Bosnia v Spain, 2101 World Cup qualifier, October 14, 2009
Group 5 is already done and dusted. Spain, the reigning European Champions and the bookies’ favourites to lift the World Cup in South Africa, topped the group at a canter with a so far implacable 9 wins out of 9 record throughout the qualifiers. Lying a sizeable eight points further back are Bosnia, who confirmed their guaranteed playoff spot by beating Estonia 2-nil away on Saturday.
Playing the equivalent of a friendly match on Wednesday the hope is that, rather than relax, the teams will be encouraged to put on a show in the finale of the 2010 qualification groups. Interestingly, both teams have scored a whopping 23 goals apiece during the qualifiers. (10/11 for there to be over 2 goals in the match.)
Bosnia, who have never qualified for a major tournament as an independent nation, are blessed with one of the best strike-forces in world football. By now everybody has heard the name of Edin Dzeko, the athletic, powerful finisher extraordinaire who helped lead Wolfsburg to an historic Bundesliga title last season. Dzeko has continued his sparkling form this season, scoring a goal every other game for his club side while boasting an international record of 13 goals in just 20 games.
Coach Miroslav Blazevic though has not one, but two brilliant strikers at his disposal. Had it not been for a cruel injury last winter, Hoffenhiem striker Vedad Ibisevic would unquestionably be a household name by now. Last season the 25-year-old forward scored 18 goals in just 17 matches before being sidelined with a cruciate ligament injury picked up in a friendly. And, after a long rehabilitation Ibisevic is back, netting a hat-trick against Hertha a few weeks ago in the league and grabbing Bosnia’s second on Saturday in Tallinn.
Leading the Eastern European renaissance, Bosnia also have a wealth of schemers dotted throughout their midfield. Sejad Salihovic and Zlatan Muslimovic are tricky, skillful customers while Lech Poznan’s 22-year-old Semir Stilic and Lyon’s 19-year-old Miralem Pjanic are a pair of hugely promising talents who look well-equipped to play at the highest levels of world football.
While Bosnia will likely field many of their stars, Spain are set to field a group of fringe players in Sarajevo.
Cesc Fabregas will miss match due to an undisclosed “serious family matter,” while Xavi, Carlos Marchena and Dani Guiza will also be absent from the match after picking up minor knocks. Also missing will be Barcelona defender Carlos Puyol who is suspended after picking up his fourth yellow card, while Fernando Torres and Andres Iniesta are said to be touch-and-go for the final group match.
With so many drop-outs Sevilla striker Alvaro Negredo could get his first start for Spain. Negredo joined Sevilla from Real Madrid in August for a reported fee of around 15 million euros and has started the season on fire, helping the Andalucians win their last seven consecutive games in all competitions.
At the back, Liverpool keeper Pepe Riena will likely get another run out after playing the full matchÂ against Estonia, while Osasuna’s left-back Nacho Monreal and Athletic Bilbao’s centre-half Andoni Iraola will get another opportunity to prove themselves to coach Vicente del Bosque. (Spain are 13/8 to keep a clean sheet.)
101gg predicts: Bosnia 2 – Spain 2 (16/1)
Full match odds here.