Bosnia and Herzegovina hold the cards going into their match against Nigeria on Saturday evening knowing that in their midfield they possess the tools to unlock the African team’s defence and inflict pain upon the opposition.
Against Argentina the Bosnian’s impressed after a difficult start in which they gave away a cheap own goal in the opening moments at the Estadio Maracana. They rebounded however, and Miralem Pjanic and co. were able to exert more influence over the game and controlled the closing stages. They left a lasting impression upon both their Argentine opposition and the viewing public that Bosnia were a side to be taken seriously and had a talent base capable of matching most teams left in the World Cup.
It was an unfortunate defeat for Bosnia who were taken apart by what could become known as historic Lionel Messi goal, but they now turn their attentions to their upcoming fixture against Nigeria full of optimism.
They possess the attacking options to allow the midfield to play their natural game with Edin Dzeko Pjanic has a reference point with which to direct his attacks. The Manchester City striker is due a performance after frustrating against Argentina and he can link up with Zvjezdan Misimovic another player who operates in the no.10 role for Bosnia behind Dzeko. Misimovic will have to put in more effort after only managing one shot on goal and making two key passes.
Nigeria potentially look weak in defence with the team’s relative inexperience in that area on this stage and you would expect the Bosnia to be able to take advantage of that. Godfrey Oboabona and Juwon Oshaniwa who started against Iran particularly looked weak.
Expect coach Safet Susic to continue with his new-look 4-2-3-1 system with Muhamed Besic anchoring midfield and likely to be partnered by Haris Medunjanin if Pjanic is shifted into the no.10 role in place of Misimovic. Medunjanin could be handed a starting role as a deep lying playmaker who can take possession off of the defence and will be able to spread Bosnia’s possession out to the flanks as the wingers take the game to the opposition.
Izet Hajrovic will be selected on the right flank as Susic favours his direct approach and willingness to take defenders on and hug the line. On the left Lazio’s Senad Lulic will provide Bosnia’s greatest outlet as the tireless midfielder will work the flank and his quality of delivery will provide Dzeko with the greatest chance of scoring from wide.
Bosnia’s hopes could be pinned on Roma’s Miralem Pjanic, Serie A’s midfielder of the season. When playing against Argentina the playmaker maintained a 92% pass accuracy and was massively influential over the game, making four key passes. If Susic decides to move Pjanic into the no.10 role from deep then he can link with Dzeko and will pose more of an attacking threat himself. Expect the midfielder to test the Nigerian goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama from long-range and even challenge him from free kicks if the opportunity arises.
If Bosnia’s game plan clicks on Saturday, Pjanic and co. can really excite their fans, delivering an excellent performance against the Nigerians and help bounce back from defeat last time out. If they can utilise their midfield options then they can expose the weaknesses in Nigeria’s defence.
Follow Ryan Ross on Twitter: @rross11