Oct 15, 2013, 3:31 PM EDT
For 60 minutes, Bosnia and Herzegovina supporters were left pondering a missed opportunity. Lithuania were holding their team, first in UEFA’s Group G, to a nil-nil after an hour in Kaunas. Meanwhile, Greece had done up through Dimitris Salpigidis after seven minutes at home against Liechtenstein. If those results held, Greece would win the group, qualify for Brazil 2014, and send Bosnia and Herzegovina to another playoff.
Then the breakthrough – the team’s two star forwards combining to alleviate their fans’ festering worry. Lithuania did their part, too, their defense falling to stop Edin Dzeko from reaching byline left of goal before crossing for an unmarked Vedad Ibisevic in the six-yard box. The Stuttgart striker’s redirection past a helpless Giedrius Arlauskis not only put his team in front, it gave soccer fans among his nation’s 3.8 million reason to hope this close call would fall in Bosnia’s favor.
Twenty-five minutes later, their hopes were realized. Bosnia had qualified for the first World Cup in the nation’s 21-year history/ The 1-0 result leaves them with 25 points in 10 games, same as Greece, but thanks to a +26 goal difference (Greece: +8), a team that’s been playing under their own name for just over 10 years has made their first major soccer tournament.
They’d come close in 2010, qualifying for a playoff before losing to Portugal, 2-0 over two legs. The failure to reach South Africa emboldened hopes to qualify for Euro 2012, dreams dashed by another playoff loss. This time, the Portuguese sent them crashing out with a 6-2 romp.
That’s why avoiding a playoff was so vital. Perhaps Safet Susic’s team could finally tame that beast, but there was a feeling of inevitability about going to another winner-take-all match. Been there, done that, and especially having to go through it again after having Group G in their grasp, Bosnia and Herzegovina had more reason than most to avoid a playoff.
Instead, the team’s made history, something that could prove significant for a country that was set up and still exists as a divided entity. Those divides aren’t formally maintained in the national team, so although it’s always a bit altruistic to assume sport can serve as a rallying point, in Bosnia, there is a chance World Cup 2014 can have symbolic value. The potential for a divided nation to function as a unit exists. At least, it does on the soccer field.
In time the Ibisevic goal could become to Bosnian soccer what Paul Caligiuri’s “Shot Heard Around The World” is in the U.S., only its potential importance could be much greater. Both goals sent their countries to World Cups, but in the case of Bosnia, Ibisevic’s goal has the potential to symbolize much more.
May 6, 2015, 8:22 AM EDT
Young Mateo got the surprise of a lifetime on what he though was another routine call with a doctor.
May 6, 2015, 7:50 AM EDT
Birmingham City confirmed Packwood’s early release from his contract to “possibly” join the Revolution, whatever that means.
May 5, 2015, 11:25 PM EDT
If you’d like your supporters group to be featured on future episodes of ‘I Was There’ simply send pictures/video to @NBCSportsSoccer or on NBC Sports Soccer on Facebook using the #IWasThere hashtag.
May 5, 2015, 10:46 PM EDT
Adam Jahn scored with his head while David Bingham made a big penalty stop to lead San Jose to all three points.
May 5, 2015, 9:43 PM EDT
Pep Guardiola faces his former club when Bayern Munich travels to Camp Nou to take on Barcelona in the first leg of their Champions League semifinal matchup.
May 5, 2015, 8:58 PM EDT
The struggling Tottenham striker seems to have more problems than just scoring goals.
May 5, 2015, 7:45 PM EDT
The Real Madrid boss is confident his side can overcome the 2-1 deficit following a first leg defeat in Italy.
May 5, 2015, 6:56 PM EDT
Aliko Dangote has a net worth of nearly $16 billion, and he wants to use some of that cash to buy the Gunners.
May 5, 2015, 6:00 PM EDT
The duo won the Champions League together with Manchester United in 2008, and Patrice Evra thinks that gives them an edge with Juventus.
May 5, 2015, 5:05 PM EDT
The Italian champs take a slender lead to the Spanish capital with them after a classic European encounter.
May 5, 2015, 4:44 PM EDT
A second-half penalty from Carlos Tevez led Juventus to a big home win over Real Madrid in the first leg of the Champions League semifinals.
May 5, 2015, 4:16 PM EDT
CR7’s personal duel with Messi continues after grabbing his ninth UCL semifinal goal.
May 5, 2015, 3:36 PM EDT
The Reds’ striker will now begin his rehabilitation towards next season after a disappointing campaign riddled with injuries.
May 5, 2015, 3:04 PM EDT
The captain came to his team’s defense, but it ended up coming out quite awkward.
May 5, 2015, 2:15 PM EDT
The Italian champions welcome the reigning European champions to Turin for the first leg of their semifinal. Follow all the action live.
May 5, 2015, 1:49 PM EDT
Thought to be on his way out, Rais Mbolhi is back with the club. For now.
May 5, 2015, 12:22 PM EDT
Oscar hasn’t appeared since his collision with David Ospina, but Dunga says the midfielder’s injury is training related.
May 5, 2015, 11:11 AM EDT
Didier Drogba is 37 years old, but still represents the best option for his role that Chelsea can buy.
May 5, 2015, 10:30 AM EDT
Just four days before opening the Gold Cup, the US will host a familiar CONCACAF opponent.
May 5, 2015, 9:54 AM EDT
Newcastle appears to have lofty goals, but the prospects of bringing a Champions League striker to St. James Park while trying to stave off relegation appear grim.
- Luiz Suarez surprises Uruguayan cancer patient with video call, brings him to tears 0
- UEFA Champions League preview: Barcelona vs. Bayern Munich 0
- Three things we learned from Juventus vs. Real Madrid 0
- Juventus 2-1 Real Madrid: Tevez penalty lifts Juve over defending champs 3
- Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge undergoes hip surgery 0
- LIVE – UEFA Champions League semifinal: Can Juventus beat Real Madrid in Turin? 0