2014 World Cup Group F team previews: Bosnia

Analysis of Bosnia's 2014 World Cup chances in a Group F with Iran, Argentina and Nigeria.
Bosnia team photo taken during World Cup qualifying on October 11, 2013. Fehim Demir / EPA
Bosnia team photo taken during World Cup qualifying on October 11, 2013. Fehim Demir / EPA

Most teams heading to their maiden World Cup would probably be happy just to be there, but Bosnia want more from a talented squad who stormed through qualifying to reach their first major tournament as an independent nation.

With Edin Dzeko and Vedad Ibisevic scoring 18 of the team’s 30 goals to form one of the most prolific strike partnerships in qualifying, Bosnia will fancy their chances against Group F rivals Argentina, African champions Nigeria and Iran.

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While getting a result against the Argentines in their opening match at Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana stadium may be a tall order, the side coached by former Yugoslavia forward Safet Susic have every chance of reaching the knockout stages.

Susic and most of his players say that reaching the last 16 is a minimum requirement for a team boasting Dzeko and Ibisevic up front and Roma playmaker Miralem Pjanic, Lazio winger Senad Lulic and Hoffenheim’s Sejad Salihovic.

The defence is the weaker part of Bosnia’s side and a lack of depth may also hurt them as the tournament wears on, with Susic acknowledging after qualifying that he has few first class experienced backups to choose from.

The 59-year-old coach, who hit 21 goals in 54 internationals and is widely considered one of the most gifted forwards to have come from the former Yugoslavia, may also need to impose iron-fisted discipline in the dressing room.

Normally soft-spoken and ready to humour the media, Susic demonstrated his no-nonsense approach when he blasted Dzeko and captain Emir Spahic for dissent after a 2-0 friendly defeat by Egypt in Innsbruck in March.

Both players bemoaned the omission of close friend Senijad Ibricic from the squad while Dzeko asked to come off at half-time but was made to play 90 minutes by Susic who later said the Manchester City forward needed to realise who was in charge.

The coach also made it clear he did not want his players to rest on their laurels after receiving a royal reception in Sarajevo following a 1-0 victory in Lithuania in October that sealed their World Cup berth.

“I don’t care if I have the support of the players or not because I don’t fear a public backlash, nor am I taking the team to the World Cup in Brazil on a tourist expedition,” said Susic after the Egypt game.

Known as a player who produced his best football under pressure, Susic must instil the same kind of grit and determination in his entertaining unit but they have the potential to become one of the tournament’s surprise packages.

Five to watch:

Asmir Begovic, goalkeeper (Stoke City); age 26; 28 caps. The towering keeper will undoubtedly be first choice in the World Cup after a string of impressive performances for club and country in the past four years. Begovic’s qualities have put him in the spotlight as a prime target for several of the Premier League’s bigger clubs.

Emir Spahic, centre-back (Bayer Leverkusen); age 33; 72 caps. Bosnia’s captain is a rock-solid centre-back marshalling the defence. After five good years at Lokomotiv Moscow and French side Montpellier, he has been somewhat less consistent at Sevilla and his present club with his age becoming a factor.

Miralem Pjanic, midfielder (AS Roma); age 24; 46 caps. Effervescent either as a playmaker or a winger, Pjanic made his international debut as an 18-year-old and has improved ever since, having joined Roma in 2011 after three good seasons at Lyon. Close control, vision and an excellent right foot from set pieces have made Pjanic indispensable in Bosnia’s first 11.

Edin Dzeko, striker (Manchester City); age 28; 58 caps. The robust and versatile striker is the tip of Bosnia’s spear and he will have to shoulder huge expectations from the Balkan country’s fans and pundits in Brazil. One of the most recognised scorers in the game, Dzeko also has the ability to hold the ball, take on defenders and assist his teammates. Known as “The Bosnian Diamond”, he is the Balkan country’s all-time leading scorer with 33 goals.

Vedad Ibisevic, striker (Stuttgart); age 29; 51 caps. Thrived alongside Dzeko in the qualifiers as the two combined for 18 of Bosnia’s 30 goals. A perfect complement to his more heralded strike partner, Ibisevic got just reward for his hard work when he scored the winner in a 1-0 defeat of Lithuania, which sealed Bosnia’s berth in the finals.

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Published: May 27, 2014 04:00 AM

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