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USMNT to face Bosnia in first friendly of 2018

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We’ll get the first taste of the U.S. Men’s National Team on Tuesday since the nation’s unceremonious fall from grace during World Cup qualifying.

[ MORE: USMNT looks to turn the page against Portugal ]

Another opponent has been announced for the American though, for their first fixture of 2018.

U.S. Soccer revealed on Monday that the USMNT will host Bosnia & Herzegovina on Jan. 28 at the StubHub Center in Carson, California.

The USMNT traditionally holds an annual January camp each year with the country’s youth and domestic-based players to get a closer look at fringe players.

With the World Cup no longer in the USMNT’s near future for next summer, it is to be expected that more players with little, or no, national team background will be included in January.

Edin Džeko blames referee for Bosnia’s exit from the World Cup

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On Saturday, Bosnia and Herzegovina were eliminated from their first World Cup, thanks to a 1-0 loss to Nigeria. The Dragons are going home, but they’re not about to do so quietly. They first want to speak about the injustice they felt was doled out by New Zealand referee Peter O’Leary.

In the 21st minute, Edin Džeko latched on to a through ball from Zvjezdan Misimović, lashing the ball past Vincent Enyeama and into the back of the net. The flag was raised and the goal ruled offside. Unfairly, thought the Bosnia team, as did almost everyone watching the replay at home.

Less than ten minutes later, Peter Odemwingie scored what would ultimately be Nigeria’s winner. But defender Emir Spahić appeared to have been fouled in the build-up to the goal, and Bosnia were upset that it had been allowed to stand.

Džeko said:

The referee was shameful. We are going home and we are sad because of that but this referee should be going home too. He changed the result and he changed the game. That’s why we lost. It was obviously a foul on our captain. And before when I scored the goal, it was never offside. We fought till the end but we didn’t have luck today.

Džeko, and Bosnia, likely have a legitimate complaint, at least when it comes to the disallowed goal. Had it stood, the match could’ve taken on a much different tone. Instead, Bosnia are left with a sour taste in their mouth, having been unceremoniously ejected from their first World Cup.

World Cup Today: Argentina, Germany both hoping for second win

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WORLD CUP TODAY: SATURDAY, JUNE 21

Yesterday, Costa Rica qualified for the next round with a 1-0 victory over Italy, knocking England out of the tournament in the process. Then came an absolute goalfest between France and Switzerland, with France scoring five before deciding to be generous, and allowing Switzerland a less-embarrassing 5-2 defeat. Any match after that was bound to a a let-down, but Ecuador still did their best to entertain with a 2-1 comeback against Honduras.

Now, get comfy on your couch or find a decent table at the bar, because you’re not going to want to miss any of Saturday’s matches.

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MATCH 27: ARGENTINA VS. IRAN
Location: Estádio Mineirão, Belo Horizonte
Time: Noon ET
SOCCERLY PREVIEW | SOCCERLY MATCHCENTER

Cheater’s Guide

Argentina showed they aren’t invincible in the first game, with coach Alejandro Sabella electing to roll out five defenders against Bosnia and Herzegovina. Despite taking a 1-0 lead into the break, the albiceleste looked rather impotent, and were only ahead thanks to Bosnia’s own goal in the third minute. But Sabella switched to a 4-3-3 for the second half, highlighting Argentina’s impressive attack and culminating in a 2-1 victory.

Iran’s first match, on the other hand, went as expected. Both they and Nigeria played defensively, giving us the tournament’s first goalless draw.

What they’re saying

Lionel Messi on Alejandro Sabella’s decision to switch tactics mid-match: “As strikers we prefer that system as it gives us more attacking opportunities and if we don’t use that system we suffer a bit. We as strikers favour that line-up. In the first half I was often on my own and so was Kun (Aguero) and it was very difficult, so there are things to be improved on.”

History
Argentina and Iran have faced off just once, resulting in a 1-1 draw. Most think there will be a rather different result this time around.

