Now is the time for Bosnia to show their mettle

Now is the time for Bosnia to show their mettle
Bosnian national soccer coach Safet Susic speaks with player Edin Dzeko (R) during a training session ahead of their 2014 World Cup game against Nigeria

CUIABA, Brazil - World Cup newcomers Bosnia must prove coach Safet Susic's belief that they are good enough to reach the knockout stages by beating Nigeria on Saturday, he said.

After a hard-fought 2-1 defeat to Argentina, Susic said he believed his squad - the lone debutants in Brazil - are second best in Group F, but now must show it.

"Probably we are in the most uncomfortable position of all teams because if we lose we can pack our bags and head home," he told a news conference at Cuiaba's Pantanal arena on Friday.

"The others have a theoretical chance to progress. So everyone is aware of the importance of the match."

Nigeria drew 0-0 with Iran in their opener, a dull match that sparked ire among fans in the stadium and back in Nigeria.

While Susic said earlier in the week he was averse to taking too many risks in the second match, on Friday he displayed more willingness to put his team in attack mode.

"It should be an open match with plenty of chances and perhaps goals galore," he said.

One of the big questions for Bosnia is still open: whether Susic will start forward Vedad Ibisevic, who scored his nation's first World Cup finals goal against Argentina after coming on as a substitute.

"I still have some tactical dilemmas and therefore can't say tonight whether Ibisevic will start," Susic said.

Midfielder Sejad Salihovic, troubled by a long-term injury, has trained and will be on the bench, but Susic said he hoped he doesn't need to use him just yet.

"We count on him for the third and possibly the fourth match," Susic said, in an expression of hope that Bosnia will progress to the knockout stage.

If there was any doubt about the coach's reliance on the sometimes tempermental striker Eden Dzeko, Susic put that to rest by saying he was "as important to us as Messi is to Argentina, Ronaldo to Portugal and Neymar to Brazil."

The 59-year-old coach, who hit 21 goals in 54 internationals and is widely considered one of the most gifted forwards to have come from the former Yugoslavia, said the ambitious goal of advancing to the next round is "self imposed" and not the result of pressure from a young nation yearning for prominence.

"No one expects a miracle from us," he said.

"Many fans of our country would like us to just play the best football we can and leave a good impression."

More about

Purchase this article for republication.



Your daily good stuff - AsiaOne stories delivered straight to your inbox
By signing up, you agree to our Privacy policy and Terms and Conditions.