Verdict: Home win
Best odds: 11/5
Bosnia and Herzegovina welcome Italy to the stadium of Bilino Polje in Zenica on Saturday evening, for a game that will be a part of the ninth round of Group J in the Euro 2020 qualifications. It could be a very interesting game, though it could also be bereft of any competitive importance come kick-off time.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
The home side can be said to have given a decent attempt at qualifying for the tournament next year. They had some very good results, but it will very likely turn out eventually that this group was too strong for them to maneuver through.
They come into this match sitting in fourth place with 10 points from previous eight games, the same as Armenia in third but five less than Finland in second, and anything but a win here seals their fate. It could, in fact be sealed even in the case of a win, and what’s more it’s very likely to be the case, with Finland welcoming Liechtenstein a few hours before. If Finland win, and let’s face it, Liechtenstein are not really a match for them, it’ll be all over for Bosnia even before a ball is kicked in Zenica; at least as qualifying from the group goes.
But even if that proves the case, Bosnia will have a chance of reaching the European championship through play-offs, as the UEFA Nations League Group B3 winners.
Coach Robert Prosinecki, a 1991 European Cup winner with Red Star Belgrade and former Real Madrid star, has no notable absentees from his squad. Juventus midfielder Miralem Pjanic and AS Roma striker Edin Dzeko are both expected to play, with their vast Serie A experience needed against Italy. Prosinecki is certain his men will have no problems with motivation, regardless of what happens in Finland that afternoon.
Being a group of highly-rated professionals, the Italian team will feel that they’ve rarely played a game such as this, without any pressure on their backs at all. They’ve not only booked a place at the tournament next year, but they’ve also secured the top spot in the group with 24 points already to their name, nine more than their closest so-called rivals, Finland. It would be no more than a field trip for the visitors, a chance to see the very nice the very nice geographical features of the Bosnian scenery, with a friendly game of football squeezed in between.
It would; but it won’t be like that. Coach Roberto Mancini will likely give a number of young players their debuts, in which case those lads won’t want to miss the opportunity to show what they can do.
Mancini will be without the services of Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Marco Veratti who has withdrawn from the squad due to injury. Sandro Tonali of Brescia, only 19, is likely to take his spot in the middle of the park. Roma’s Nicolo Zaniolo is likely to get a chance too, as are Gaetano Castrovilli, Andrea Cistana and Riccardo Orsolini, who would thus play for their country for the first time.
Bosnia made Italy work very hard to win the reversed fixture back in June, when Dzeko surprised them with a 32nd-minute opener and Lorenzo Insigne equalized in the second half with a stunning volley, before Veratti’s clever finish made sure the Azzurri took all three points.
But even though this particular game probably won’t have any influence on the final standings in the group, at least when it comes to the top two spots, Bosnia are expected push hard with a point to prove. The purpose in their approach should be enough to see them triumph over a heavily rotated Italy side.
Verdict: Home win
Best odds: 11/5
- Soccer News Like
- Be the first of your friends!