International Watch: Bosnia lose Miralem Pjanic through injury as Greece await in Zenica
With another round of important World Cup qualifiers on the horizon, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s aim to qualify for their first major international tournament has taken a blow after influential midfielder Miralem Pjanic was ruled out for this month’s top of the table clash against Greece on March 22 in Zenica. The former Lyon player, who joined AS Roma in 2011, limped off in the 39th minute of Sunday’s 3-1 win over Genoa and later extensive medical tests revealed that Pjanic has suffered ligament damage in his troublesome left ankle and is set to be sidelined for nearly a month. The 22-year-old Bosnia international might have feared the worst after the game against Genoa but doctors have confirmed that he would not require surgery which would have ended the player’s season in earnest.
Bosnia lead Group G on goal difference and the clash against the Greeks in Zenica would definitely decide the group winners, and having held the 2004 European champions to a goalless draw in Piraeus in October, the Golden Lilies are confident of getting past a traditionally resolute Hellenic defence in their bid to qualify automatically for Brazil in 2014. Safet Susic’s men have suffered numerous heartbreaks in previous qualifying campaigns, most notably losing to Portugal in Euro 2012 play-off but the so called golden generation of Bosnian football since the breakup of Yugoslavia would be well organised to grab this opportunity at all costs. Pjanic’s injury would be a mighty loss, but the Bosnians have enough firepower and talent to give Greece an almighty fight at the Stadion Bilino Polje.
The Roma playmaker is the heartbeat both for his club and country and a return of seven international goals in 39 appearances for a 22-year-old boy is highly praiseworthy at the international level. The former Yugoslav republic have run riot in terms of scoring goals, with star striker Edin Dzeko and the impressive Vedad Ibisevic and Zvjezdan Misimovic all being among the goals that have propelled the Bosnians to a goal difference of +13 against Greece’s +4. With Greece and Bosnia dictating terms in group G, goal difference might come in handy at the end of the day to decide the group winners and that is why the onus is on the away side to win and there is significantly less pressure on the Bosnians to win at all costs at home.
“I have mixed feelings. I am so happy because the injury is not as serious as it first looked but then again I am also very sad because I will not be able to play.” Pjanic was quoted as saying by a Bosnian weekly as he prepares to fly off to Zenica to cheer on his teammates in an all important clash in the country’s football and ultimately sporting history.
“Still, I believe in Bosnia’s victory though it seems we always have to do it the hard way.” And the hard way is to beat Greece at home.
Both Bosnia and Greece have 10 points from four matches and although it seems that this group is a two-horse race, any slip up from either side at the Bilino Polje would mean outsiders Slovakia could come into the equation big time if they beat Lithuania at home on the same day.