(Reuters) - The long road to hosting the 2018 World Cup got off to an inauspicious start for Russia as they were held to a 0-0 draw by Turkey in the holiday resort city of Antalya on Wednesday.
A friendly between the countries would have been unthinkable a month ago, with relations having soured since November after Turkey shot down a Russian fighter jet near the Syrian border.
However, a meeting between Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and Russia's Vladimir Putin led to a thawing of relations.
Putin opted not to attend the game, despite having been invited by Erdogan, while the home side were roared on by a passionate near-capacity crowd of about 30,000.
The Turks, who face a tough World Cup qualifier against Croatia on Sept. 5 in Zagreb, started well and should have taken the lead after 23 minutes.
Volkan Sen found Ozan Tufan with a delightful pass, which beat the offside trap, however the Fenerbahce midfielder could only head straight at Igor Akinfeev in the Russia goal.
Russia coach Stanislav Cherchesov, taking charge of his first match, introduced several new faces to the starting lineup. Only eight members of his 23-man squad were survivors from Russia's disappointing Euro 2016 campaign.
Forward Fedor Smolov cut an isolated figure in attack and received little support from a largely inexperienced midfield, which included the likes of Magomed Ozdoev and Alexei Miranchuk.
The pace of the game slowed in the second half with both managers making numerous substitutions. Chances were at a premium with the best opportunity falling to Ozdoev in the 72nd minute, but the Rubin Kazan midfielder shot wide.
Neither side could find a winner in a largely forgettable encounter played in the south of Turkey.
(Reporting by Dmitriy Rogovitskiy; editing by Ken Ferris)Published 01 Sep 2016, 02:36 IST