Why Bosnia-Herzegovina Made a Mistake Not Taking Zukanovic to the World Cup

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Why Bosnia-Herzegovina Made a Mistake Not Taking Zukanovic to the World Cup
Roman Koksarov/Associated Press

As expected, Bosnia and Herzegovina easily passed their last test before their World Cup opener, beating Santos' U-23 team 5-1 in their camp in Guaruja, Brazil. Vedad Ibisevic scored twice, while Izet Hajrovic, Senad Lulic and Edin Visca added one goal each. However, even the match against a semi-amateur youth team confirmed that the Bosnians have something to fear when it comes to their back line.

Coach Safet Susic decided to rest Edin Dzeko, Miralem Pjanic, Muhamed Besic and slightly injured captain Emir Spahic. However, the shape of the back four is most interesting when it comes to this match. For the first time in World Cup preparation and since his injury, Ermin Bicakcic played for Bosnia and Herzegovina, once again confirming that he is, at least theoretically, ready for the Argentina match. However, his form and the fact that he missed almost a month of proper training tells a different story, and it seems like Susic will have to improvise in this position.

Jeff Roberson/Associated Press
Sead Kolasinac was Bosnia-Herzegovina's first-choice left-back until Monday.

In Spahic's absence Bicakcic was paired with Sead Kolasinac, who was, until Monday, Susic's first-choice left-back. The young Schalke defender handled the test well and, judging by the training session in the last couple of days, he'll be the one to play next to Spahic.

This once again opens the question of left-back. Through the whole qualifying campaign, Susic struggled to find a proper solution in this role, not having a natural left-back in his selection. After he discovered Kolasinac and pursued him to switch from Germany to Bosnia and Herzegovina, it looked like this problem was solved. But, now that Kolasinac has moved to centre-back, Susic is once again being forced to improvise, using Sejad Salihovic as his alternative.

Salihovic, Hoffenheim's captain, is an experienced player, with 39 caps for the national team, but the problem is that he is natural midfielder. He played as a left-back in the qualifiers, but even against weaker opposition he had trouble coping with faster wingers.

In his 23-man World Cup squad, Susic hardly has any other option—Lulic is the only player that was tested in this position, but he had the same problem as Salihovic, being too offensive-minded. In the second half against Santos, Susic tried Mensur Mujdza as a left-back, but that would open a hole on the right side, where Mujdza usually operates.

Roman Koksarov/Associated Press
Ervin Zukanovic could have been a good option at left-back for Bosnia-Herzegovina.

However, all this could have easily been solved if Susic had included Ervin Zukanovic in his World Cup squad. The Genk defender is one of the rare Bosnians that can play at left-back, and he was originally slated to be part of the team, but he did not make the final cut. What's more, the problem was not his quality, but his discipline. Zukanovic was denied an entry visa into the U.S. for two friendlies played there, and after he publicly criticized the FA for its ineffectiveness, he was left in Sarajevo.

On the other hand, Susic loaded his squad with players of similar ability. That includes his nephew Tino-Sven Susic, who plays for a mediocre Hajduk Split in the Croatian league, and whose position was already filled with names like Miralem Pjanic and Zvjezdan Misimovic. It is similar with Anel Hadzic from Sturm and Senijad Ibricic from Kayseri Erciyesspor.

Taking Zukanovic instead of any of these three players would not solve all the problems that Susic´s Bosnia and Herzegovina has, but it would certainly give the coach more options.

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