As part of our World Cup coverage, we have interviewed journalists, correspondents, experts & writers representing each of the 32 countries to give you, the readers, a better understanding of the 32 nations participating in the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Here are the list of interviewees.
For this interview, focusing on Bosnia, we spoke to Saša Ibrulj. He’s a Bosnian football journalist with contributions to ESPN, the Guardian, World Soccer & the Blizzard. Follow him on twitter @sasaibrulj
Coach Susic has been very frank about his expectations, publicly announcing that 2nd place is the aim. Is such an attitude going to deflate confidence, or is it the sort of pragmatism needed?
To be honest, I don´t think he did that to boost confidence or show pragmatism. Of course, I can’t get inside his head, but having worked with him for last four years, I think he just honestly believes that this is a realistic aim for his team.
The Bosnian midfield seems to be a good blend of raw talent and valuable experience. How do you see the team setting up in the middle of the pitch? Who’ll prove to be a creative head from there and is there a weakness that concerns you in the area?
I think this is the key question when it comes to BiH at this World cup. The group is difficult, with teams with different styles and characteristics and, what is the most important, totally different from the teams that Bosnia played in the qualifiers. There Susic introduced something that can be described as organized mess, where the tactics and the system were overshadowed by individual performances. In some matches Bosnia played with two strikers, then Misimovic, Pjanic, Lulic behind them and with creative Medunjanin as a defensive midfielder. With two offensive full backs Bosnia had 7-8 attacking players on the pitch and they crushed the opposition. But, now the things have changed. Playing Argentina and Nigeria in first two matches and the profile of their teams will probably force Susic to change things in the middle, and secure the slow back four with a classic holding midfielder. The problem is that he doesn’t have one and that he has to improvise. I expect much more pragmatism from Susic then we’ve seen in the qualifiers.
MORE READING | Analysis of Bosnia’s tactical approach, set-up & formation.
We’ve seen in the past how debutants, even European ones, struggle in their first World Cup appearance. The likes of Serbia, Slovenia bear witness to this. Do you see the nerves of a debut appearance affecting the side? Will the lack of experience at this stage become a telling factor?
Definitely, you can see it on the simple things like the selection of the hotel or media activities in the preparations. Bosnians are not used to this from the organizational point of view. Of course, that is less important – their reaction to playing tournament mode and being together for two months is much more important.
Bosnia’s attacking brand of football and high intensity pressing will certainly make them an entertaining side, but do you think Safet Susic should be a bit more cautious at the big event?
As I said earlier, I expect him to be much more cautious. The thing is, Bosnia and Herzegovina is small nation and to compete with the best they have to be pragmatic, adjust themselves to the opponent. However, having so much attacking force in the team, parking the bus is not the option, and the best side of this team will still be their attractive, attacking football. I just think that to have a good result at the World Cup, they´ll have to be more cautious and show more tactical awareness.
We at Outside of the Boot track the progress of youngsters under our Talent Radar feature. Our focus is thus on Schalke’s Sead Kolasinac. He looks set to be the first-choice left-back after an impressive season. What are your thoughts on the youngster, and his impact?
As most people in the country, I am delighted with his progress. I think no one before him won the fans so fast, with only two matches played for the national team so far. Of course, he has a lot to improve, but in my opinion he is a modern defender that Bosnia desperately needed. He will probably be the first choice left-back, but I hope Susic will test him – at least in the friendlies before the World cup – as a defensive midfielder. I think, in a pair with creative Medunjanin, he could be a perfect choice to play the role of the “destroyer” in the middle.
Argentina remain the clear favourites in the group, while the Nigerian & Iranian players certaily possess better experience at this level. Progress isn’t guaranteed but it’s certainly a possibility. Where do you realistically see Bosnia finishing? What are expectations like in the country?
The expectations are, as in any other country I guess, big. Yes, we are aware of how huge an achievement this already is and how the fact that we reached the world cup is equivalent to winning the cup for us, but we still expect them to be at their best there. And if they are at their best, I am convinced we can do a lot, be a big story of this World Cup. But, in the same time, the mentality of the players and the teams in the Balkans can be a crucial factor, because we are moody nation. A lot depends on the atmosphere, finding the balance. You´ve mentioned Serbia and Croatia, both experienced going out from the WC in the group stage, after defeating such a teams like Germany or Italy. If completely focused, this team can do a lot; if things go downhill, the fall will be fast and hard.