Bosnia's national team continue to improve slowly
Greece v Bosnia, 7.45pm
12 October ~ On Friday night a Bosnian team ever growing in confidence travel to the Karaiskakis Stadium in Athens for a crucial World Cup qualifier. Following the disappointment of the Euro 2012 play-off defeat in November 2011 Bosnia's form has been inconsistent, with a string of unconvincing performances in friendlies throughout the spring and summer. However they have been buoyed by wins over Liechtenstein and Latvia in their opening group games, 8-1 and 4-1 respectively, and will be optimistic that they can bring home at least a point.
Hopes for the zlatna generacija (golden generation) of Bosnian players are high among the fans but they face a much sterner test against opponents who also have maximum points from their opening two games against Latvia and Lithuania.
Bosnia's head coach Safet Susic, who starred in the 1982 and 1990 World Cups for the Yugoslavia national team, will be looking to maintain the momentum within a team that he knows are capable of more. Bosnia performed very well during the qualifiers for the last World Cup and European Championship but lost out to Portugal at the play-off stage on both occasions. Their subsequent results in competitive matches give Susic every reason to be optimistic that his team will continue their slow, stuttering but ultimately upward trajectory.
The team contains individual brilliance and a strong work ethic but defensive lapses have been their undoing over the years. Susic will be looking for his team to stay solid at the back while the high-profile attackers inflict damage. With players such as Manchester City's Edin Dzeko, who scored a hat-trick during the 8-1 thrashing of Liechtenstein, Dinamo Moscow's Zvjezdan Misimovic, who scored twice in both qualifying games and Stuttgart striker Vedad Ibisevic, they possess the match-winning quality so important in pivotal games such as this.
Bosnia have so often failed to perform during vital matches, seemingly crippled by lack of self-belief and, supporters would argue, more than their fare share of bad luck. But Susic's team is maturing into a well-organised and experienced unit which is becoming increasingly difficult to beat. Victory in Athens would not only answer their critics, but go a long way to ensuring that they top their group, thereby avoiding the dreaded play-offs. At any rate, the outcome of Friday's game will do much to determine the likely group winner. Kenneth Morrison
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