Bosna i Hercegovina / Босна и Херцеговина / Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Capital: Sarajevo / Сарајево
- Official Languages: None officially at state level
- Languages Spoken: Bosnian, Serbian, Croatian
- Nicknames: Zmajevi (The Dragons); Zlatni ljiljani (The Golden Lilies)
- Association: Nogometni/Fudbalski Savez Bosne i Hercegovine (N/FSBiH) / Ногометни/Фудбалски Савез Босне и Херцеговине (Н/ФСБиХ)
- FIFA Code: BIH
- Best World Cup Result (Men): Group Stage (2014)
- Best World Cup Result (Women): Not Qualified
- Best Euros Result (Men): Not Qualified
- Best Euros Result (Women): Not Qualified
- Highest FIFA Ranking (Men): 13th (August 2013)
- Highest FIFA Ranking (Women): 57th (December 2020)
- Lowest FIFA Ranking (Men): 173rd (September 1996)
- Lowest FIFA Ranking (Women): 95th (March 2007)
- Most Capped Player: Edin Džeko – 112 caps [as of March 2021]
- Top Scorer: Edin Džeko – 59 goals [as of March 2021]
The country of Bosnia and Herzegovina, sometimes called Bosnia-Herzegovina, is a country located within the Balkans region of southeastern Europe. Originally a republic of the former Yugoslavia, the country’s name is made up of Bosnia which is the larger northern part of the country, and the smaller southern part of Herzegovina that is nearer to the Adriatic Sea. Politically the country is composed of two autonomous entities: the Federation of Bosnia & Herzegovina and the Republika Srpska, with the country also having a unique three-member Presidency composed of a member of each major ethnic group within the country. B&H has a long land border with Croatia which occupies two of the three sides of the triangular shaped country to its north and west, whilst also having land borders with both Serbia and Montenegro to its east.
Football has been played in B&H since the start of the 20th century with its star players playing for the multitude of excellent Yugoslav teams throughout the majority of the century. It wouldn’t be until the mid-1990s when Bosnia-Herzegovina gained its independence, and the country’s FA became an official member of FIFA in 1996 and UEFA in 1998. B&H competed in the qualifying for its first major tournament in the 1998 World Cup Qualifying but subsequently finished fourth in their five-team group. However they did achieve their first competitive victory, winning 2-1 at Slovenia in November 1996 – one of three wins during that qualification campaign. Throughout the 2000s they would steadily improve as a nation, but wouldn’t challenge for qualification too often.
It wouldn’t be until the 2010s when Bosnia-Herzegovina experienced their first golden generation of players (as an independent nation) who raised the results of the team. They reached the playoffs of both the 2010 World Cup and 2012 Euros, but lost to Portugal on both occasions over two legs; 0-2 in 2010 and 2-6 in 2012. Thankfully it would be third time lucky for the Zmajevi as they finally qualified for their first (and to date only) major tournament when they won their qualifying group for the 2014 World Cup. Although they were in a fairly tight group and expected to progress to the knockout stage, they were unable to do so having lost to both Argentina and Nigeria in their first two group games, but did manage to beat Iran 3-1 to achieve their first ever World Cup victory. Alas they failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, finishing third in a tough group behind runaway leaders Belgium, and just two points behind second-placed Greece.
Bosnia & Herzegovina continue to be one of the stronger teams within the European confederation but certainly one of the unluckiest, especially when it comes to playoffs. They have reached the playoff stage for the last three European Championships but have lost them all, thus failing to achieve an appearance at the Euros. They lost 1-3 to the Republic of Ireland in the Euro 2016 playoffs, and on penalties to Northern Ireland in the semi-finals of Path B for Euro 2020/21. For the upcoming qualification stage of the 2022 World Cup, they were the highest ranked team in ‘Pot 4’ but it still meant they were placed within an incredibly tough group alongside France, Ukraine, Finland and Kazakhstan. The Zlatni Ljiljani will need to recreate the heroics of the 2014 campaign if they’re to appear in their second World Cup in 2022…
Talking about a side who qualified for their debut in a major tournament in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, but have been incredibly unlucky when it comes to playoffs, we interviewed the excellent Bosnian Football. It is a superb English-language Twitter account which reports on all things involving Bosnian football, whether it is news from the domestic leagues, Bosnian players playing in the multitude of foreign leagues, or the national teams themselves, it is all covered by Bosnian Football. To find their social media accounts, follow the links below:
- Twitter: @BosniaFooty
Q. Who would you say is your country’s best player and coach/manager of all-time, and the reasonings behind the choices?
For our best player ever, I would have to easily say Edin Džeko. What he has accomplished for our nation, as well as for his career (66 goals for Wolfsburg, 50 goals for Manchester City, 77 goals for Roma, and 59 for the national team [at time of writing]) is outstanding for a country with a population of 3 million. Manager wise, I would have to say Vahid Halilhodžić, even though he has never managed us as a national team; he has had the most success as a manager. National team wise, it would be Safet Sušić since he’s the one who managed us to get to our first ever World Cup (2014).
