2014 World Cup team preview: Bosnia


Getting to know… Bosnia: The tiny nation has only been a full FIFA member since 1995 and they have been on the up and up in recent years but were knocked out by Portugal in playoffs for both the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012. After qualifying for the tournament in Brazil, Bosnia have reached their first-ever major tournament as a nation. A strong core of players including Manchester City striker Edin Dzeko, Stoke City goalkeeper Asmir Begovic and AS Roma midfielder Miralem Pjanic should see them give a very good account of themselves this summer.

Record in qualifying: Bosnia finished top of their group in UEFA qualifying, as they won eight of their ten games in Group G. They beat Greece to the automatic spot on goal differential and only lost once the entire campaign. They scored 30 goals and let in just six as Dzeko’s status as a national hero in Bosnian was reinforced by his goalscoring exploits in qualifying.

Which group are they in? They are in Group F alongside red-hot favorites Argentina, Iran and Nigeria. Bosnia will be hoping their first-ever World Cup appearance will yield a trip to at least the last 16 stage. Many favor the Bosnian side to cause some huge upsets and you would expect them to battle it out for second spot in the group.

Game schedule:

15 June, 18:00, Rio de Janeiro – Argentina vs. Bosnia

21 June, 15:00, Curitiba – Nigeria vs. Bosnia

25 June, 12:00, Salvador – Bosnia vs. Iran

Star player: Edin Dzeko

The bustling striker heads to the World Cup fresh off winning the Premier League title with Man City and Dzeko played a huge part in that with key goals late in the campaign. Overall he scored 26 goals for the Citizens and his power in the air and incredible hold up play makes him a key cog in Bosnia’s machine. Not many defenders can out-muscle Dzeko and he has a knack of popping up in the right place at the right time, as all good strikers seem to do. If they can get him the ball regularly, the big Bosnian will finish.

Manager: Safet Susic

A manager with plenty of experience, 59-year-old Susic has mainly managed in Turkey after his long playing career with Paris Saint-Germain and FK Sarajevo. He played for Yugoslavia for 13 years but also appeared for Bosnia after the war in 1993 before they became an official FIFA nation. Susic has been at the helm since 2009 and has won 24 of his 42 games in charge. He encourages Bosnia to attack but they are also extremely solid defensively. We saw that in their 1-0 World Cup warm up win against Mexico.

Secret weapon: An unknown quantity

It seems silly in this day and age, but not many people know about the player possess. With guys like former St. Louis University star Vedad Ibisevic and many others working their way up through the European leagues, this will be the first time they have experienced the World Cup and the biggest stage of all. There could be nerves but they could also feel no pressure and exceed everyone’s expectations.

Prediction: Bosnia are a well-organized and with their tough mentality, many teams won’t relish playing against them in the World Cup. They could easily make it out of their group and then who knows? Ultimately, this is their first World Cup so anything other than getting embarrassed in the group stage is an achievement.

Sporting KC giving away creative “Bike Opara” bobblehead

Getty Images
Leave a comment

In his ninth Major League Soccer season, Ike Opara has scored just a dozen regular season goals.

He’s known more for his physicality in the backline, for creating space for teammates on set pieces, or heading balls on to teammates with slightly more fleeter feet.

But in June 2017, it all came together for Opara in a magical moment, where he beat an offside trap from the LA Galaxy and scored an insane bicycle kick for Sporting Kansas City.

Now, to honor Opara’s ridiculous goal, Sporting KC has announced the first 10,000 fans through the gates at Children’s Mercy Park on March 31 will get a “Bike Ike” bobblehead, with him in flight kicking the ball towards goal over his shoulder.

You’ve gotta love the creativity and fun the Sporting KC marketing department is having. Hopefully, Opara can give the team another memorable goal in 2018.

Van Dijk named new Netherlands captain

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Virgil Van Dijk has had a pretty decent last three months since moving to Liverpool, and the towering defender earned a new personal achievement on Thursday.

Van Dijk was named the newest captain of the Netherlands National Team, where he’ll play under former manager Ronald Koeman. Van Dijk’s first game as captain will be against the nation where he currently plies his trade, England, on Friday.

“I am very happy with it, it is a great honor to be the captain of your country,” van Dijk said at a pre-match press conference Thursday. “Everyone knows that Koeman gave me the chance at Southampton, I am very grateful to him. This is very special.”

Van Dijk’s commanding presence in the Liverpool backline and previous stops at Southampton and Celtic make him an obvious choice for captain, taking the place of the now-retired Arjen Robben. At just 26-years old, van Dijk could carry the armband for a half dozen years if he keeps up his strong form.

MLS All-Stars to face Juventus in 2018

Getty Images
Leave a comment

For the first time, Juventus will be taking on Major League Soccer’s best in the MLS All-Star Game.

MLS announced on Thursday that the six-time defending Italian champions will take on the MLS All-Stars in Atlanta United’s Mercedez-Benz Stadium on August 1, 2018. Juventus will be the second Italian club to play in the MLS All-Star Game, following AS Roma’s appearance in 2013.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

Since MLS adapted its all-stars vs. foreign club format in 2002 (with a brief return to the old East vs. West format in 2004), MLS has gone 9-6. Last year the MLS All-Stars lost 4-2 on penalty kicks to Real Madrid in Chicago’s Soldier Field.

Klinsmann: “I’m sure I’ll come back” to coaching

Getty Images
1 Comment

Jurgen Klinsmann hinted that he could return to full-time coaching after the 2018 World Cup.

Klinsmann appears to be enjoying life as a full-time soccer dad after his dismissal from U.S. Soccer in November 2016, having taken home a portion of a $6.2 million buyout from U.S. Soccer for he and his staff. Speaking to Socrates Magazine in Germany, Klinsmann gave his thoughts on the Bundesliga, the German National Team, and whether he’d be back in the hot seat one day.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

“I’m sure I’ll come back,” Klinsmann said. “Right now I’m having a nice break, I enjoy it. I do not know when I’ll take on a coaching job again. I’m looking forward to the World Cup in Russia and then I’ll be back in action.”

Klinsmann has been linked with a number of jobs over the past few years, even before he was fired as U.S. Men’s National Team coach, including with Everton, Sunderland, and Club Tijuana in Liga MX. But instead, Klinsmann has remained in the stands, cheering on his son Jonathan at the 2017 Under-20 World Cup along with the rest of the U.S. parents in their section.

Following the disastrous start of World Cup qualifying and the fact that Klinsmann never took the U.S. to the level he promised, it is hard to see where he will go next, unless it’s a lower level, with lower expectations. Based on his work with the USMNT and Bayern Munich, he has shown that he struggles tactically and is mainly a man-motivator, which is just one part of the coaching package.

The 53-year-old former German coach and player also had a bit of a warning to the Bundesliga, after a particularly tough season in Europe. Three Bundesliga teams (Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig) made the UEFA Champions League, but both Dortmund and Leipzig finished third in their groups, dropping down to the Europa League. FC Koln, Hoffenheim and Hertha Berlin all failed to advance to the knockout stages in the Europa League as well.

“The recent development at the European level is not a good sign, it is important that everyone is aware that success is lacking,” Klinsmann said. “Recently, you have lost too much ground.

“It’s a very critical moment. There is a certain amount of satisfaction after winning the World Cup in Brazil and the Bundesliga clubs having done very well in the Champions League.”