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Saturday 3 December 2016

Bosnians alert to the Irish threat

Bosnia manager Mehmed Bazdarevic with Ireland boss Martin O’Neill after the Euro 2016 play-off draw
Bosnia manager Mehmed Bazdarevic with Ireland boss Martin O’Neill after the Euro 2016 play-off draw

They don't know too much about Ireland in these parts of the Balkans.

But German football is very popular around here - it seems like half of the Bosnian squad which faces Ireland on Friday either plays, or played with, a Bundesliga club.

And Ireland's win at home to the world champions last month has made them sit up and take notice - they still think they are good enough to outwit an injury-hit Ireland side and follow up their World Cup 2014 display with a first-ever appearance at the European Championships.

"Ireland are a good side with a lot of players who play for clubs in England, and they showed against Germany just how strong they can be so we have a hard game ahead of us on Friday," says forward Milan Djuric.

He may not be one of the star names in the Bosnian squad, but Djuric (25) has a good pedigree at club level - a regular for Italian side Cesena - and his strike rate for the national team is impressive, two goals in four games for Bosnia so far.

"But if we play as well as we played in our last game, as well as we played in the matches against Wales and Cyprus, we can win.

"What's important for us is to make sure we win at home to make the job easier in the second leg. Ireland play a lot of high balls up in the air but that's not a problem, we can deal with it," added Djuric.

For team-mate Anel Hadzic, based in Austria with Sturm Graz, the Bosnian side's recent experience of play-offs can carry them through.

"Confidence from play-off matches is very important," he said. "We learned a lot in those games (Portugal beat them on the way to Euro 2012) and after two defeats in the play-off, we can look to a victory. Our players are in good form at their clubs, our confidence is high, we need to do the job now."

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