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Thursday, 13 December, 2018

Turkey forwards look ready to entertain

Antalya trip could continue Ireland's trend of entertaining friendlies

Martin O'Neill (left) is delighted to have Seamus Coleman back in the squad
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International friendly
RTE2, 5.30pm Friday

There were few thrills in Ireland's last away international, the goalless draw in Denmark in the first leg of their World Cup qualifying playoff, but their friendly trip to Turkey could be a more expansive encounter.

Martin O'Neill sounded satisfied with that stalemate, in which his side had just 28 per cent of possession, but Christian Eriksen swiftly destroyed Ireland's dreams of reaching Russia.

Turkey took four points off a classy Croatia side in qualifying but their campaign petered out with a 3-0 home defeat to Iceland and a 2-2 draw in Finland in their last two games.

Their defenders haven't distinguished themselves in recent friendlies, either, with November reverses to Romania (2-0) and ten-man Albania (3-2) but Turkey have plenty of attacking quality in their ranks.

Hakan Calhanoglu of Milan and Roma youngster Cengiz Under have been in sparkling form in Serie A and Enes Unal came off the bench to score twice for Villarreal in last weekend's win over Atletico Madrid.

Frontman Cenk Tosun, prolific for Besiktas, has struck four times in his last three appearances for Everton and the balance of Turkey's squad points to a positive approach.

Ireland are boosted by the return of Seamus Coleman, who could make his first international appearance since suffering a horrible broken leg against Wales in March 2017.

But Coleman's experience isn't in keeping with a squad that includes eight uncapped players including West Ham teenager Declan Rice.

Goalkeepers Rob Elliot and Kieren Westwood are injured, leaving O'Neill with Bradford's Colin Doyle, Ross County's Aaron McCarey and 21-year-old Manchester United cat Kieran O'Hara as his custodians.

Four of Ireland's last five friendlies have featured over 2.5 goals and, given Turkey's creative talents and an inexperienced Irish defence, that trend could continue in Antalya.

Ireland's squad isn't packed with prolific goalscorers although Preston's Sean Maguire, a 9-1 chance to score first, is a man to watch.

Maguire was much too sharp for League of Ireland defences during a record-breaking spell with Cork City and he is finishing an injury-hit first season in England well, scoring five goals in his last four Sky Bet Championship outings.

Over 2.5 goals
1pt 13-8 Betfair, Hills, Paddy Power

Bet on this match at

Team news
Nuri Sahin retired from international football in November and there is no place in the squad for Arda Turan, who joined Istanbul Basaksehir on loan in January.

With Rob Elliot and Kieren Westwood injured, Colin Doyle is likely to start in goal. Seamus Coleman returns to the squad after recovering from a broken leg.

Key stat
Turkey have conceded ten goals in their last four internationals.

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Hakan Calhanoglu of Milan and Roma youngster Cengiz Under have been in sparkling form in Serie A
E.W. Terms
Sky bet