Injuries, suspensions and lack
of squad depth mean coach Safet Susic faces tough choices over
which players to field in Bosnia's Euro 2012 qualifier against
Bosnia's defence will miss long-term casualty Mensur Mujdza
with a broken metatarsal bone in his foot while Boris Pandza and
Sasa Papac are suspended for the first leg in Zenica on Friday.
The makeshift back four likely to start against the
Portuguese looked shaky in Tuesday's 2-1 warm-up win over local
first division club Zeljeznicar Sarajevo, who created a hatful
"I knew very little before this game what team I would pick
for the Portugal game and now I am none the wiser," Susic told
Bosnian state television BHT1.
"It's not just the defence giving me a headache, it's also
the midfield because we have a lot of attacking midfielders with
an instinct to go forward.
"With a team structured like that, you have to score at
least two or three goals to beat any opposition and that's not
going to be easy against a team of Portugal's quality.
"We have two more training sessions to sort out these issues
and we need to find some kind of a solution," said Susic.
Playmaker Miralem Pjanic, who has been in good form for his
club Roma this season, was more confident than Susic.
"There is no doubt that Portugal are strong but we are also
a high-quality team and we have to take the game to them rather
than hide on the pitch and retreat.
"A goalless draw in the first leg would be a good result for
us but we know we can score against anyone and I am optimistic
that Portugal could be rattled by fervent home support for us in
the cauldron of Bilino Polje stadium," said Pjanic.
Portugal, who beat Bosnia 2-0 on aggregate in a 2010 World
Cup play-off, will hope for a repeat of their clinical
performance on a bumpy pitch in the second leg in Zenica two
They will be boosted by the scintillating form of captain
Cristiano Ronaldo, who rifled in his fourth hat-trick of the
season for Real Madrid in last weekend's 7-1 thumping of Osasuna
in the Spanish league.
Coach Paulo Bento struck a note of caution though, stressing
that Bosnia had improved dramatically since their doubleheader
in November 2009.
"There is a very wide gap between the two encounters, Bosnia
have a quality team and are more mature, as is the case with
Pjanic and [Manchester City striker Edin] Dzeko," said Bento.
"I predict a very balanced play-off and think each team has a
50 percent chance of qualifying.
"We will have to adapt to the stadium in Zenica and the
pitch conditions so we might have to play in a different way
than we usually do."
With the ramshackle ground holding barely 15,000 fans,
Bosnians will be glued to their television sets as the former
Yugoslav republic aims to qualify for its first major tournament
as an independent nation.
Having gained independence after a bloody 1992-95 conflict,
Bosnia has since been a dysfunctional union of the Moslem-Croat
Federation and the Serb Republic but the national football team
has stood out as one of the rare beacons of unity with all three
ethnic groups included in the squad.
Bosnia's former coach Miroslav Blazevic, a Bosnian-born
Croat who steered Croatia to the 1998 World Cup semi-finals
before he took them to the 2010 World Cup play-offs, was
confident Bosnia would go through to next year's finals in
Poland and Ukraine.
"As subjective as I may sound, past experience tells me that
Bosnia will advance," Blazevic said. "Portugal have Cristiano
Ronaldo but Dzeko has become a world-class player and this
Bosnian side is much better than the one when I was in charge."
Bosnia: Asmir Begovic; Adnan Zahirovic, Emir Spahic, Muhamed
Besic, Senad Lulic; Miralem Pjanic, Elvir Rahimic, Zvjezdan
Misimovic, Haris Medunjanin; Vedad Ibisevic, Edin Dzeko.
Portugal: Rui Patricio; Joao Pereira, Bruno Alves, Fabio
Coentrao, Rolando; Raul Meireles, Pepe, Joao Moutinho; Cristiano
Ronaldo, Helder Postiga, Nani.
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