World Cup - Bosnians eyeing World Cup berth

Bosnia twice came close to reaching their first major tournament as an independent nation in the last four years and their 5-0 win at Latvia in a World Cup qualifier on Friday has put them in the driving seat to finally achieve that dream.

Reuters
World Cup - Bosnians eyeing World Cup berth
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Bosnia's national team line up for a team photo before their 2014 World Cup qualifying game against Latvia in Riga (Reuters)

The Bosnians lost to Portugal in both 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012 playoffs, having been drawn against arguably the toughest opponents they could ask for after finishing runners-up in their qualifying groups.

This time, a ruthlessly prolific Bosnian side who have scored 23 goals in Group G, more than any other team in European qualifying, appear set to clinch an automatic berth in next year's World Cup finals in Brazil.

Even their normally cautious coach Safet Susic, a former Yugoslavia forward who played in the 1982 and 1990 World Cups, was brimming with confidence after an impressive performance by his team, albeit against a 10-man Latvia who had midfielder Aleksandrs Fertovs sent off early on.

"We need nine points from our remaining four games to get there and I am delighted the way the team responded in the second half after missing a hatful of good chances in the first," said Susic.

"The final score may be a bit unrealistic because the Latvians were a man down after 10 minutes but we would have definitely won, even if by two goals and not five.

"I was in a similar situation as a player once, when we were goalless against Luxemburg at halftime and then went on to score five after the break. That's what I told my players to do and they duly obliged."

The Bosnians have 16 points from six games, three more than closest rivals Greece and a vastly superior goal difference.

Their remaining games are a doubleheader against Slovakia in September, followed by a home match with bottom team Lichtenstein and a visit to Lithuania who have only a theoretical chance of staying in the hunt for one of the top two spots.

"It's been a privilege to be in charge of this team for the past three and a half years because the players' attitude and commitment are fantastic, hence I hope they get their reward for all the hard work," Susic said.

"I also have to thank our fans who made the long trip to Riga in droves and made us feel like we were playing at home against the Latvians."

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