Bosnia and Herzegovina will be the only nation making their World Cup debut in Brazil this summer yet with Edin Dzeko set to lead their attack, the Dragons will be hoping to make a big impression in their first major international tournament.
I spoke to the Manchester City striker as he prepared to link up with the rest of Safet Susic's squad, fresh from securing his second Premier League winner's medal.
Bleacher Report: What does it mean to you to be your country's all-time record goalscorer in such a historic period for the Bosnia and Herzegovina national team?
Edin Dzeko: I feel proud about that fact, but I'm still proud and happy when I know that my goals helped the team to put on the big competition.
Football is a team sport and my goals would not mean anything if we had not qualified for the World Cup in Brazil. Thus, as with my club, I'm happy that my goals can help to secure good results, which is ultimately the most important thing.
B/R: Very early in your career you played as a midfielder while in the past few seasons you have been described as a "super sub" by the English press. What sort of player do you see yourself as? Is scoring goals your only priority or do you like to be recognised as a talented all-round footballer, too?
ED: I constantly say that I'm not a super-substitute, which I confirmed in this season when I won the Premier League in England for Manchester City. Like every player, I like to score goals and even more to win, but I also like to start matches.
I don’t think I scored a goal after entering from the bench this season, which just goes to show how I benefited from playing more often than last season. I can safely say that I've played my best season of football since arriving in England, and I'm happy about it, and even happier because of the double crown that we won.
B/R: You also became Wolfsburg's all-time top-scorer in 2010. The arrival of Zvjezdan Misimovic in your second season is often credited with helping you to become even more prolific in the Bundesliga. Since you won the club's only title together—and you received many individual awards in 2009—how important has the influence of Misimovic and other Bosnian players been in helping you to develop further into one of Europe's most in-demand strikers?
ED: The arrival of Misimovic at Wolfsburg was crucial to me for a number of reasons: Firstly, because I was with experienced players; secondly, because we quickly became friends; and thirdly, because we worked great together in the game.
Actually, that was the most important part of the whole story because Misimovic is an excellent midfielder who had some brilliant seasons in the Bundesliga and truly helped me with assists.
Sometimes it was necessary only to set foot on the pitch to score given his assistance and cooperation from our time at Wolfsburg, which transferred well to the national team. We now understand how each other plays, even with our eyes closed.
B/R: Having scored so many important goals in the last few seasons for Manchester City—and finishing the World Cup qualifiers as the second-highest scorer in Europe—how has success with one of England's top clubs helped you to become an even more effective player for your country at crucial moments?
ED: Just doing my job [laughs]. Goals are my job, and as I said, I am happy when I’m helping my team to achieve a good result. Of course, without the help of the entire team of players it would not be possible to achieve such important goals, so I owe them a huge amount of appreciation.
B/R: You have said the past that Andriy Shevchenko is your favourite player, but who do you look up to as the great Bosnian footballers of the past? Have any of these retired stars been around the current squad to offer advice and support?
ED: With the current generation of players, there are several former aces like Muhamed Konjic or Baljic Elvir, who are members of the Bosnia and Herzegovina coaching team. There is also Sergej Barbarez, a former national captain, who has helped with advice, and even a few other former players.
I am friends with all of them, and their experience is very important to us, considering the fact that they have great experience playing for the national team together in the past.
B/R: Like the France squad that won the 98 World Cup and the Euros in 2000, the Bosnian national team is often presented as a great example of players from different ethnicities and backgrounds working together with trust and respect. What is the foundation behind your spirit to pull others together and do well in good times and bad?
ED: On the field, there are different nationalities. On the ground, we are a team and that's the most important thing. That’s the only way we can secure a good result, and we have shown unity as a national team on several occasions. I hope and believe that our unity can inspire others.
B/R: As Bosnia's first UNICEF ambassador, and a player widely respected for your humanitarian work, how in your opinion can football help to bring people together and ease tensions? Given the recent street protests in Sarajevo in February, what sort of extra meaning will your team's performances carry at the World Cup?
ED: Football unites people. The situation in the country is difficult, but we believe that our qualification for the World Cup, has, for many citizens, helped to bring smiles to their faces and embellish their daily lives. Because of them, and ourselves, we will continue to do our best on the field.
The World Cup will be our contribution to the people who are in need of joy indeed. Regarding humanitarian work, I'm proud of the fact that I'm a UNICEF ambassador, especially because I love working with kids, who are my most honest supporters. Working and socializing with them fulfills me, and I am happy when I have a chance to take time for the kids.
B/R: Finally, what are your personal goals for the World Cup, and what are your future ambitions for Bosnia and Manchester City?
ED: Our wish is to qualify from our group and leave a positive impression. This will be our first World Cup, and we do not have enough experience with big competitions, which can be a handicap.
However, we will give it our best to play our best football ever, and to try and surprise Argentina. My personal target is to finish the summer without injuries and a healthy start to the new Premier League season.
Read Greg's exclusive Bleacher Report interview with Asmir Begovic on the goalkeeper's action-packed season with Stoke City and his thoughts on Bosnia's chances at the 2014 World Cup Brazil.
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