PREVIEW: Bosnia-Herzegovina vs. Belgium (EURO 2016 Qualifier)

first_img(Source: BHDragons) A goalless draw in Cardiff earned Bosnia a first point in EURO 2016 qualifying, but given the idea that it’s been a disappointing start to the campaign for the team with a home defeat to lowly ranked Cyprus included, there will be a lot to prove and many doubters to silence when the Dragons take to the pitch on Monday night to face one of Europe’s hottest teams in a Belgian side that’s showing signs of rising to prominence in recent times with big fish to fry as they look to qualify for a second consecutive major tournament in two years’ time. With only one point out of two games so far, Bosnia will be desperate to pick up three points and the first win in the qualifying campaign in front of a home crowd in Zenica. A lot is at stake for Bosnian manager Safet Susic in particular, who has been in the heat lately for the national team’s run of bad results. A win would revive confidence among fans and media in his managing abilities.Belgium are coming off a World Cup campaign in Brazil where they went out to eventual runners-up Argentina in the quarterfinals and having brought up some of world football’s most exciting talents in recent years with the likes of Lukaku, Courtois, Hazard, and de Bruyne becoming key members of the Red Devils’ national team and making headlines at the highest level of club football, it’s safe to say that this will be a very different Belgian team altogether in comparison to the one that Bosnia had plenty of success against 5 years ago when back-to-back triumphs over them proved to be the catalyst to Bosnia’s advancement to the playoffs for 2010 World Cup qualifying, where they went out to Portugal and missed out on the finals. Then, Belgium were only considered a decent Pot 3 team that cause some damage to the teams above them, now they may well be ranked amongst the elite countries on the continent and even the world themselves.Both national teams have significantly improved since their last encounter. Bosnia was able to defeat Belgium five years ago with Berberovic, Jahic, Pandza, Nadarevic, Mravac, Muratovic, and other players who have faded from the national team over the years with the inclusion of Lulic, Besic, Hajrovic, Pjanic, etc. Belgium has improved dramatically since, climbing to an incredible #5 in the FIFA Rankings. In the 2014 World Cup qualifiers, Belgium crushed Bosnia’s neighbor Serbia in Belgrade by a score of 3-0 and defeated Croatia in Zagreb by a score of 2-1.Belgium are coming into this game on the back of a 6-0 mauling over group whipping boys Andorra, but do have some injury problems to contend with. Axel Witsel is ruled out with a injury he picked up a few weeks ago playing for his club Zenit in Russia whilst they are still sweating on the fitness of Eden Hazard and Vincent Kompany, who came off although announced as a precautionary measure midway through last night’s game. Those three aside though, everyone else is available and it will be a near full strength Belgian team that will encounter Bosnia in Zenica on Monday night.For Bosnia though, the injury problems remain very much the same as before the Wales game. Ermin Bicakcic, Sead Kolasinac, Sejad Salihovic, and Goran Zakaric are all out while Emir Spahic has not yet been completely ruled out from playing in the game, even though it does seem unlikely at this stage that he will be able to take part. Should he play though, it would undoubtedly be a massive boost for the Bosnian back four to have their natural and inspirational leader in the man who captained the country for nearly a decade in such a pivotal match that could go a long way towards deciding the immediate future of the national team both in terms of qualifying for the tournament and the security of Susic’s job, not many ways you could bolster your team than by bringing in such an experienced war horse like Spahic into the lineup.Safet Susic will likely field a slightly more defensive team against Belgium than the one against Wales and Cyprus, as he has done so in the past against bigger sides. Vedad Ibisevic may start on the substitutes’ bench in favor of Izet Hajrovic, who will release a lot of pressure from the Bosnian midfield. Also, Mensur Mujdza will likely take on a more defensive role as Hajrovic tracks back on the right wing during Belgium’s counterattacks.Projected Lineup (Bosnia-Herzegovina): Begovic – Mujdza, Sunjic, Hadzic, Lulic – Besic, Medunjanin, Pjanic, T. Susic, Hajrovic – DzekoProjected Lineup (Belgium): Courtois – Alderweireld, Kompany, Lombaerts, Vertonghen – Defour, Nainggolan, De Bruyne, Mertens, Hazard – LukakuClub teammates pitted against each other include Pjanic vs. Nainggolan (Roma), Besic vs. Lukaku (Everton), and Dzeko vs. Kompany (Manchester City). The last time these two sides faced each other was during the 2010 World Cup qualifiers.Match Facts:                                                     -Bosnia and Belgium have plenty of history already with each other, with the two teams meeting in qualifying campaigns for both 2006 and 2010 World Cup qualifying. In four meetings, Bosnia came out on top 3 times and Belgium just once. Bosnia have never lost to Belgium at home either.-Belgium qualified for the 2014 World Cup in a group where they toppled three ex-Yugoslav nations in Macedonia, Serbia, and Croatia with 5 wins and a draw in the meetings against those sides. They also beat Wales, one of the rivals in this group and current leaders.-Belgium’s last qualifying defeat was back in October 2011 when a 3-1 loss to Germany ended their hopes of qualification for EURO 2012.-Bosnia have never qualified for a European Championship while Belgium’s last appearance in one was back in 2000, when they co-hosted the tournament along with neighbors Holland.-Jason Denayer and Yannick Carrasco could make their debuts for Belgium if they appear in this fixture, whilst Dujkovic and Kvesic could make theirs for Bosnia if they play.-Bosnia have not gone on a run of three consecutive competitive matches without winning a game since Euro 2012 qualifying when back-to-back draws against France and Portugal along with a heavy defeat in Lisbon to the latter ended hopes of making the cut for Poland/Ukraine that year.The stakes are high and the task isn’t an easy one. A draw wouldn’t necessarily be a bad result, but it’s not the desired one after just picking up a point from the opening two games. Defeat could spell disaster and perhaps the end of Safet Susic’s reign as the head coach of the national team, with a backlash from the supporters and media alike to be expected if it does come down to a bad result here. In terms of qualification for France 2016, the result here will not be decisive but in terms of the immediate future of the national team, it could have severe consequences depending on what is achieved and may bring about the changes needed to restore parity and confidence in the camp with fresh ideas from a new face at the helm. Belgium will pose a serious threat on Monday night, of that we can be sure, but the strength and determination of this team and coaching staff will be tested to its absolute maximum in Zenica and whatever is achieved may well prove to be vital come the end of the campaign as far as qualifying is concerned.last_img read more