Premier League Players
Argentina: Manchester City loves Argentina, with Pablo Zabaleta, Martín Demichelis and Sergio Agüero all part of the squad

MLS Players
Iran: Steve Beitashour plies his trade with the Vancouver Whitecaps

RELATED: World Cup news, analysis from Soccerly

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MATCH 28: GERMANY VS. GHANA

Location: Estádio Castelão, Fortaleza
Time: 3pm ET
SOCCERLY PREVIEW | SOCCERLY MATCHCENTER

Cheater’s guide
It was all too easy for Germany the first time around. Portugal were already down by two goals when Pepe decided to nuzzle Thomas Müller lovingly with his head, getting himself sent off and thus permitting his enemy to easily score two more. Germany ended the day with a 4-0 win.

As for Ghana, well, we all know that story, don’t we? Clint Dempsey scored within seconds, but André Ayew pulled one back with less then ten minutes to go. John Brooks put in the winner minutes later, giving the USMNT the 2-1 win.

Oh, and two brothers face off today: Jerome Boateng for Germany, Kevin-Prince Boateng for Ghana. Granted, Jerome’s not likely to see much time, but it’s still pretty neat.

What they’re saying

Kwesi Appiah insists Ghana’s performance against the U.S. was not due to unpaid bonuses: “I’m surprised to hear this. I mean, fine. Some of the money hasn’t been paid yet, but…if you look at the performance today, it’s got nothing to do with money. We created a lot of chances but we didn’t take them.”

History
Germany have won both times the two teams have faced off, with a combined scoreline of 7-1. Will Ghana fare better this time?

Premier League players
Germany: Per Mertesacker, Mesut Özil, Lukas Podolski (Arsenal); André Schürrle (Germany)

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MATCH 29: NIGERIA VS. BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA

Location: Arena Pantanal, Cuiabá
Time: 6pm ET
SOCCERLY PREVIEW | SOCCERLY MATCHCENTER

Cheater’s guide
Bosnia did a good job of keeping Leo Messi quiet in their first game, but still came away with a 2-1 loss to Argentina. Nigeria, meanwhile, kept quiet in general, notching a 0-0 draw with Iran.

What they’re saying
Safet Sušić on how his Bosnia side aren’t just “happy to be in Brazil”: “But we haven’t come here to learn, we have players in top class European clubs, players who have acquired a great deal of experience. We have self-imposed ambitions to make it out of the group, and so not come here for people to see us, we have ambitions to progress out of the group, it won’t be easy, but I’m convinced we haven’t said our last words.”

History:
They’re about to write it.

Premier League players
Nigeria: John Obi Mikel, Victor Moses (Chelsea); Peter Odemwingie (Stoke City)
Bosnia and Herzegovina: Asmir Begović (Stoke City); Edin Džeko (Manchester City)

Lionel Messi scores brilliant match-winner in Argentina’s 2-1 win over Bosnia & Herzegovina

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A Lionel Messi gem was enough to hand Argentina a 2-1 victory over Bosnia & Herzegovina at The Maracana in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday evening.

After a Sead Kolasinic own-goal in the 3rd minute handed Argentina a 1-0 lead, all things were even heading into the second stanza where a beautiful, weaving run by Messi was capped by a calm left-footed finish from 18 yards out.

With a 2-0 lead in hand, Argentina eased off the gas and were punished for it when a sensationally slipped pass by Senad Lulic found Vedad Ibisevic, who cooly finished past Sergio Romero. As B&H pushed for a winner it was Argentina who came closest to scoring again before the final whistle blew handing La Celeste a crucial 2-1 victory to go tops of Group F.

Things began fast when Mensur Mujdza‘s crushing tackle sent Sergio Aguero flying to the turf. Messi’s ensuing free kick from 25 yards out curled in beautifully for Argentina defender Marcos Rojo, who nicked the ball onto the left knee of defender Kolasinic, who could only watch as the ball dribbled into the net.

B&H then settled in with Zvjezdan Misimovic providing some brilliant play-making ability, cutting open the middle of the pitch and finding Izet Hajrovic over the top only for the winger to hesitate and have his effort saved by Romero. A minute later and it was Misimovic again, this time embarrassing Javier Mascherano and earning a free-kick that Miralem Pjanic fired into the wall.

