15-June Argentina (11pm GMT Rio de Janeiro)
21-June Nigeria (11pm GMT Cuiaba)
25-June Iran (5pm GMT Salvador)
The young Balkan nation have secured their first ever World Cup appearance, and Jeremy Lim thinks the plucky underdogs can surprise an unsuspecting few in the tournament ahead.
Coach: Safet Susic
A Yugoslavian playing legend and voted Paris Saint-Germain’s greatest player of all time, Safet Sušić has managed to translate success on the pitch to his country’s dugout. The 58-year-old first imparted a steadying presence to the team when he became Coach in 2009, and harnessed the natural flair available in his talented pool to help the nation qualify for its first World Cup in history. His leadership and attacking mindset have shaped Bosnia and Herzegovina into a truly modern football outfit.
Why they could be dangerous
Bosnia’s 30 goals ensured they were only pipped by the Netherlands, Germany and England in the scoring charts during qualification. One third of those were supplied by marksman Edin Džeko as he fired the Zmajevi to the top of Group G. At the back, they can count on Asmir Begović and Emir Spahic. while Miralem Pjanić and Zvjezdan Misimović supply the flair going forward. Overall, the Balkans are a well-gelled attacking unit with enough quality to hold their own.
The world on his shoulders: Edin Dzeko
Manchester City may have the luxury of leaving Edin Džeko on the bench, but for his country the 27-year-old’s contributions are absolutely fundamental. The prolific striker is Bosnia’s all-time leading scorer with 33 goals from 60 matches, and only looks likely to boost his tally in Brazil with the impressive support arrayed behind him. The upcoming World Cup is Džeko’s first ever international tournament appearance, so he will be raring to showcase what he is capable of in the global arena.
Did you know?
The landlocked nation came close to qualifying for the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012, only to falter and lose the play-offs each time to Portugal. On the first occasion, home and away wins allowed the Iberians through to South Africa after Bosnia tragically hit the woodwork three times in the Lisbon leg. Portugal confirmed themselves as the Zmajevi slayers when the sides met again two years later – this time, a rout ensured as Cristiano Ronaldo and Co emerged 6-2 winners.
Country legend: Hasan Salihamidzic
Hasan Salihamidžić flew his country’s flag high through his exploits around Europe, notably when becoming only the second Champions League winner from Bosnia after Bayern Munich beat Valencia in 2001. A glorious crosser of the ball, the winger grew into an integral component for the Bavarians before winding down his career at Juventus. Salihamidžić was key in the growth of the Bosnian national team once it became a FIFA member in 1996, representing the Zmajevi 43 times over the course of 10 years.
Safet Sušić is able to count on a supremely talented engine room. Serie A-based Miralem Pjanić and Senad Lulić alternate their silky runs forward from midfield in support of the two strikers and former Wolfsburg assist master Zvjezdan Misimović. But being an attractive proposition does not detract the team from being stubborn and solid as needed, with Haris Medunjanin – who also packs a mean shot – the Coach’s trusted source of hard-working graft offering balance to the side.
…Argentina P2 W0 D0 L2 F0 A7
…Nigeria P0 W0 D0 L0 F0 A0
…Iran P5 W0 D1 L4 F7 A16
Population: 3.8 million
World Cup appearances: 0
Best finish: –
Famous for: Twice missing out on qualification to an international tournament due to play-off elimination at Portugal’s hands.
Top Division: BH Telecom Premier League of Bosnia and Herzegovina
How they got to the World Cup: Finished first in Euro Group G
FIFA World Ranking: 25
Last World Cup Appearance: –
Continental Honours: –
Most Capped Player: Zvjezdan Misimović (80 caps)
Leading International Scorer: Edin Džeko (33 goals)
Nickname: Zmajevi – Dragons