International Friendly: Tunisia vs Turkey – Lineups, Preview and Prediction
After an impressive showing against Portugal, Tunisia will look to impress again in their penultimate game before the World Cup.
18:15 GMT, Friday 1st June, Stade de Genève (Geneva, Switzerland)
While you’d be hard-pressed to name a single player from either of these two teams with world-class ability, there are plenty of factors to make this game interesting for the viewer.
For England fans, this game will give a good indication of what the Three Lions will come up against in a couple of weeks in Russia in their opening game.
For the Turkish fans, this will offer another chance to bring passion and fire to games, however inconsequential the result may be.
Geneva and Switzerland play hosts for this game and the cooler temperatures should help Tunisia acclimatise to Russia.
For Turkey, they will use this valuable match practice as preparation for the first edition of the UEFA Nations League, where they have an eminently winnable group with Sweden and World Cup hosts Russia.
Last Time Out
Portugal 2-2 Tunisia (International Friendly)
While Tunisia were up against a Ronaldo-less Portugal, this result was still impressive on several counts: they were away to the current European Champions, down 2-0 and truly under the cosh come half time.
Yet Anice Badri and Fakhreddine Ben Youssef’s goals either side of the break after a Joao Mario thunderbolt from 20-yards and a header from Wolves’ Andre Silva gave them a notable result.
With this being the first of three matches before their opening World Cup game against England, Tunisia face another heavyweight in Spain after this fixture.
If they perform like they did in the second half against Portugal, Turkey and Co. should be wary.
Turkey 2-1 Iran (International Friendly)
Everton striker Cenk Tosun’s brace gave Turkey a win more comfortable than the result suggests against World Cup-bound Iran.
The former Besiktas man opened the scoring in only the sixth minute with a low strike from just inside the area, before adding a second just after halftime.
Iran’s last-minute consolation goal came as a result of a red card and penalty after Turkey’s Omer Bayram handled the ball on the goal line before Nottingham Forest winger Ashkan Dejagah converted it from the spot.
Although Tunisia have occasionally played in a 4-2-3-1 formation in the last few months, coach Nabil Maaloul favours a 4-3-3.
Without the possibility of an out-and-out number ten, the 4-3-3 has prompted Maaloul to field Wahbi Khazri as a striker. If he isn’t included in the starting XI, expect to see Saber Khalifa brought in or recent goal-scorer Fakhreddine Ben Youssef.
Expect Turkey to line up in a similar configuration to the way they lined up against Iran.
Key Battle: Cenk Tosun (Turkey) vs Yohan Benalouane (Tunisia)
In a battle which will feature perhaps the only two current Premier League footballers, Everton’s Tosun comes into this match high on confidence having scored a brace against Iran.
He will hope continue his ever improving form that started towards the end of the season with the Toffees.
In his way stands Yohan Benalouane.
A Premier League winner with Leicester City, since then he has played a total of 29 games in three seasons.
A mismatch on paper, Benalouane’s reputation as a hard man may make this a tough assignment for Tosun.
Can this Tunisia side qualify from their World Cup group?
Tunisia, as third seeds, were dealt a mixed hand in the World Cup draw back in December.
While Group G seems to have a clear whipping boy in Panama, the fact that England came up from pot two as one of the better teams is slightly unlucky for Tunisia.
Yet with Belgium as top seeds, there is no team in the group with real World Cup pedigree and, as such, nothing for Tunisia to fear.
Will they be expected to qualify? No. Can they? Definitely.
Prediction: Tunisia 1-1 Turkey
As is often the case with these pre-tournament matches, don’t expect a game with plenty of goals and flying tackles.
A lack of home advantage for either side will further dampen the affair, and the two solidly defensive sides ought to cancel each other out.
Do you think Tunisia can make it out of their World Cup group? Let us know in the comments section below.