Despite conceding the own-goal, Kolasinac more than made up for it with some sensational defense, giving Pablo Zabaleta and Messi headaches on multiple attacks up the right side. It was an uninspiring performance from Edin Dzeko, who was largely invisible but for a turning 33rd minute strike that flew well over the goal. Eight minutes later and the Dragons came closer, this time through Lulic who’s near post header was sublimely saved by Romero.

Heading into the half-time 1-0 up but under-performing, Argentina needed to shake things up and coach Alejandro Sabella wasted no time doing so, disposing of his five-man backline by removing center-back Hugo Campagnaro in favor of midfielder Fernando Gago and replacing midfielder Maxi Rodriguez with forward Gonzalo Higuain.

With the 4-3-3 formation that Argentina are more familiar with La Celeste caught fire as a 55th minute break saw Messi find Aguero, who mishit his right-footed shot high and wide. By now, though, Argentina was clicking with Messi finding space in the midfield and Higuain, Aguero and Di Maria flying up the pitch.

In the 58th minute it was Hajrovic reeking havoc on Marcos Rojo, juking the left-back before sending in a teasing cross for Lulic that caught Romero off the line only for Federico Fernandez to head away from danger. Two minutes later, it was Argentina’s turn and the improving Messi found Aguero on the right side of the box but his right-footed effort was ripped right into the hands of Begovic.

In the 64th minute Messi spurned an excellent opportunity when he put his left-footed free kick 20 yards over the bar from 30 yards out. Things were looking bleak for the Barcelona sensation but 30 seconds later he proved why he is one of the greatest ever players. Picking up the ball 10 yards in front of midfield Messi dispatched a clever outside-of-the-foot pass that Higuain brilliantly flicked back to La Pulga, who had his sights set on net.

By the time B&H center back Ermin Bicakcic realized it, he stepped up only for Messi to pull the ball left, sending Bicakcic sliding into Besic. With the pathway clear, Messi dispatched a low, carefully placed left-footed strike from 18-yards out that banked off the left post and into the net. The Maracana erupted with a Messi fist-pump clear evidence of a monkey off his back.

Credit to B&H, they didn’t put their heads down and coach Safet Susic went into the most attacking lineup possible, bringing on winger Edin Visca to replace the fantastic Hajrovic, forward Ibisevic for Mensur Mujdza while captain Zvjezdan Misimovic was then removed for Haris Medunjanin.

In the 82nd minute Messi picked the ball up in his defensive third and his 80 yard dribble found Aguero on the right but his cross was snuffed out by a sliding Spahic. Three minutes later, lax defending by Argentina allowed B&H to cut the lead in half. Lulic pushed forward on the dribble and when no one challenged, he slipped a sneaky pass around Fernandez that Ibisevic latched on to and put a subtle touch around Romero.

With six minutes left B&H continued to push forward compelling Argentina to sub Aguero off for Lucas Biglia, adopting a more defensive shape. With The Dragons pushing hard for the equalizer it was La Celeste that enjoyed the better chances with Messi coming closest off the counter in the 93rd minute, only to hit the side netting.

All in all it was a great win for Argentina against a tricky B&H side but one that Sabella will want to see vast improvements upon if his side are to make a deep run in this World Cup.

LINEUPS

Argentina – Romero; Rojo, Garay, F. Fernandez, Campagnaro (Gago 45′), Zabaleta; Di Maria, Mascherano, Rodriguez (Higuain 45′); Messi, Aguero (Biglia 87′).

Goals: Kolasinac, OG (3′) Messi (65′)

Bosnia & Herzegovina – Begovic; Kolasinac, Spahic, Bicakcic, Mujdza (Ibisevic 69′); Besic, Hajrovic (Visca 71′); Lulic, Misimovic (Medunjanin 74′), Pjanic; Dzeko.

Goal: Ibisevic (84′)

2014 World Cup team preview: Bosnia

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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.