Dzeko and Pjanic are the standout stars of the Bosnia & Herzegovina squad but if Ireland are to reach Euro 2016, there are others they’ll have to shackle in Zenica and Dublin. Gavin Fahy runs a comprehensive rule over the ones to watch.
We all know the threat Edin Džeko can cause in front of goal from his time at VfL Wolfsburg and Manchester City. The now Roma man and captain of his national team scored seven of Bosnia & Herzegovina’s 17 goals in seven games during their group B qualifying campaign, including a hat-trick away to Andorra and two in two against group winners Belgium. He comes into the international break having scored three goals and assisting as many in nine starts and two substitute appearances for A.S. Roma in both Serie A and the Champions League this season. His last two games have seen him produce a man of the match performance in the Giallorossi’s 3-2 win over Bayer Leverkusen last Wednesday in the Champions League, and assisting a goal and winning and converting a controversial penalty in their 2-0 win over fierce rivals Lazio in the first Derby della Capitale of the season. It’s fair to say Džeko has hit form at the right time, or the wrong time depending on what way you look at it.
Pjanić is arguably Bosnia’s best player coming into the playoff. The attacking central midfielder started all ten qualifying games, contributing three assists. However his recent form with A.S Roma has been formidable apart from one red card which saw him miss last Sunday’s encounter with Rome rivals Lazio. He’s made thirteen appearances in both Serie A and the Champions League, scoring seven goals and assisting six, averaging either a goal or an assist per game. Pjanić is especially dangerous in and around the box, particularly from set pieces with four of his seven goals coming from direct free kicks. Even though he hasn’t scored for Bosnia since their Group F encounter with Iran at the 2014 World Cup, giving away free kicks around the penalty area isn’t an option…I’m looking at you Glenn Whelan. A yellow card on Friday would rule Pjanic out of the second leg in Dublin.
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Višća plays as either a left or right-sided attacking midfielder and has started all eleven of Istanbul Başakşehir’s games in the Turkish Süper Lig this season. He’s scored six goals and contributed one assist, putting him ahead of household names such as Lukas Podolski and Robin Van Persie in the league’s goal scoring chart, which leaves his side in fourth place heading into the international break. He’s made seven appearances for Bosnia this qualifying campaign, two as a substitute under previous manager Safet Sušić and started in five of current manager Mehmed Baždarević six games, scoring two goals. Four of his five appearances have come on the right side of midfield with one on the left. With Bosnia not being the quickest of teams, Višća is the most threatening when it comes to pace and is most likely to feature on the right wing.
Only Asmir Begović has played more minutes than Lulić this qualifying campaign. The 29-year-old has started all ten games, playing three as a left back, six as a left midfielder and one as a right winger. He’s contributed one goal and six assists, tying him top of the assists chart for all of qualifying. This is his fifth season at Lazio and he’s started all 12 Serie A games for the Biancocelesti, scoring one goal and assisting two. He played as a central midfielder against A.S. Roma in his side’s 2-0 defeat on Sunday but is most likely to start as a left midfielder for Bosnia as he has done so for their last three games. All seven of his goal contributions have come when he’s played on that side of the pitch.
The 31-year-old plays as a centre forward for German Bundesliga side Hertha Berlin. He started this season with an impressive four goals in five starts and one substitute appearance before being handed a four game ban for a red card in the 18th minute of his side’s 2-1 defeat to FC Schalke 04 for a reckless and unnecessary challenge. That game was four days after Bosnia’s crucial 3-2 win over Cyprus to secure their place in the playoffs and although he hasn’t played a full 90 minutes since the last international break, he still poses another Bosnian goal threat. He started seven games during qualifying and made two substitute appearances, either playing as Edin Džeko’s strike partner or as a lone man up front in his influential captain’s absence, scoring two goals. With Džeko one yellow card in Zenica away from suspension, Ibišević as the sole striker is something we might possibly see in Dublin.
Main image: @OfficialASRoma