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Wednesday 7 December 2016

Old age issue no joke for Bosnia

Bosnia coach Mehmed Bazdarevic
Bosnia coach Mehmed Bazdarevic

Is Bosnia no country for old men?

The people at the heart of their national team have, at least, laughed off any suggestions that an, ahem, pacy Ireland attack can punish a supposedly ageing Bosnian back four in Zenica.

Bosnian's coach Mehmed Bazdarevic has a number of calls to make when he picks his starting XI to face Ireland at the Bilino Polje Stadium.

But it's almost certain that German-based defenders Mensur Mujdza (Freiburg) and the country's third-most-capped player Emir Spahic (Hamburg), with a combined age of 66, will start in defence.

Seeing as the three available strikers in the Irish squad (Robbie Keane, Daryl Murphy and Kevin Doyle) have an average age of 33, we're not in a position to crow about crow's feet. But for the home side, it's not even an issue.

"It has been said that Ireland can exploit our so-called old defence," says Sampdoria defender Ervin Zukanovic, on the right side of 30 (he's 28).

"They have certain ideas about us but we have some ideas about them from our side. We will do all that's necessary to make sure that's not an issue, especially in the first leg."

Assistant manager Dragan Peric is also unconvinced by the age issue.

"It's nonsense, our defenders play for some of the best clubs and in the best leagues in Europe, they will make sure that concentration is there for the 90 minutes," he says.

Full back Zukanovic maintains that the tie will not be won or lost tomorrow night.

"I think it's a misconception to say that the first leg is more important for us, because of the Irish injuries and suspensions," he says.

"You have to play at the highest level over 180 minutes, not just 90 minutes, if you want to go to France. So even if we win in the first leg, we can't step back and relax as we have to go to Dublin then and finish the job."

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