How Bosnia-Herzegovina Will Line Up vs. Ivory Coast
Bosnia and Herzegovina have arrived in St. Louis, the host city of their first friendly in preparation for the World Cup. The Dragons will play Ivory Coast on Friday (7:30 local time), before moving to Chicago to meet Mexico.
However, the American tour for Bosnia began with troubles. The plane that took players over the Atlantic Ocean could not land in Chicago because of the bad weather, so it landed in Indianapolis. After refueling, the team flew back to Chicago, then to St. Louis.
Twenty-four hours on the road forced mananger Safet Susic to postpone some of his training sessions and leave more time to rest for his players.
Ervin Zukanovic escaped all the fuss in the air—he did not board the plane that left Sarajevo Airport. The defender, who has been capped six times for Bosnia and Herzegovina, was denied an entry visa by the Embassy of United States in Sarajevo and still awaits the green light from authorities.
Susic probably wanted to test Zukanovic in a pair with Emir Spahic, since the first-choice centre-back Ermin Bicakcic is still injured and will probably miss both matches on USA tour. A couple of minor injuries could easily affect the lineup of the team for the Ivory Coast match, but the main question is whether Susic is ready to reveal his hand at this point in preparations.
His main dilemma is the system: Bosnia will obviously adjust to Argentina in the group stage and play with one striker, but maybe Susic will keep his ideas away from the pitch until the World Cup kicks off.
Bleacher Report brings you a prediction of Bosnia and Herzegovina's starting XI in the Ivory Coast match.
All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise stated.
Goalkeeper: Asmir Begovic
”If you ask me, Asmir Begovic is the best goalkeeper in the world,” Susic told Bleacher Report on the day the team left Sarajevo. ”I would not replace him with any other goalkeeper at this moment."
This quote says more than enough: The Stoke City stopper is undisputed No. 1 in the national team and he has no real competition.
Begovic has 28 caps, including 10 matches in the qualifiers, where he conceded only six times.
However, it would be wise for Susic to try his alternatives. Both Jasmin Fejzic and Asmir Avdukic are inexperienced and unproven at the top international level, and if something unexpected happens to Begovic, Susic could be in huge trouble.
Defenders: Kolasinac, Spahic, Vranjes, Mujdza
Things were supposed to be clear when it came to the back four.
Since he joined the team last November, Schalke's Sead Kolasinac is the first-and-only-choice left-back, and he'll probably start this match as well. Kolasinac arrived at the World Cup preparations with a mild injury, and finding his backup could be a problem since Susic has called up no proper left-back apart from him.
On the right flank will be the injury-prone Mensur Mujdza (Freiburg), who missed most of the season due to a whole set of injuries. Once again, the fact that Susic has a narrow selection comes to the surface here, where Bosnia has no alternative in the case of Mujdza's absence.
The captain Emir Spahic is the bedrock of this defensive line and is certain to start in all matches, but who will play next to him? Bicakcic, who just swapped Eintracht Braunschweig for Hoffenheim, was Susic's first and best choice, but he is injured and will definitely miss both matches in this tour. Zukanovic would probably be his replacement, but he was denied an entry visa to the U.S.
Ognjen Vranjes from Turkish side Elazigspor and Toni Sunjic from Ukrainian Zorya are competing for the place, the first one being narrowly ahead in the race due to more experience in the national team.
Midfielders: Besic, Salihovic, Misimovic, Pjanic
Will Susic decide to reveal his cards and test a 4-2-3-1 system or keep bluffing with his variation of a 4-4-2? The answer to this question would make things easier when it comes to predicting the starting XI for this match.
Muhamed Besic was not called up for the national team in the last two years, but it seems that all of a sudden Susic sees him as a perfect solution for the vacant defensive midfielder role. For the young Ferencvaros defender, who was born and raised in Germany, this match should be a big test.
If Susic decided to play in a 4-2-3-1, then Haris Medunjanin will probably be paired with Besic and take responsibility with the ball. However, Susic prefers to keep his tactics under the radar, so it wouldn't be a surprise to see a trio of Miralem Pjanic, Zvjezdan Misimovic and Senad Lulic in front of Besic.
Pjanic is the most creative and imaginative player Bosnia have, and the central role suits him the best. But when he shares the pitch with the veteran Misimovic, who plays in China, Pjanic is forced to move right and leave the ball to him.
On the other side, Lulic is the first choice, but in the last two training sessions he was only able to take a lighter workload and so could be replaced with Hoffenheim's colonel Sejad Salihovic.
Attackers: Dzeko, Ibisevic
Susic caused much controversy and many negative comments after he called up only two attackers—Vedad Ibisevic and Edin Dzeko—for the World Cup. But this was his way during the qualifiers, where he paired those two in every match, narrowing his own options if things went wrong.
It is 100 percent certain that Susic will not play both attackers against Argentina, but in a match like this that is not impossible. In that case Ibisevic will settle deeper than Dzeko and become the fifth midfielder, but at the same time it will make Bosnia too open and vulnerable in the transition to defence.
Dzeko, who finished the season in fine form as a champion of England's Premier League, is the No. 1 choice in attack, and Bosnia and Herzegovina's threat largely depends on his form.
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