Bosnia-Herzegovina are preparing for their last match against Iran with bags packed. The loss to Nigeria means that their World Cup is over, at least in competitive terms, and they go into the game with Iran with nothing to play for.
However, is that really the truth? Are they really without any motivation against Iran? Bosnia were debutants in this year's tournament and their expectations may have been unrealistic, but that does not change the fact that the people back home are disappointed.
After great performances against Ivory Coast and Mexico and solid resistance to Lionel Messi’s Argentina, the nation expected this team to create miracles and reach the knockout stages. They were not that far away if truth be told—the disallowed goal and the woodwork saved Nigeria—and things could easily have taken a different path.
But, it did not and Bosnians have been left disappointed. After the initial shock and fire towards referee Peter O’Leary and his assistants—which allegedly ended up with death threats, per Kate Lyons and Louise Cheer of the Daily Mail—the Bosnian public turned their rage to the team and the coach, Safet Susic.
This national team was considered to be the pride of the nation and it was logical that people would not be satisfied after the Nigeria result. They expected to see fighting spirit, the passion and pride that this team showed during the qualifiers, but all that disappeared overnight.
Of course, no one believes that this team did not want to win, as Edin Dzeko explained in his confession on his official Facebook profile. Bosnia relied on experienced players and big stars like Dzeko and skipper Emir Spahic, but they simply failed to deliver. It was obvious that the spark Bosnians were famous for was missing.
What was the reason for that?
This is the question that will often be asked in the next couple of weeks. What's certain is that Susic has to take his share of the blame—even though he claims that the style of play, the preparations and the starting XI were good, and it was the fact the team “was inefficient” that was the problem.
But Susic’s tactics against Nigeria were a total miss. He played without a proper left-back, exposing that side to swift and mobile Nigerian attackers who knew exactly how to exploit the weakness.
Safet Susic can continue to bark but the truth is that his team is on the plane direction Sarajevo when Nigeria is still alive in Brazil!— Oluwada Lotfi (@OluwadaLotfi) June 22, 2014
What's more, Susic failed to recognise his own mistakes and correct them, repeating the mistakes through the whole match. The back four was dismantled, creaking like a listing ship, the usually creative midfield was without direction and the lone Dzeko up front was isolated and harmless.
However, if the World Cup is, at least in competitive terms, over for Bosnia-Herzegovina, they have a lot to prove against Iran. Susic has failed a massive test and he may see this as a chance to repair his image. It is now likely that this match will be his farewell; his contract expires after the tournament and it is difficult to believe that anyone would offer him a new one.
On the other hand, the players want to show the critics that they can do much better, and that they still believe in the future of this team.
The match against Iran is actually a crossroads for the Bosnian national team. A lot depends on the result—the win could remedy the situation to some point and leave a solid foundation for the next coach.
A loss? It would bring all the dirty laundry to the surface and rock Bosnian football from its very foundations.
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