Q. Who could be regarded as a ‘cult hero’ in terms of the national team both in the past and present?
I personally think Sergej Barbarez is our ‘cult hero’. Former national team captain, legend in terms of BIH football and in the German Bundesliga, almost all fans have respect and love for him. He was a leader off and on the field, and people loved him even more for what he did against Serbia; when he tried to stop the game because of the abuse from Serbian fans and security risks.
Q. Of the current team, who would you say is the best player from Bosnia and Herzegovina currently?
It’s a tie between Edin Džeko and Miralem Pjanić for me. Dzeko is still a great goal scorer, which sometimes we depend on, but unfortunately he’s on the wrong side of 30 and ultimately I think Miralem Pjanić is the better player. Recently joining Barcelona, I think Pjanić is a world class midfielder; and is one of the best in the world. Unfortunately, Ronald Koeman doesn’t get along with him; and he has not played much for Barça.
Q. How would you describe the current state/performance of the national team?
You could call our current state for our national team a total disaster. We have not won a game for over a year now (the last win on the 18th November, 2019 – a 3-0 away win against Liechtenstein). We just recently got a new manager (the Bulgarian Ivaylo Petev), which was very unorganized from the FA, and has left all fans unhappy. Politics have definitely taken over in the FA, and time will only tell with what happens. Our first match under Petev, will be against a strong and well organized Finnish team on March 24th, 2021 in Helsinki.
Q. Are there any BIH players who you think we should be focusing on for the future – who would you say is the most exciting up & coming talent from the country?
A couple of my colleagues and I personally think our up-incoming players in youth teams + players in diaspora could be our best generation ever. I think our best youngster would be between Ermedin Demirović [22 year old forward], who has been on fire for his new club Freiburg; and Anel Ahmedhodžić [21 year old centre-back], who recently switched his international allegance from Sweden to BIH, currently playing at Malmö, but is being rumored to big clubs such as Atalanta, Real Madrid, and Chelsea. However, both those players were born outside of BIH, but someone that was born in BIH is Amer Gojak, a 24 year old midfielder who got a loan move to Torino from Dinamo Zagreb.
Q. Looking at BIH’s international history as an independent nation, what would you say has been the best game, result or performance for the national team in your opinion?
Most definitely the game against Lithuania in Kaunas (October 15th, 2013.) This was the game we needed to win to get to our first ever World Cup. It was a very nervy game, until Vedad Ibišević scored in the 68th minute [to win the game 1-0]. The celebrations at the end, plus the fan reactions in the capital of Sarajevo, it’s something a Bosnian fan will never forget.
Q. Likewise, is there a performance or result which is regarded as the team’s lowest point?
I think it was our recent game against Armenia which we lost 4-2 in. This game created chaos; fans were left unhappy, players shocked/unmotivated, Robert Prosinečki (the coach at the time) resigned after the match, and then was reappointed as manager. It just showed what a complete joke of a FA we have, and how poor we have been recently.
Q. What are the best and worst things about being a fan of the BIH national team?
The best thing about being a fan of our national team is that we definitely have the best home and away fans (on an international level) in the whole world. Wherever the game is, you will always see a Bosnian flag. Another thing is the sense of unity with each other, because of our past, football brings us all together and it’s really special and something we take pride in. The worst things are definitely just things within our FA and politics. Unfortunately we have a very complex FA and things are very difficult to fix/change, making our future unknown. Things like this is what caused our FA to be suspended in the early 00s.
Q. Have the fans adopted some kind of unofficial anthem to sing along to before/during/after matches?
Yes most of our fans usually sing our old national anthem, since our new one doesn’t have any lyrics. Another anthem is “Volim ljiljane” which is basically translated to “I love liles” which is a national symbol.
Q. Do you have a favourite or iconic shirt from the whole time of the national team?
This is my favorite jersey of all-time from our national team, a real beauty [Patrick made shirt from the late 1990s].
Q. Finally, what are your hopes for the future of the Bosnia & Herzegovina national team?
My hopes are that we fix our corrupt FA, because our FA is a complete joke. Eventually, we would love to qualify for another World Cup and eventually our first ever European Championships. Finally a hope that isn’t for our senior team, but for our U21 team is that we qualify for the U21 World Cup for the first time ever.
A massive puno hvala / много вам хвала / Hvala vam puno to Bosnian Football for answering our questions on the Zlatni Ljiljani. Remember you can find their social media accounts in the links at the top of the blogpage.
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