game's first yellow card has just been shown to Okay Yokuslu for a strong challenge in the middle of the park.
Aleksandr Golovin sends in a delightful cross from the left; one of those that needed just any sort of touch to help it into the back of the net. As it was, Serkan Kirintili was able to get his hands to it before a player in red.
YELLOW CARD! Alan Dzagoev clipped his opponent when at full stretch and is shown the second yellow card of the contest. Referee Ovidiu Hategan opting against using some leniency this afternoon, it seems.
YELLOW CARD! Igor Smolnikov does very well to get across to the Turkey right and hook away the ball. From the next move, Yuri Zhirkov became the third player in quick succession to be shown a yellow for an infringement.
There has now officially been more cautions than chances in the opening hour of this international friendly in Moscow. The onus is on Turkey to create something; they still trail by that Aleksandr Samedov goal 35 minutes into the game.
GOAL! RUSSIA 1-1 TURKEY (YUNUS MALLI)
From pretty much nowhere we are all square in the Russian capital! Goalkeeper Serkan Kirintili can claim the assist, as his punt upfield caught the Russia backline napping. Still, Yunus Malli had work to do, sending the ball spinning past Igor Akinfeev from 20 yards.
That really was a shocking goal for Russia to concede, particularly as they had a second chance to keep it out. Akinfeev could not get to it after his defenders had been left badly exposed. We are now all square with 25 minutes to go.
RUSSIA SUB! Cherchesov makes a change on the back of that Turkey equaliser, bringing on Aleksey Miranchuk for Alan Dzagoev. The visitors have used three of their subs, each coming on for the start of the second period.
SHOT! Golovin does well to fashion a shooting opportunity, only for his effort to deflect behind for a corner. We do at least have an open match on our hands now, with both teams pressing to find what may well be a winning goal.
Roman Zobnin with a cross into the area which nobody in white can get on the end of. Shots have been few and far between today, but we have just seen one via the boot of Yuri Zhirkov - it was always rising over the crossbar.
YELLOW CARD! Hasan Ali Kaldirim trips his opponent and is the latest player to be booked. Not sure if the referee was perhaps told before the match to treat this like a competitive match - some of these cautions have been harsh.
CHANCE! Glorious chance for Smolov to edge his side back in front. The striker took down a ball over the top, cut inside and then got his shot away. There was too much curl, however, and it flew wide of the target.
Russia the side looking more likely to score at the moment, despite Turkey being the fresher thanks to their trio of half-time changes. On that note, Cherchesov must surely be tempted to try one or two more different players around about now?
TURKEY SUB! Serdar Gurler is on for Cengiz Under as Lucescu continues to rotate his pack. Russia have looked the more likely to score the game's third goal, but it is the visitors who are currently probing away.
RUSSIA SUBS! Russia now have Fedor Kudryashov on the field, taking over from Yury Gazinsky for the remaining 10 minutes. Moments later, Mario Fernandes was brought on for Igor Smolnikov in defence.
Zhirkov gets a shot away, but it deflected off an opposition player just inside the box and then hit one of his teammates. We are now into the final eight minutes at the VEB Arena in Moscow - plenty of time for a winning goal to be scored!
CHANCE! He only came on at half time but Yunus Malli could well have bagged himself a second goal. Real panic at the back for Russia, but the half-time sub blasted the ball over the bar. Kenan Karaman is replaced by Emre Akbaba.
Turkey are looking the stronger side in the closing stages of this friendly. Russia would not exactly take a 1-1 draw at this point - they are desperate to claim victory - but at this rate there appears likely to be only one winner.
RUSSIA SUB! Aleksandr Samedov is replaced by Anton Miranchuk in what should be the final alteration of the afternoon. Not sure how long the ref plans on adding on at the end, but there may well be time for one last chance.
We are expected to play a couple of additional minutes in Moscow. Turkey have decided to shoehorn in one final change, bringing on Mehmet Celik for Sener Ozbayrakli. Russia are the side currently probing away, with a free kick inside their own half.
FULL TIME: RUSSIA 1-1 TURKEY
Russia play out a 1-1 draw with Turkey in their final friendly before the World Cup finals get under way in a little over a week's time. Aleksandr Samedov opened the scoring 35 minutes in with a delicate little chip, only for Yunus Malli to come off the bench and level things up on the hour mark.
That concludes Sports Mole
's live text coverage of events from the VEB Arena. An on-the-whistle report can be found by clicking here
, and be sure to join us tomorrow for more updates from friendlies across the continent. See you then!