Bosnia-Herzegovina reached its first World Cup by playing a brazen full-speed-ahead style of football that netted 30 goals in qualifying.
Sticking to that strategy in a big-stage premiere against Argentina would be bold – some would say foolish. But there’s a good chance that’s exactly what is in coach Safet Susic’s plans.
Susic has a reputation of stubbornly adhering to his attacking strategy regardless of the opponent. Even against an Argentina team led by four-time world player of the year Lionel Messi, there’s only so much he’s willing to tweak in his game plan.
“It is a dilemma for me, but to sacrifice a player just to man-mark Messi, I don’t think it would be good for us,” Safic said. “I don’t think we have ever played a match having dedicated a player to man-mark a specific opponent, and it’s going to be the same,” against Argentina.
His words suggest the Group F opener Sunday in Rio de Janeiro could be an entertaining affair, with both teams going on the attack.
Argentina is chasing its third World Cup title with perhaps the strongest lineup of strikers in the tournament. Messi, Sergio Aguero, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Gonzalo Higuain together scored more than 100 goals for their club teams last season.
Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella is likely to let either Lavezzi or Higuain join up with Messi and Aguero in a three-man attack, with Angel Di Maria surging from midfield to add even more firepower.
The Bosnians, too, have a powerful strike force in Vedad Ibisevic and Edin Dzeko – Aguero’s teammate at Manchester City.
“He is a big player with a good aerial game,” Argentina defender Federico Fernandez said about Dzeko. “We have to stay close to him and be ready for potential crosses coming in from the flanks.”
Bosnia played its first match as an independent nation in 1995 as its civil war ended following the violent breakup of Yugoslavia. It came close to qualifying both for the previous World Cup and the European Championship in 2012.
Nonetheless, 1978 and 1986 World Cup winner Argentina is heading into the match as the overwhelming favorite.
Bosnia goalkeeper Asmir Begovic, jokingly nicknamed the “minister of defense” in Bosnian media, told newspaper Nezavisne Novine that his team heads into the game with nothing to lose.
“We have great respect for Argentina, they have quality all over the field as well as on the bench so we know this will be a difficult match for us, but we will try to give them problems,” Begovic said.
Associated Press reporter Aida Cerkez in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, contributed to this report.
Karl Ritter can be reached on Twitter at https://twitter.com/Karl-Ritter