NATIONS LEAGUE: Focus on Bosnia & Herzegovina before NI clash

Bosnia and Herzegovina manager Robert Prosinecki. Tim Goode/PA Wire.
Bosnia and Herzegovina manager Robert Prosinecki. Tim Goode/PA Wire.

Northern Ireland will take on Bosnia and Herzegovina in Sarajevo tonight still looking for their first points in the Nations League.

Here News Letter Sport takes a closer look at the hosts ahead of the match at the Grbavica Stadium.

Form

Northern Ireland dominated the reverse fixture at Windsor Park a month ago...and conspired to lose 2-1 all the same as Bosnia capitalised on defensive mistakes and some wayward shooting.

Bosnia then repeated the trick to beat Austria 1-0 four days later, with Edin Dzeko’s 78th minute goal enough for three points despite Austria having far more attempts at goal.

Those results have put them in charge of Group B3, and victory in this match will mean top spot - and promotion - is theirs to lose.

Manager

Fondly remembered for his playing career with Real Madrid and Barcelona, the burly Robert Prosinecki cuts a colourful figure on the touchlines, sporting flowing hair and an oversized hoody - and he quickly blended in with the departing Northern Ireland fans last month as he raced straight out of Windsor Park at the final whistle to smoke a cigarette.

While his managerial career - which has taken in Red Star Belgrade, Kayserispor and Azerbaijan - is yet to match his heady playing day.

He is off to a strong start with Bosnia, having lost only one of his first nine games, with four wins and four draws and his sides are hard to beat and try to play good football.

Tactics

Prosinecki favours a 4-3-3 formation with captain Dzeko the focal point up front, and Juventus midfielder Miralem Pjanic pulling the strings in midfield.

In their two Nations League games so far, Bosnia have won despite not seeing much of the ball or having many chances, hitting teams on the counter-attack and punishing mistakes with some clinical finishing.

Northern Ireland will have to be on their guard as Bosnia will exploit any gaps in the Northern Ireland defence.

Players

Dzeko and Pjanic are unquestionably the headline act.

While Northern Ireland suffered a 1-0 defeat to Austria in Vienna on Friday, Bosnia played out a goalless friendly draw against Turkey in Istanbul 24 hours earlier, and both Dzeko and Pjanic were substituted at half-time to keep them fresh for this match.

Northern Ireland did a good job of subduing Dzeko at Windsor Park while Pjanic struggled to make an impact as Bosnia had only 33 per cent possession, but their talents cannot be ignored for the entire 90 minutes of the match.