Susic backs Bosnia to reach World Cup last-16
Bosnia-Hercegovina coach Safet Susic has backed his team to advance from their World Cup group into the last 16 at the showpiece event in Brazil.
"We must have a goal and that goal is to try to go through to the second round, to qualify for the round of 16," Susic told reporters on Monday as he presented his provisional 24-man squad for the June 12-July 13 World Cup.
Squads must be reduced to a maximum 23 players by the June 2 deadline with midfielder Mensur Mujdza in a race-against-time to be fit after tearing ankle ligaments in March. Susic said Argentina were the "absolute favourites" in Group F where Bosnia will also play Nigeria and Iran.
"We will play for second place ... but I believe that we could find ourselves among the 16 best teams in Brazil," said 59-year-old Susic.
Bosnia, the former Yugoslav republic which gained independence in 1992, will be making their debut at the World Cup finals. Susic`s squad, which he has gradually built up since he took over the national team in 2009, will be led by two star strikers in Manchester City`s Edin Dzeko and Vedad Ibisevic of Stuttgart.
Dzeko and Ibisevic were the second and third best scorers in Bosnia`s European qualifiers for the World Cup, with 10 and eight goals respectively. Bosnia will kick off their World Cup campaign on June 15 against Argentina, Susic saying that Muhamed Besic of Hungary`s Ferencvaros would have the unenviable job of shadowing Lionel Messi.
"He is the only player among the 24 who could stop Messi," Susic said.
The players will gather in Sarajevo on May 15 for a first training camp, before leaving on May 27 for the United States. In the US, Bosnia will play two friendlies, against Ivory Coast on May 30 and Mexico four days later.
Goalkeepers: Asmir Begovic (Stoke City/ENG), Asmir Avdukic (Borac Banja Luka), Jasmin Fejzic (VFR Aalen/GER)
Defenders: Emir Spahic (Bayer Leverkusen/GER), Toni Sunjic (Zorya Lugansk/UKR), Sead Kolasinac (Schalke/GER), Ognjen Vranjes (Elazigspor/TUR), Ervin Zukanovic (Gent/BEL), Ermin Bicakcic (Eintracht Braunschweig/GER), Muhamed Besic (Ferencvaros/HUN)
Midfielders: Miralem Pjanic (Roma/ITA), Izet Hajrovic (Galatasaray/TUR), Mensur Mujdza (Freiburg/GER), Haris Medunjanin (Gaziantepspor/TUR), Senad Lulic (Lazio/ITA), Anel Hadzic (Sturm/AUT), Tino Susic (Hajduk/CRO), Sejad Salihovic (Hoffenheim/GER), Zvjezdan Misimovic (Guizhour Renhe/CHN), Senijad Ibricic (Erciyesspor/TUR), Avdija Vrsaljevic (Hajduk/CRO)
Strikers: Vedad Ibisevic (VfB Stuttgart/GER), Edin Dzeko (Manchester City/ENG), Edin Visca (Istanbul BB/TUR)