10 Things You Didn't Know About Bosnia-Herzegovina

Sasa IbruljCorrespondent IMay 5, 2014

10 Things You Didn't Know About Bosnia-Herzegovina

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    Mindaugas Kulbis/Associated Press

    The 2014 World Cup will be historic for Bosnia and Herzegovina.

    For the first time since achieving independence, the national team will play at a major football tournament.

    Bosnia and Herzegovina are the only debutant team in Brazil, and their participation comes 19 years on from the end of the conflict in the region, as reported by BBC News.

    The Dragons won their qualification group almost with ease, scoring 30 goals in 10 matches.

    Manchester City striker Edin Dzeko is, arguably, the most famous name in the Bosnia squad, but here are 10 things you may not know about football in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Bosnia Manager Safet Susic Was Voted the Best Player in History

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    David Cannon/Getty Images

    In December 2009, Safet Susic succeeded Miroslav Blazevic to become the eighth manager in the history of Bosnia and Herzegovina, despite the fact that his previous club coaching record had been, diplomatically put, uninspiring. 

    But over the next five years, Susic would go on to become the most successful coach since the independence of the country.

    Before successful campaign in 2014, Susic steered the team toward the 2012 European championship as they finished second to France in qualification before losing to Portugal in the play-offs.

    Nevertheless, Susic the coach is still nowhere near the achievements of Susic the player.

    He played for FK Sarajevo and Paris Saint-Germain, becoming a legendary figure at both clubs.

    Susic was capped 54 times for Yugoslavia and scored three hat-tricks in his first 10 matches.

    He also played in the 1982 and 1990 World Cups for Yugoslavia, and in 2000 he was officially voted the best player in the history of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Manchester City Striker Edin Dzeko Is Bosnia's Most Valuable Player

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    Getty Images/Getty Images

    Bosnians rumbled through their qualifying group, averaging three goals per match.

    Manchester City star Edin Dzeko netted 10 goals but also added three assists, including the crucial one for Vedad Ibisevic's winner against Lithuania that confirmed qualification for Brazil.

    The Dragons notched one third of their goals in the final 15 minutes of the first half and six more in the finishing 15 minutes of the match.

    Stoke goalkeeper Asmir Begovic, Bayer Leverkusen defender Emir Spahic and Dzeko played every minute in the qualifiers.

    And Bosnia were one of the fairest teams in the qualifiers, earning just nine yellow cards in 10 matches.

Overcoming a Play-off Jinx

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    Armando Franca/Associated Press

    Bosnia and Herzegovina joined FIFA in 1996 and have competed in five qualifying campaigns for the World Cup so far.

    They were closest in 2010, when Miroslav Blazevic and his team saw off Turkey and Belgium to reach the play-offs, where they lost to Portugal 2-0 on aggregate.

    Two years later, Bosnia were 12 minutes away from a place at Euro 2012, until France were awarded a controversial penalty that denied the team a place in Ukraine and Poland and sent them to another play-off.

    Portugal were their last hurdle once again, and won through 6-2 on aggregate.

    The generation led by Sergej Barbarez, Hasan Salihamidzic and Elvir Bolic were also on the verge of qualifying for the European Championships in 2004, but they could not defeat Denmark in a decisive match in Sarajevo.

Two Bosnian Head Coaches in Brazil

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    Anis Belghoul/Associated Press

    Safet Susic will not be the only Bosnian coach in Brazil.

    Vahid Halilhodzic, who played for Velez Mostar, will be in charge of Algeria in Brazil in what could have been his second World Cup.

    In 2010, Halilhodzic made it to the finals with Ivory Coast but was sacked just months before the tournament.

    Bosnia and Herzegovina are one of seven countries that have two or more coaches involved in the World Cup this year.

    Germany has four representatives; Portugal, Columbia, Argentina and Italy have three; and there are two representatives for France and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Croats Adore Bosnians

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    Darko Bandic/Associated Press

    Bosnia and Herzegovina is a complex country, populated by three different ethnicities: Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats.

    However, in the last 20 years, many Serbs and Croats, who were born in Bosnia, decided to play for neighbouring countries.

    Three of them, Vedran Corluka, Dejan Lovren and Nikica Jelavic, will play for Croatia in Brazil.

    Five more players whose parents were born in Bosnia and Herzegovina, would be eligible to play for Bosnia if they had not opted for Croatia, including captain Darijo Srna, midfielder Ivan Rakitic, Mateo Kovacic and Alen Halilovic.

And What About Zlatan?

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    Michael Probst/Associated Press

    The list does not end in Croatia or Serbia.

    The myth says that Bosnians missed the chance to capture a certain Zlatan Ibrahimovic, whose father was born in Bosnia, while he was a young prospect in Malmo in Sweden.

    Did some anonymous youth coach decide that Ibrahimovic was not good enough for Bosnia?

    We'll never know, but having Zlatan in a team with such an attacking style would have given Bosnia the chance to reach another level.

But Bosnia Have Caught Some Big Names

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    Mindaugas Kulbis/Associated Press

    They may have problems with some players choosing different countries, but many Bosnians raised abroad eventually return home.

    More than one-third of the population fled the country during the war, and now they form the nucleus of the team.

    Ten players that will represent Bosnia and Herzegovina in Brazil switched for the Dragons after playing for other countries, and five of them were born abroad.

    What's more, 14 players who were in Susic's team during the qualifiers never played in domestic league. Bosnia and Herzegovina depends on its diaspora and the talents educated by other countries.

Their First World Cup? Yes and No.

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    Ivica Osim
    Ivica OsimRUDI BLAHA/Associated Press

    This will be a debut for Bosnia and Herzegovina as an independent country at the major tournaments.

    But, before the war that began in 1992, the region was a part of Yugoslavia, and many Bosnian players participated for Yugoslavia in the World Cup.

    The first were Predrag Djajic and Branko Stankovic. Both were born in Sarajevo, where they began their careers prior to the World War II, and were in the Yugoslavia squad in Brazil in 1950.

    Six Bosnians were part of the Yugoslav team that played in the 1974 World Cup finals, while five of them were selected by another Bosnian, Ivica Osim, in Italy 1990.

    One important part of that team, which lost to Argentina after penalty shootout in the quarter-finals, was Safet Susic.

Suspension Places Bosnian Football in Danger

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    Amel Emric/Associated Press

    The World Cup will be special for all the Bosnians, but just three years ago, it all looked like an impossible dream.

    In April 2011, both UEFA and FIFA suspended Bosnia and Herzegovina from all competitions, as the Daily Telegraph reported, in a row over the three-man presidency of Bosnian football.

    At the same time, some board members were charged with corruption, and the Federation's general secretary at the time, Munib Usanovic, ended up with a jail sentence, as reported on TaiwanNews.com.

    A new regime, led by former player and coach Ivica Osim, was installed.

Luka Modric Once Played in Bosnia

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    Paul Gilham/Getty Images

    Did you know that last Sunday Zrinjski Mostar became the champion of Bosnia and Herzegovina for the third time? Of course not.

    But the country's Premier league does not attract much attention even back home, where the average attendance rarely exceeds 1,000.

    Safet Susic picked only one player from the league for his World Cup squad: third-choice goalkeeper Asmir Avdukic.

    The best product of the league is Edin Dzeko, who left Zeljeznicar when he was 18.

    Real Madrid star Luka Modric made his first professional steps in the Bosnian league, where he played for Zrinjski Mostar on loan from Dinamo Zagreb in 2004.