Every four years, brand new members are welcomed into the World Cup fraternity. In 2014, Bosnia and Herzegovina will make its tournament debut in Brazil. It’s been a long and arduous road for the Bosnians to get here since gaining independence from Yugoslavia. But the Zmajevi (Dragons) are full of confidence ahead of their first major tournament, and travel to South America with the intention of making more history.
Goalkeepers: Asmir Avdukic (Borac Banja Luka), Asmir Begovic (Stoke City), Jasmin Fezjic (Aalen)
Defenders: Muhamed Besic (Ferencvaros), Ermin Bicakcic (Eintracht Braunschweig), Sead Kolasinac (Schalke), Emir Spahic (Bayer Leverkusen), Toni Sunjic (Zorya), Ognjen Vranjes (Elazigspor)
Midfielders: Anel Hadzic (Sturm Graz), Izet Hajrovic (Galatasaray), Senijad Ibricic (Erciyespor), Senad Lulic (Lazio), Haris Medunjanin (Gaziantepspor), Zvjezdan Misimovic (Guizhou Renhe), Mensur Mujdza (Freiburg), Miralem Pjanic (Roma), Sejad Salihovic (Hoffenheim), Tino Susic (Hajduk Split), Edin Visca (Istanbul BB), Avdija Vrsajevic (Hajduk Split)
Forwards: Edin Dzeko (Manchester City), Vedad Ibisevic (Stuttgart)
A former winger and forward during his playing days, Safet Susiccoached a number of teams in Turkey before being handed the Bosnian coaching reins in 2009. Susic guided Bosnia to the playoffs for Euro 2012 before finally helping his country qualify for the World Cup for the first time in the nation’s history.
4-4-2: (GK) Begovic – (D) Mujdza, Spahic, Bicakcic, Kolasinac – (M) Pjanic, Salihovic, Lulic, Misimovic – (F) Dzeko, Ibisevic
Group F schedule
June 15: vs. Argentina in Rio
June 21: vs. Nigeria in Cuiaba
June 25: vs. Iran in Salvador
How they qualified
One word: consistency. The Bosnians barely put a foot wrong in the qualifiers, winning eight of their 10 matches in Group G with only a single loss. They took care of the minnows (Lichtenstein and Latvia), split two games against Slovakia and took four of six points from Greece.
Bosnia won its qualifying group on the strength of an awesome attack that produced 30 goals – only Germany, Holland and England scored more often in the European qualifiers. Edin Dzeko and fellow forward Vedad Ibisevic, who combined for 18 goals, provide a dangerous one-two scoring punch.
Bosnia only knows one way to play—straight forward in attack. The Bosnians have to come up with an effective Plan B. A lack of team depth is another major concern, as is the absence of a quality holding option in midfield, and a defence that lacks pace.
Players to watch
Edin Dzeko: The Manchester City forward is Bosnia’s main scoring threat. He bagged 10 in the qualifiers, second only to Robin van Persie (11) in UEFA.
Mirlem Pjanic: The AS Roma playmaker could be one of the breakout stars in Brazil. A creative force with the ball at his feet, and deadly from set pieces.
Asmir Begovic: The former Canadian youth star is one of the best goalkeepers in the English Premier League with Stoke City. A great shot stopper.
Will Dzeko and Ibisevic be able to lead the scoring charge? The deadly duo accounted for over half of Bosnia’s goals in qualifying. But if they fall flat in Brazil or get injured, Bosnia really doesn’t have any other quality options up front. If the Dragons are going to progress, their top two forwards will need to produce.
Prospects in Brazil
Bosnia is a dangerous attacking side with plenty of quality in midfield. That should see them advance from a group that includes Lionel Messi’s Argentina. Where do they go from there? If luck is on their side, a spot in the quarterfinals is possible. But more than likely they’ll be heading home after a second-round loss.
World Cup history
After gaining independence from Yugoslavia in 1992, Bosnia wasn’t allowed to take part in the qualifiers for the 1994 World Cup as the country was not yet a member of FIFA due to the ongoing Bosnian War. Admittance to FIFA was finally granted in 1996 and years of hard slogging led to genuine progress, with Bosnia losing to Portugal in the qualification playoffs for the 2010 World Cup.
• 1994—Barred from entering
• 1998 to 2010—Did not qualify
Algeria || Argentina || Australia || Belgium || Bosnia and Herzegovina || Brazil || Cameroon || Chile || Colombia || Costa Rica || Croatia || Ecuador || England || France || Germany || Ghana || Greece || Holland || Honduras || Iran || Italy || Ivory Coast || Japan || Mexico || Nigeria || Portugal || Russia || South Korea || Spain || Switzerland || Uruguay || United States