Belgium beat us. They beat us and extinguished our only chance of automatically qualifying for Euro 2016. We had to win and we didn’t. I won’t say “couldn’t” because that would be a lie. We could have, but we didn’t. It was a hard working but often sloppy performance, particularly in attack, and Bazdarevic made a few questionable decisions, but even so it was only after the late penalty by Hazard that the game felt truly won for Belgium. If not for Courtois it easily could have ended as a 3-3 draw. There is no shame in being defeated by a talented team currently ranked #2 in the world and composed of some of the most valuable players in football.
The loss is tough but even harder to endure is the half-baked “analysis” that follows. It happens every time we lose. Most fans succumb to extreme knee-jerk reactions and their first instinct is to look for a scapegoat and that’s usually the player who deserves it the least. It’s truly tiresome. I generally don’t visit Bosnian forums, football themed Facebook pages, or even glance at comment sections after a loss. To do so is to invite salt to be poured into a freshly cut wound.
After the match in Brussels the predictable gloom and doom took hold and the same kind of fans who euphorically predicted we would beat Belgium comfortably are now claiming that, with the exception of Pjanic and Dzeko, Bosnia simply doesn’t have enough world class players to make more of an impact and therefore we are right where we deserve to be. This is the kind of poorly thought out bullshit that makes my blood boil. Fans who make this argument are forgetting (or ignoring) several things:
One cannot argue that our current position is as high as these players can go when we already have proof that they can go higher. We already know they’re capable of much more – we’ve seen it. In fact, even weaker Bosnian teams from the past have performed better (in the 2010 World Cup qualifications, Ciro finished second behind Spain in Group 5 and then narrowly lost to Portugal in the second round play-off).
One also cannot forget the fact that Bosnia wouldn’t be in such a difficult position in the first place had our FA replaced Safet Susic on time. Susic should have been sacked after his disappointing World Cup performance but was allowed to stay charge for the first four matches of our Euro 2016 qualifying campaign where he won only 2 points out of a possible 12 and suffered shocking defeats to Cyprus and Israel. These were games everyone expected us to win. He was then sacked and replaced by Mehmed Bazdarevic who then led Bosnia to a 3-1 victory in the return leg against Israel further proving how much of an upset that first loss really was. Susic left us with the difficult task of having to recover quickly and win all the remaining matches. Lack of player ability didn’t land us in our current mess; terrible coaching and our FA did.
Any fan who bothers to glance at the current standings in the other Euro 2016 qualification Groups can see that organized and highly motivated teams that lack world class players can still play good football and achieve good results.
Iceland sits top of Group A and has just qualified for their first major tournament with two games still to play; second place in the same group is Czech Republic with a squad of players based mostly in the Czech league and a few weaker Bundesliga clubs; Slovakia is second place in Group C, only behind Spain, whom they even defeated 2-1 at home. Then there is Albania, Romania, Norway, and Austria. All preforming well and all with similar or weaker squads than ours. Or if you really want an example that hits closer to home, just remember the superb performance of Bosnian coach Vahid Halilhodzic and his Algerian team at the World Cup in Brazil. Talk about getting the most out of your squad.
Obviously, having a team packed with top players greatly increases your chances of success but a good team requires far more than just a collection of stars. Even star studded national teams go through bad periods and struggle without proper motivation and tactics.
So the reality is that equally talented and even less talented teams are doing better than us and we have no excuse for such a poor qualifying campaign. Even though our squad is far from world class, Bosnia should be, at the minimum, competing for second place in our group, but instead we are barely holding on to the hope of finishing 3rd and that’s only if the other team’s results go our way. So no, we are not where we should be.
A shrewd manager who knows how to get the best out of his players can go a long way but Bosnia has never had such a man at the helm. Endlessly telling ourselves we have no hope because we can’t field a starting 11 of world class superstars is just about the laziest analysis you can offer. There are many things that actually can be improved in this team and in Bosnian football in general, and these things should be discussed but that’s too hard; it’s much easier to whine about the things that can’t be helped because that requires no work. And we all know how our FA feels about doing actual work.