As he slumped to the ground in frustration at the moment he knew that Bosnia and Herzegovina’s first World Cup was effectively over, Edin Dzeko looked a broken man.
The Manchester City forward knew that he was the key player, the golden boy and the largest source of optimism for the Bosnian fans to truly believe that they were going to make it out of the group stages on their tournament debut, and he would have felt that he had let those fans down.
He could never truly do that, of course.
As this brilliant Guardian piece by Ed Vulliamy pointed out on the eve of the tournament, Dzeko and his generation of Bosnian footballers—although particularly Dzeko himself—represent far more than just men running around on a pitch. They have been symbols of hope, belief and pride to an often vastly troubled nation, and all of that status and support would have been weighing on the forward’s mind in Cuiaba.
He had had an evening to forget, although it is one he’ll remember for the rest of his career.
Dzeko saw a goal wrongly ruled out for offside when he appeared to be a yard on in the first half, with the officials’ error compounded just seven minutes later when Peter Odemwingie struck the goal which would prove to be the winner.
A point would still have given Bosnia a great chance to progress through to the second round—surely the limit of the dreams of those supporters who idolise Dzeko—as they face Iran in their final match and Nigeria play Argentina, but as the clock ticked down and Dzeko grew more and more frustrated that point didn’t look like it would come. Then came the moment.
A loose ball in the box was seized upon by Bosnia’s premier forward in the dying seconds of stoppage time. This was the moment that a nation—formerly two nations—had been waiting for.
Yet Dzeko scuffed his shot somewhat, allowing Vincent Enyeama to stretch and palm the ball onto the post. Bosnia’s chance had gone, and with it so had their World Cup.
A frustrated Dzeko hit out at the referee after the match, as per Sky Sports, but he is bound to be feeling flat after such a chastening experience. He’ll need to pick himself up for his country’s final match against Iran in Salvador on Wednesday, and then crucially ahead of the challenges that await Manchester City in 2014/15.
Because make no mistake, Dzeko was a key figure in City winning the Premier League title in the season just gone.
From being a perennial substitute and a frequent presence in the transfer-gossip columns—like here in the Daily Mirror—Dzeko rose to be his club’s key forward in a gripping title challenge, scoring five goals in the last four games of the season as City dipped for the line ahead of Liverpool.
With Stevan Jovetic perennially injured, Sergio Aguero worryingly approaching a similar description and Alvaro Negredo losing all semblance of the form he’d displayed earlier in the season, Dzeko became the go-to man, a consistent source of goals and a player that the opposition feared.
Admittedly Jose Mourinho’s claim that the forward should be awarded the Player of the Year, as per the BBC, was a little fanciful—although as always with Mourinho, there was a hidden message in there somewhere—but his value to City could not be understated, and when there were new contracts to be discussed at the end of the campaign, Dzeko’s name was one of the first on the list, according to the Daily Star.
So when he returns home from Brazil, the forward simply can’t let this disappointment get the better of him. City have enough top talent to replace him in the side if he’s not performing, whilst they’ve also got the ability to buy someone else in his place without so much as a flickering of an eyelid.
Having fought and scrapped his way to the front of the striking pecking order at the Etihad Stadium, this proud Bosnian must be feeling deflated following his summer in Brazil.
A couple of goals against Iran, a smile and a pat on the back when he returns to City and a place in the starting lineup for the trip to Newcastle in August though, and everything could soon feel better.