After missing out on qualification for the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012 at the play-off stage to Portugal on both occasions, Bosnia and Herzegovina will be making an appearance at the finals of a major tournament for the first time in their history in Brazil.
The Dragons qualified by finishing on the same points as Greece in UEFA Group G, but with 30 goals scored in 10 games their superior goal difference of plus 24 ensured that they finished in first place.
Bosnia and Herzegovina play Argentina, Nigeria and Iran in Group F.
Coach: Safet Susic
The 59-year-old tactician replaced Miroslav Blazevic in 2009 after a succession of short spells as coach for several teams in Turkey.
‘Pape’ was acclaimed as a hero after sealing a World Cup spot, but has since been subject to criticism from sections of the media and public particularly over team selection.
Named as Bosnia’s best-ever player in 2004 and the best foreigner to have played in Ligue 1 by France Football magazine, Susic enjoyed an illustrious playing career at FK Sarajevo and Paris Saint-Germain and was part of the Yugoslavia World Cup squads in Spain 1982 and Italy 1990.
Key Player: Miralem Pjanic
While Edin Dzeko is his country’s all-time top goalscorer and highest profile player, how Pjanic performs could be key to Bosnia and Herzegovina’s success this summer.
The 24-year-old Roma midfielder is the team’s most creative player and will look to reproduce moments of individual brilliance shown in Serie A this season such as the ‘cucchiaio,’ spoon-like lob, from outside the box against Hellas Verona and the slalom run through the AC Milan defence on the international stage.
One to Watch: Sead Kolasinac
The 20-year-old Schalke left-back has impressed since making his debut in the 2-0 friendly defeat to Argentina in St. Louis last November with his strength and spirit earning him the nickname ‘Destroyer’.
A former captain of the German Under-19 team before being called up by his parent’s homeland, Kolasinac is reported by Sarajevo-based television channel TV1 to have been influenced by German-born boxer of Bosnian parentage Adnan Catic, better known as Felix Sturm, to represent the Dragons.
How Far Can They Go?
Despite a limited choice of players and concerns over the defence, there is a strong sense of belief amongst the Bosnian diaspora and from within the squad that their attacking flair can surprise this summer in Brazil.
“I don’t see why we can’t put Bosnia on the map,” goalkeeper Asmir Begovic told British newspaper The Daily Express.
“It’s been done before, we can take confidence and inspiration from what Croatia did.
“We score goals, we’re quite an attacking side so, if anything, we should be fun to watch. The people deserve that.”
Prediction: Round of 16
With Argentina favourites to win Group F, Bosnia and Herzegovina are expected to rival Nigeria for the runner-up spot.
A first ever meeting with the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations winners in the second group game in Cuiaba should be decisive in determining whether the Dragons advance to the knockout stages.