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Analysis: European Championship play-off clash: BiH faces Ireland

BH national teamAs a result of the draw on the 18th of October earlier this year in Nyon, the Dragons found the Republic of Ireland on their path towards qualification for the European Championship in 2016 in France. The play-off competition consists of two matches that will be played on the 13th and the 16th of November. The first leg will be played in Zenica at 20:45 while the second leg will take place in Dublin at 19:45. Both teams faced each other only once during a friendly match in Dublin in 2012 which ended in a small victory for the Irish: 1-0.

The Green Army’ impressed during the group stage due to strong performances against Germany but nevertheless finished the qualification campaign as third in the group behind Germany and Poland. They managed to concede only 7 goals in 10 matches which proves that the Irish can build on a solid defense. It seems that any potential problems for the Irish could occur as it comes to finding the net as they scored 19 goals in 10 matches while 11 of these 19 goals were produced against the poor side of Gibraltar. Furthermore, Ireland’s head coach Martin O’Neill stated: we have some problems to negotiate with suspensions and who knows what will happen in the next few weeks, injury is always a possibility, but we will go for it and give it everything we’ve got.Ireland has to miss a number of important players as Sunderland defender O’Shea is suspended for the first leg, as is Stoke City forward Jon Walters. Southampton striker Shane Long is out for the first leg in Zenica due to a foot injury and hopes to be fit for the second leg. Veteran goalkeeper Shay Given and forward David McGoldrick are definitely out. In terms of the draw and the opponent, O’Neill reacted as follows: if there is any slight advantage to be for us it’s that the second game is in Dublin. We need to perform out in Bosnia to make sure that the second game in Dublin means something. We have a chance.

The Dragons seek qualification for a European Championship for the first time in its history. Despite high expectations for direct qualification, they finished as third behind Wales and Belgium after an overall inconsistent performance during the group stage. This has mainly been the result of a poor start in the group but a great catch up followed as they won five of their last six games. The statistics of the Dragons in their group are ostensibly not as good as Ireland as they only scored 17 goals and conceded 12 goals in 10 matches. However, as mentioned, they eventually picked up a good flow and proved in their last 6 matches to be ready to face the Irish. In terms of personal problems, Everton midfielder Muhamed Besic is unavailable for the first leg as he is suspended for throwing chewing gum at an Andorran opponent back in September. According to head coach Mehmed Bazdarevic, Ireland should not be underestimated as he stated: “Ireland have good-quality players. It will be very difficult. It’s important that we prepare ourselves well, and have a lot of desire, enthusiasm and fight, as well as giving a good performance tactically.” Dragon’s defender Mensur Mujdza seems to share this feeling as he stated: “there was a chance we’d be drawn against Ireland, and we were ready for that. I think that Ireland play similarly to Wales and their latest result against Germany says enough about their quality. It will not be easy, but it wouldn’t be easy against Slovenia, Denmark or Norway either.” The two star players from AS Roma Miralem Pjanic and Edin Dzeko will be available which is undoubtedly a huge relief for head coach Bazdarevic. Edin Dzeko has proved to be a great contributor during the catch up in the group stage as he scored 7 goals in the last 5 matches.

All in all an interesting clash between a solid Ireland and a currently strong performing Bosnia & Herzegovina. In philosophical words, head coach Bazdarevic concluded: “we are masters of our destiny.”

Written by Dustin Giel

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