Could Bosnia and Herzegovina Be the World Cup’s Surprise Package?

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The days of international teams turning up as a relatively unknown quantity to World Cups are pretty much over with most top players now playing in Europe and the internet meaning you can easily find out about Ecuador’s third choice goalkeeper’s youth team achievements. Therefore, a lot is already known about the only team making its debut in Brazil 2014, Bosnia and Herzegovina, but they could still prove somewhat of a dark horse.

In terms of winning the World Cup, Bosnia and Herzegovina are understandably outsiders at odds of 150-1 or 200-1 with most bookies placing their chances somewhere in the middle below Switzerland and Mexico, but above Japan, Ghana and the USA. Belgium are most people’s dark horse to do well in Brazil, so much so that they’re not really much of a dark horse now, and while Bosnia aren’t going to do what Greece managed at Euro 2004 they’re more likely to spring a surprise than the current Greek team.

As the only team to make their debut at the World Cup in Brazil they may lack experience of playing on the big stage, but with less expectation from anyone outside Bosnia and Herzegovina that could work in their favour. Fellow ex-Yugoslavian nation Croatia surprised everyone on their World Cup debut in 1998, finishing third thanks a lot to Davor Suker’s goals, and with Edin Džeko Bosnia and Herzegovina’s key man they’ll be looking to that campaign for influence.

They may have only qualified thanks to a vastly superior goal difference in a fairly weak group (though it did include Slovakia and the defensive Greece who only conceded four goals, three of them against Bosnia), but they showed their attacking intent, netting 30 goals in ten games with just one defeat. Those matches helped cement Džeko and Ibišević’s deadly partnership upfront as they accounted for 17 of the goals.

Begovic in action
Bosnia and Herzegovina have been drawn in Group F in Brazil and though their opening match will be a tricky one against the much fancied Argentina, the South Americans have proved unpredictable in recent tournaments (although they did beat Bosnia 2-0 in a friendly last year). Their other matches against Nigeria and Iran should be much less daunting prospect. Win those two and they’ll be through the group to face any one of France, Switzerland, Ecuador or Honduras. If they avoid the French there’s a real possibility of them reaching the quarter-finals.

They’ve not had the best preparation for the World Cup so far; losing 2-0 to Egypt in a friendly that was a rather disjointed performance. And they’ll need to improve against fellow World Cup teams Ivory Coast and Mexico, who they face in friendlies before the tournament kicks off. Hopefully, that game was just a blip and they’ll recall the sizzling attacking form that saw them through qualifying.

In Džeko, Ibišević, Roma’s Miralem Pjanic and Stoke goalkeeper Asmir Begovic, they’ve got some quality talent that has been proven to work well together. Džeko has been on fine form at the end of the season for Man City and with much of the onus on him he’ll need to continue it in Brazil. Bosnia are only taking two strikers to Brazil though, which is brave and if any of those four get injured, suspended or underperform then the task of just getting out of the group could be nearly impossible. And while their starting attack is strong their defence isn’t as solid and they’ll hope not to have to resort to Plan B, as they don’t really have one!

Whatever happens, Bosnia and Herzegovina have some skilled players and the ability to put on an exciting attacking showcase that should see them at least get past the group stage if everything clicks. For the neutral’s sake let’s hope it does.

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