The Bosnian Dragons, under the management of Safet Sušić, are making their debut in the 2014 World Cup and it has to be said that while they are newcomers, they have a solid chance to make it out of their group. Argentina, Nigeria and Iran are their opponents in Group F and while Argentina will surely pose stern opposition, Nigeria and Iran have to be seen as possible victories for the small Eastern European nation.
Bosnia will most likely lineup in a 4-1-3-2 lineup with a flat back four, a defensive midfielder, 3 central midfielders and 2 strikers up top.
GK- Asmir Begović, RB- Mensur Mudjža, CB- Emir Spahić, CB- Ermin Bičakčić, LB- Sead Kolašinac, DM- Sejad Salihović, CM- Senad Lulić, CM- Miralem Pjanić, CM- Zvjezdan Misimović, ST- Vedad Ibišević, ST- Edin Džeko
The 4-1-3-2 is a perfect fit for Bosnia, especially in this World Cup, for a variety of reasons. First, it is defensively simple and easy to organize. Second, it can crowd the midfield and suppress the creativity of more talented teams. Third, it allows the midfielders to transition from defense to attack very quickly. Finally, it provides the two strikers the ability to link up with the midfield and with each other. The main downside to this tactic is that it does not provide much width and most of Bosnia’s attacks are going to come through the middle of the park, which allows their opponents to defend more easily.
Flat Back Four
Playing with a flat back four is key in this World Cup to Bosnia. This lineup at the back was instrumental in allowing them to qualify directly to the World Cup from a group that, while not the hardest, contained Greece and 2010 WC qualifiers Slovakia. They only allowed 6 goals in 10 qualifying matches and kept 4 clean sheets. This defensive stability will serve them very well at the World Cup where they will be facing much more staunch offenses.
Plenty of clubs recently have been experimenting with different configurations for their back line but simplicity will be the Dragons’ best friend this summer. Simple organization will allow them to defend in a more straight-forward man marking system when the opposition pushes forward but will also allow the more creative midfielders in the side to focus on going forward rather than constantly having to track back to cover their defenders.
Another huge strength of Bosnia’s formation is the dynamic nature of their midfield. The one static position in the midfield is the defensive midfielder, who provides an anchor in the center of the park and also acts as a pivot between defense and attack. This pivot system is key to launching attacks, especially in a team that will not be maintaining large possession numbers against many of the more talented teams. The other three midfield positions are very fluid and this plays to Bosnia’s strengths. Depending on the opposition, these 3 central midfielders can drop further back and help more in the defensive third, breaking up play. Against weaker opponents, they can push further up the pitch and not only make more attacking runs but also press opposing defenders into mistakes. In addition to these traits, the 4-1-3-2 can easily morph into a shape more resembling a 4-4-2 diamond, with a defensive midfielder, 2 central midfielders or wide midfielders and an attacking mid at the top of the diamond. This ability to use more or less the same system depending on the opposition is what makes it so dangerous. Safet Sušić will have plenty of options at his disposal and plenty of midfield talent to work with.
What seems like such a simple system is one that has honestly fallen out of style in club football in recent years. A lot of teams like playing with one out-and-out striker at the top of their formations with technically gifted wingers and midfielders behind them. However, Bosnia’s ability to play 2 gifted strikers off of each other allows them to pose a difficult problem to opposing defenses. There are loads of ways that strikers can ruin a defense’s day: holding up play, playing balls through to their partner, drifting wide and drawing out defenses, making the early and late run combinations into the box, the list goes on. Two proven goal scorers on the field just adds to the headache of any defense as there is not one man to key on. Bosnia scored 30 goals in 10 World Cup Qualifying matches. This potency cannot really be argued with.
Lack of Width
One issue to playing this system is the struggle to create width without any true wingers to give it to you. This can sometimes oversimplify the attacks Bosnia put together and make them an easier team to frustrate. The burden will fall on the attacking midfielders and strikers to make runs behind the defense and play through balls in order to create the scoring opportunities that many teams get down the wing. If Bosnia are to overcome this it will be through creativity and picking the right pass in the final third, which can be difficult against the talented defenses that will be on display in Brazil.
MiralemPjanić | You were probably expecting a different name to show up in the first spot in Bosnia’s key players section. More important than the biggest name on Bosnia is the biggest playmaker, MiralemPjanić of Roma. He’s one of the most technically gifted players in the Bosnia squad and very young at only 24 years old. He is able to play in any position in the central midfield but thrives in the attacking third. Drifting forward in the central position of the 4-1-3-2 is where he can be the most dangerous. This year he made 35 Serie A appearances, scoring 6 goals and assisting 6 more. While this may not seem incredibly impressive, he created 72 chances as well. That’s more than any other player on Roma’s roster and he made the 5th most key passes in Serie A. He also completed 60% of his take-ons this season and is a talented dribbler who can run at defenses before picking a pass. This type of chance creation and control is going to be vital to Bosnia’s chances and with the strikers they have, he can have a real impact in Brazil.
Sejad Salihović | Salihović had a solid season for Hoffenheim and he is the main man who should be expected to fill the role of defensive midfielder in Bosnia’s lineup. He is a solid midfield performer for the Bundesliga club but the issue he will have is his ability to fit into the defensive role, as he is not accustomed to playing in this position. He is more attack-minded and this is shown through his 56 created chances this year. If he cannot fill this vital, more defensive position effectively, Bosnia may struggle. However, his free-kick specialty is going to come in handy if Bosnia find themselves with a dead-ball situation inside 30 yards.
Edin Dzeko | Ok, you knew this was coming but it is absolutely true. Manchester City’s striker is the biggest name on the Dragon’s World Cup roster and with that comes the weight of expectation. Edin has to live up to his late season form for the Champions of England, which saw him equal Luis Suarez’s 14 goals in the 2014 calendar year. Many contribute this uptick in form to his more regular playing time which he was not receiving behind Alvaro Negredo but began receiving in January. He will be Bosnia’s target man and he will have to produce to that level for Bosnia to be successful at the World Cup.
TALENT RADAR KEY YOUNG PLAYER
Sead Kolašinac | The 20 year-old Schalke defender is just establishing himself in the Bundesliga but is already a consistent member of the Bosnia squad despite being the youngest in his country’s side. This year he made 30 appearances for Die Königsblauenas a left back and was a solid performer. He won 53% of his tackles and actually completed the same percentage of take-ons which is impressive considering he is not a forward. He is definitely a full back though and do not expect him to be bombing down Bosnia’s left wing any time soon. He is a solid tackler who does commit a lot of fouls but he is a smart defender and is rarely caught out of position. He will need to improve his crossing but Bosnia will be looking for him to stop the likes of Angel Di Maria and Pajtim Kasami in the group stage before they look for him to create.
This article was written by Phil Baki. You can follow him on twitter @bakiBalboa
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