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Croatia great Prosinecki to coach Bosnian national team

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SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) Former Croatia and Real Madrid midfielder Robert Prosinecki has been hired to coach the Bosnia and Herzegovina national team.

The Bosnian soccer federation says Prosinecki was picked ahead of Amar Osim, who was also interviewed.

Prosinecki spent the past three years coaching Azerbaijan’s national team.

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Bosnia is targeting the 2020 European Championship after failing to reach the past two major tournaments. The Balkan republic made its tournament debut as an independent nation at the 2014 World Cup.

Playing for Yugoslavia, Prosinecki was selected as the best young player at the 1990 World Cup. He helped Croatia finish third at the 1998 tournament.

Prosinecki won a European Cup title in 1991 with Red Star Belgrade, then moved to Madrid. He later played one season with Barcelona.

Croatia finish off Greece to qualify for 2018 World Cup

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Following the first leg of UEFA’s four 2018 World Cup qualification playoffs, only one — Croatia’s 4-1 thrashing of Greece — provided 1) multiple goals scored; 2) at least one goal scored by each side; or 3) a lead/deficit of more than one goal at the midway point.

[ MORE: Switzerland qualify for World Cup ]

On Sunday, Zlatko Dalic’s Croatians made good on that three-goal advantage and booked their place at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, courtesy of a 0-0 second-leg draw in Piraeus.

[ MORE: Italy facing key changes ahead of decisive 2nd leg vs. Sweden ]

After Luka Modric, Nikola Kalinic, Ivan Perisic and Andrej Kramaric set them on their merry way in the first leg (the only blemish coming on a Sokratis Papastathopoulos goal), it was little more than a formality that Croatia would qualify for its second straight World Cup and fifth tournament in six tries (missed out in 2010).

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Croatia joined Switzerland in having secured on Sunday their spot at next summer’s tournament in Russia. Four sides — Italy and Sweden, and Ireland and Denmark — will decide UEFA’s final two berths on Monday and Tuesday, respectively.

UEFA World Cup qualifying playoff preview

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Eight teams remain for four spots in Russia.

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There are some big names in the bunch, including multiple World Cup winners like Italy.

And five of the eight teams advanced from their groups at EURO 2016, including quarterfinalist Italy.

Italy is also one of four playoff teams who went to the 2014 World Cup. Not all will go back, with Greece facing Croatia in one of the playoff ties.

Northern Ireland vs. Switzerland
First leg – Thursday in Belfast
Second leg – Sunday in Basel

The Swiss were incredibly unfortunate, going 9-1 just like group-winning Portugal but failing to advance on goal differential.

The plucky Northern Irish proved their EURO run was no fluke when they advanced fairly comfortably over third place Czech Republic.

Switzerland will be favored to advance behind its terrific midfield, with Stoke City’s Xherdan Shaqiri, Arsenal’s Granit Xhaka, and the Montreal Impact’s Blerim Dzemaili in the mix.

Northern Ireland will line up in from of EURO hero Michael McGovern, who starred in helping the Green and White Army stymy several foes in 2016.

Croatia vs. Greece
First leg – Thursday in Zagreb
Second leg – Sunday in Piraeus

Croatia comes out of a wildly competitive Group I, two points behind Iceland and three points ahead of Ukraine.

Greece needed the final day to edge past Bosnia and Herzegovina after finishing miles behind Belgium.

Croatia is loaded in attack and style, but Greece has traditionally been a squad full of tactically-efficient defenders.

Denmark vs. Republic of Ireland
First leg – Saturday in Copenhagen
Second leg – Tuesday in Dublin

The Danes finished five points back of Poland and four ahead of Montenegro in Group E.

Ireland edged Wales for second place in Group D.

Expect this pairing to be as plucky as any of the four ties, with Martin O’Neill’s Irish prepared to make life very difficult for unbeaten-since-Oct. 2016 Denmark.

Sweden vs. Italy
First leg – Friday in Solna
Second leg – Monday in Milan

The Italians lost the Group G lottery, which was always going to come down to the pair of matches between Italy and Spain.

Sweden advanced past Netherlands on goal differential for second in Group A, finishing four points behind France.

Since 1934, Italy has failed to qualify for a World Cup exactly once (1958). Sweden didn’t make it to the last two tournaments despite a certain Zlatan Ibrahimovic. There would be a certain ridiculousness to the Swedes making it happen without one of their all-time heroes.

