FIFA World Cup Prospectus: Bosnia And Herzegovina
Football.com will countdown the remaining time leading up to the World Cup with a 32-day preview of each team that will be participating. For those of you who want to know each team inside and out, the 32-Day 2014 FIFA World Cup Prospectus is the World Cup preview.
Group C: Japan
Group D: Uruguay
Group G: United States
Bosnia and Herzegovina make their first appearance as an independent nation. While an early exit is expected for this sparsely populated Balkan nation, they have a chance to upset the big boys and maybe, just maybe, be a dark horse canidate. Beginners luck is a dangerous thing.
FIFA Ranking: 25
World Cup Appearances: None but qualified as part of Yugoslavia in: 1930, 1950, 1954,1958,1962,1974,1982,1990
How Did They Qualify:
Qualified in European group G
What Group Are They In: Group F
Opponents (Match Dates): Argentina (6/15) Nigeria (6/21) Iran (6/25)
Projected Finish In Group H: 2nd
Why They Will Finish Second In Group F:
Bosnia and Herzegovina have been lighting up scoreboards and I don't see that changing. Their qualifying run was phenomenal. The Zmajevi faced a Latvia squad and won 5-0. Still not impressed? Consider the 8-1 shellacking they left on Lichtenstein. This squad is dangerous and if another team looks past Bosnia, it might be at their own peril.
Keeper: Asmir Begović is a giant between the sticks at 6-foot-6. In addition to his towering stature, he is a well skilled keeper. Maybe he doesn't have as many caps as most starters in the cup, but he has proven his skill for English side Stoke City, including an amazing long distance goal. The 26-year-old looks to lock down offenses and make sure the Zmajevi have a great first cup.
Defense: This group is very young and lacks any significant international experience. That said, captain Emir Spahić is the well-seasoned defensive cornerstone leading a very talented Bosnia and Herzegovina defense. The average ages of the back line is only 25 years old, but have shown shutdown speed and great positioning.
During qualifying, this group only allowed six goals. While this is extremely impressive, the competition was not exactly impressive. Slovakia, Latvia and Lichtenstein are not exactly the level of Argentina, Belgium and other World Cup squads. The only World Cup qualified squad they faced was Greece, which ended in a scoreless draw. They did great work against the Ivory Coast in their 2-1 friendly win. Nevertheless, we will see how this defense performs under duress from Argentina and Nigeria.
Midfield: I'm interested to see how this group performs. They have been steady and reliable, although not flashy. Vice captain Zvjezdan Misimović is very dangerous, scoring 25 goals in 81 international appearances. This group is slightly older and has some experience that the defense doesn't.
I liked the speed they exhibited against Ivory Coast. That speed and tempo will help them against Argentina and Nigeria. Most of the passing was crisp, but there were some questionable ones that could lead to disaster. Overall this is an above average group.
Forwards: Only two forwards were called up. But one is very dangerous as displayed by his brace against Ivory Coast. Edin Džeko, who plays for English side Manchester City, is a very dangerous striker. In open spaces he uses his skills to turn even a bad pass into a goal (as seen here). Set pieces are also a tough task for defenders seeing as he is 6-foot-4.
The second forward, Vedad Ibišević, is just as experienced and has spent the past seven years in the Bundesliga. Both forwards have a nose for the goal and are a scoring threat with every touch. Opposing defenders are going to have to lock down these two if they hope to contain these attackers and put Bosnia and Herzegovina on ice.
Coaching: Bosnia and Herzegovina have a well-established coach in Safet Sušić. Sušić has been boss of this team since 2009 and is currently their all-time winningest coach. As a player, he enjoyed a highly successful career in France and won many accolades. In addition, he performed well while playing for Yugoslavia
On club level he has done average while coaching mostly in Turkey. On the international level he has done great things with this country. I believe he is one of the most underrated coaches in the cup. Sušić makes Bosnia and Herzegovina very, very dangerous.
How can they win the World Cup:
I'll come out and say it; I think this team could be a legitimate dark horse. That said they would have an uphill battle. It'll likely fall to Sušić to keep his squad focused and playing at their best. One mistake and it can all be over.
What can go wrong?
The Bosnian defense survived the Ivory Coast, but that young group could underperform and easily leave Begović on an island. In addition, if the midfield fails to penetrate the attacking third it'll be an early exit. In ability to block free kicks could be an issue (see: Didier Drogba beats Begović in stoppage time).
Bosnia has a gorgeous deep blue uniform. Maybe it's just the simplicity that makes it easy on the eyes. Also having the country on the front is a very nice touch, maybe I'm just overly patriotic.
What's there to like about the Bosnia and Herzegovina:
A few of the cities of this tiny country have some beautiful landmarks. The city of Jajce has a 17-meter waterfall that is a huge hit for tourists. Mostar is also widely recognized by its medieval bridge. Of course, Sarajevo is always popular for it's different poly-cultural architecture and all the diverse cultures. Some of the cities have Turkish quarters still left over from the days of the Ottoman Empire.