2014 FIFA World Cup Preview | Bosnia and Herzegovina
By Paolo Serpe
Group F: Argentina, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iran, Nigeria
As the newcomers to the world stage, all eyes will be on Bosnia and Herzegovina to see what they can produce.
After being denied qualification twice by Portugal, in the 2010 World Cup and 2012 Euro Cup playoffs, they finally reached their first major tournament as an independent nation by finishing first, ahead of Greece on goal difference, in their group.
Most of the squad may be relatively unknown to most neutrals, but Bosnia is a skillful, attractive team to watch. Bosnia, Croatia, Serbia and Slovenia were all once part of Yugoslavia, before the country separated; they all play with similar style, flair and attacking prowess as the now-former nation.
The experienced striker partnership of Edin Džeko and Vedad Ibišević should provide a steady, reliable attacking threat. They play off of each other well, as Ibišević is the more mobile; he can carry the ball forward and provide assists, while Džeko is more of a target man, holding the ball up with his back to goal and finishing off plays inside the penalty area.
In the midfield, rising star Miralem Pjanić will pull the strings. He has broken out as an extremely talented playmaker since moving to Roma two years ago. A small player, he glides through the opposition with ease, distributing the ball for teammates and creating space for the strikers. Opponents will look to shut him down to stop Bosnia’s attacks, so the team will have to work hard in the centre of the field and play with patience.
Sejad Salihović and Senad Lulić are the veterans of Bosnia’s midfield; their work rate and leadership will be important for this young core of players.
The defence contains a good mix of young and old, physical, strong players capable operating as a cohesive unit; Bosnia conceded only six goals in ten qualifying matches. Captain Emir Spahić is the oldest player on the squad at 33, as a veteran of the German Bundesliga, he will know how to organize and direct his side from the back.
Taking second place in this group behind Argentina is very possible for Dunlop. He sees this as the ideal group for Bosnia’s first World Cup.
“I think they can get out of the group, I think they can be better than Nigeria,” he said. “It’s a good opportunity for them to shine.”
Dunlop doesn’t expect much from Iran, while Argentina will clearly be massive favourites in their encounter. A quick, strong Nigerian team will be a test for Bosnia but their superior technical abilities should be enough for them to come out on top.
The main thing for this team will be to enjoy their first moments at the World Cup. Many of the players shed tears when Bosnia’s qualification was secured and while just reaching the tournament meant everything, it won’t satisfy them.
Reed thinks this team has every possibility to advance out of their group, if they can maintain their composure and not be over-awed by the occasion.