So Bosnia & Herzegovina almost nearly got to the last World Cup, and seemingly became everyone's second favourite team along the way. With hindsight a Bosnian team would probably have been a breath of coffee tigned fresh air compared to the Ronaldo led shitstorm that knocked them out in the playoffs, but anyway, that is in the past now. And where Bosnia is involved, looking forward is kind of the done thing.
So yeah, looking forward, Bosnia could well be one of the revelations of this Qualifying tournament, as they so nearly were 12 months ago. Whilst last time round they had a team of bright young talent mixed in with experienced euro-journeymen, this time their is a really solid look about the squad, that runs deeper than just 4 or 5 stars in the first 11.
Messr's Dzeko and Pjanic now look like genuine quality players who should spend a good while at the top table of European clubs, not just one season wonders that they easily could have become. Not many teams from the '2nd group' of countries in European football can build around such a talented, and now fairly experienced partnership. With Pjanic sure to play his part in this seasons Champions League, and Dzeko at the front of a pricely rebuilt Wolfsburg (Cough Diego Cough) it could be another big season for these two.
But beyond that there is more quality coming through. A solid goalkeeper for a team at BiH's level is a massive boon, take Handanovic between the sticks for Slovenia being a prime example. Hopefully Asmir Begovic can sort out his dispute with big T Pulis and really put his name on the number one Jersey both for Stoke and BiH. The heart shaped nation's main footballing strength is their attacking flair, but with a handful of defenders playing in France and Germany some top level experience is seeping in.
It is however midfield and forward where things get exciting. Pjanic is the obvious talent, and is a huge danger from dead balls, especially with Dzeko rangy frame to aim at, but beyond that there is strength in the depth. Misimovic and Rahimic bring with them experience and anchor a team that has been slowly progressing over 4 or 5 years, With Rahimic being 34, this is probably the last chance he will get to go to a major championship.
Menudjanin, Ibricic and Salihovic are a solid supporting cast who without a doubt will give the majority of teams a difficult time.
And then there is the forwards. It could be seen as a case of one of Europe's best and A.N.Other. Whilst Dzeko's sublime goalscoring does give this an element of truth, Muslimovic and Ibsevic, along with new boy Vec can more than hold there own across this continents stadia. Whilst Luxembourg, who where dealt with 3-0 at the weekend, do not represent the stearnest of tests, when Pjanic went of after 75 minutes, the chances continued to come. Far from a one trick pony.
And as clichéd as it seems, these guys are playing for something. This squad could easily represent a golden generation for the Lillies, and in such a small country they may not come along so often. The chance to represent BiH at a major tournament probably means a lot to this generation, and if they do it, they will be the first. Almost the polar opposite of tomorrow's rivals France. But there may never be a better time to play Group D's superpower, and after the World Cup fiasco, BiH may well be the team, in true clichéd fashion, that Wants It More. An upset could be on the cards, Sarajevo will be behind them, the majority of Bosnia will be behind them. This could be their time.