UEFA World Cup qualifying: Who’s in, and who’s in the playoffs?

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UEFA World Cup qualifying enters its second round with an Oct. 17 draw, and there’s one big name the rest want to avoid in the two-legged playoffs.

Italy couldn’t top Spain in a qualifying group that drew two of the last three World Cup winners together, and now will meet one of seven other second-placed teams between November 9-14.

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Slovakia was the unlucky ninth second-place team, finishing with the least amount of points of its brethren.

As it stands, Switzerland, Italy, Denmark, and Croatia will be seeded, which avoids the juicy nightmare that would be Italy vs. Croatia with one missing out.

It also means Northern Ireland cannot face Republic of Ireland.

Clinched berths in Russia: France, Portugal, Germany, Serbia, Poland, England, Spain, Belgium, Iceland.

Playoff participants: Sweden, Switzerland, Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland, Denmark, Italy, Greece, Croatia.

UEFA wrap: Spain clinches, Iceland grabs control

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There were certainly surprises in UEFA on Friday.

Serbia opened the door to Group D’s automatic spot, while Spain clinched the 11th berth in Russia thanks to another big win and a shocking draw between Italy and Macedonia.

[ MORE: U-17 World Cup Day 1 roundup ]

Wales and the Republic of Ireland found new leases on automatic qualifying life, while Group I remains quite murky.


GROUP D

Georgia 0-1 WalesRECAP

Tom Lawrence of Derby County stepped up with a goal in the absence of Gareth Bale, as Wales made sure to put pressure on Serbia with the first result of the day.

Austria 3-2 Serbia

Crystal Palace man Luka Milivojevic scored in the 11th minute to put Serbia on the precipice of Russia, but Guido Burgstaller knotted it up 14 minutes later.

It stayed 1-1 until Stoke City’s Marko Arnautovic scored only to find an answer for Serbia in the form of Manchester United’s Nemanja Matic.

Yet Louis Schaub scored just before stoppage time to provide an intriguing final day to qualifying.

Republic of Ireland 2-0 Moldova

Daryl Murphy scored twice in the first 19 minutes to set up a massive final match at Wales on Monday

Matches and scenarios:

Monday
Wales vs. Ireland
Serbia vs. Georgia
Moldova vs. Austria

The read: Serbia can still advance automatically by holding serve against Georgia, but a draw would open the door to Wales or Ireland and Georgia proved no pushover for Wales on Friday. The Welsh can ensure no worse than second at home by beating Ireland, while either winner would pass a losing Serbia.


GROUP G

Italy 1-1 Macedonia

Giorgio Chiellini darted into the heart of the six to pass home a goal which sealed Italy’s place in the playoffs, though it was Aleksandar Trajkovski’s 78th minute goal which assured the Italians would not catch Spain.

Spain 3-0 Albania

Rodrigo, Isco, and Thiago Alcantara all scored before the match was a half-hour old to stylishly insure a spot in Russia.

Liechtenstein 0-1 Israel

Eitan Tibi’s 21st minute goal was the lone marker.

Scenarios: Spain wins group. Italy will head to the playoffs. Imagine, as it stands, the possibility of Italy vs. Portugal over two legs for a World Cup berth.


GROUP I

Turkey 0-3 Iceland

Johann Gudmundsson (Burnley), Birkir Bjarnason (Aston Villa), and Kari Arnarson (Aberdeen) scored to banish Turkey from qualification and put Iceland in the driver’s seat for a trip to Russia.

Kosovo 0-2 Ukraine

It was a second half own goal that kept Ukraine’s World Cup hopes alive, and set up a critical final day between Ukraine and Croatia in Kiev.

Croatia 1-1 Finland

Mario Mandzukic broke through in the 57th minute, but Pyry Soiri scored in stoppage time to score a fine result for Croatia and put Iceland in the Group I driver’s seat.

Matches and scenarios:

Monday
Ukraine vs. Croatia
Iceland vs. Kosovo
Finland vs. Turkey

The read: Iceland is through to Russia with a win. There are other scenarios to send Iceland through, including with a loss (That would require a Ukraine-Croatia draw).

Croatia can advance to Russia with a win and an Iceland draw or loss, and would currently finish second if it draws Ukraine.

Ukraine can finish first if it beats Croatia and Iceland loses to Kosovo, or if Iceland draws and Ukraine beats Croatia by more than a goal. Other scenarios exist, but are more complicated.

Turkey is now out.