In the coming days the Republic of Ireland will face Bosnia in a two legged tie which will decide whether the boys in green will be spending their summer at the 2016 Euros or on their holidays.
Both teams finished 3rd in their respective qualifying groups and while Ireland recorded a win over the world champions Bosnia recorded a draw at home with Belgium, the team currently ranked as the number one international team in the world proving that they are quite an impressive side.
Ireland will have to contain Bosnia’s form player Edin Džeko, the former Manchester City man who scored in his side’s last Champions League game against Bayer Leverkusen and in the Derby della Capitale against Lazio recently is a clinical.
Pjanić is the Bosnians other main man as he is their creator and free-kick specialist scoring 4 times this season. More worryingly for the Irish is these coming in a variety of ways with two flying into the top right corner while one was place to the top left and the final to the bottom right. This should be a warning to Martin O’Neill’s side.
However encouragement should come from Chelsea’s form in the Premier League as they have only won 2 of their last 8 games since Bosnian keeper Asmir Begović has joined the side while conceding 14 goals in the process. While Begović is a good goalkeeper these performances will no doubt have left him low on confidence meaning early pressure from the Irish could really test the keeper.
Martin O’Neill has a tough decision to make on how to set up the team as Shay Given, Shane Long, John O’Shea and Jon Walters will all definitely miss the first leg with Long and O’Shea both very doubtful for the home leg at the Aviva in Dublin. However the man who set up Ireland to take 4 points out of a possible 6 from the world champions (The difference between Ireland making the play-offs and being knocked out) should not be doubted for his tactical decisions.
The return of Seamus Coleman is a huge bonus for O’Neill as just 2 weeks ago it looked certain the Killybegs man would be unavailable. The importance of his addition is huge as Coleman offers an attacking threat as well as being strong defensively, something which will be key in the away tie for Ireland.
Robbie Brady could prove to be key for the Irish side as he will be looking to give a good performance following a poor showing against Poland. His importance could prove vital in Fridays game as he can be a top quality set piece taker, something which the Irish will need as the side can struggle to score goals.
The home tie on Monday will no doubt be vital for Ireland as a rapturous 50,000 seater stadium will be a lot more intimidating than the 13,000 which Bosnia will have on Friday. A score draw in Bosnia could prove a great result as taking an away goal to the Aviva could be pivotal to the Irish side’s progression.
Although Bosnia have the standout names they have not always performed as a team as was seen with a 2-1 loss to Cyprus in group qualifying while Ireland have shown a strong unity when it has come to big games such as both games against Germany in the group stage as well as an undoubtedly heroic team performance away to Russia in the previous Euro qualifying campaign.
The side has also proven that it can create individual moments of brilliance to change a game such as Shane Long’s brilliant finish against Germany in Dublin along with Aidan McGeady, a player who can be world class or completely anonymous, performing a turn and finish against Georgia in the 90th minute that even Messi would be proud of.
This tie has all the makings to be a very close and edgy affair which could hinge upon an individual moment of brilliance, a set piece or a heart breaking mistake in this huge tie. Keeping the tie close on Friday will be key in to qualifying as a 45,000 plus strong contingent on Monday could no doubt will the Irish over the line.
The away tie is on Friday at 7:45 at the Bilino Polje Stadium in Zenica before the side return for the home leg on Monday at the Aviva stadium in Dublin. #COYBIG