World Cup: Diamond Dzeko is Bosnia's man

Bosnia-Herzegovina's passage to the World Cup already represents a remarkable achievement for a country that only played their first Fifarecognised international in November 1995.

After two qualifying campaigns for international tournaments ended in play-off agony, the Dragons booked their place in Brazil after topping their qualifying group, edging out Greece on goal difference.

It was an overdue success after their previous narrow disappointments.

During qualifying for the 2010 World Cup, Bosnia-Herzegovina finished behind Spain in their group after scoring an impressive 25 goals - just three fewer than the eventual champions.

Edin Dzeko finished joint- second in the European goalscoring charts with nine goals, but failed to replicate that form in the play-offs when they were defeated 2-0 on aggregate by Portugal.


Their free-scoring football and attacking verve continued in qualifying for Euro 2012 when they outscored everybody in their group, but the weight of expectation weighed heavily.

The Dragons went to the Stade de France knowing a win in the final game would ensure they finished above their hosts in first position.

Despite dominatingmuch of the game and taking the lead through Dzeko, nerves and fatigue contributed to a late Samir Nasri penalty, consigning Bosnia- Herzegovina to the play-offs once more. Drained by that disappointment, they eventually succumbed 6-2 to Portugal after a goalless first leg.

There was to be no repeat in qualification for Brazil 2014, though. Pushed all the way by Greece, Bosnia- Herzegovina held their nerve against Lithuania in the final game to win 1-0 through a Vedad Ibisevic strike.

It was done with the type of sweeping football that much of Europe had become aware of. The Dragons plundered 30 goals in qualifying, with Ibisevic, Dzeko and their leading appearance maker Zvjezdan Misimovic all in the goals, while conceding just six at the other end.

Coach Safet Susic has tried to keep expectations down, but they clearly have the talent to get out of the group.

"We must have a goal and that is to try to go through to the second round, to qualify for the round of 16," he said. With the emergence of Roma's Miralem Pjanic, the experience of Emir Spahic in defence and a reliable goalkeeper in Stoke's Asmir Begovic - who has been performing solidly in the EPL - there is no reason why they cannot match Susic's target. Despite not always being a first-choice striker at Manchester City, the "Bosnian Diamond" Dzeko is his country's talisman, with a goalscoring record of one in less than every two games.

He notched nine goals in qualifying for the 2010 World Cup, and went one better with 10 this time around.

His predatory instincts and technique have made him his country's highest ever goalscorer.

Pjanic could also prove vital. Deadly at set-pieces, his spark is key to the chances created for Dzeko, and the 24-year-old is comfortable playing in the middle or drifting in from the right.

This article was first published on June 10, 2014.
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