Bosnia-Herzegovina earned nothing but praise following their opening World Cup match against Argentina, despite going down 2-1. However, compliments can't earn them the points they desperately need if they want claim a place in the round of 16. That is why the Nigeria match is the most important game in Safet Susic's career.
The FK Sarajevo and Paris Saint-Germain legend is well aware of the mentality among Bosnia fans. There is no place for anything between despair and euphoria, and if he wants to stay a national hero he'll have to win next two matches and take his country into the next round. Qualifying for the World Cup was a dream come true, but ultimately it means nothing if the Dragons arrive and leave as nothing but tourists.
"We are aware of the expectations," said Susic at a news conference to preview the Nigeria showdown.
"Everyone wants to see us in the next round. And we have the same goal. No one set such an aim; not the FA, not the fans. It was us -- the coaching staff and the players -- that set the bar that high, and we did it with good reason."
- Bosnia vs. Nigeria: 50-50 Challenge
Susic is convinced about the quality his team possess. And even though the squad lacks depth, an issue that all small nations have, the first 11 are blessed with the quality to validate Susic's lofty ambitions.
The inexperienced and old-fashioned coach will have to make some key decisions before facing Nigeria. The wrong choice could not only cost him his job but perhaps his reputation as well, while a win could put him down in history. Among the dilemmas is choosing the right system. He deployed a 4-4-2 with the diamond in the middle for most of the qualifiers but then switched to a 4-2-3-1 just before the World Cup. For most of the Argentina encounter it looked good, but Vedad Ibisevic's late consolation goal has forced Susic to consider returning to the style with two attackers.
However, Susic knows that his team are one of the slowest in the tournament, and trying to go toe-to-toe with Nigeria could be fatal. Bosnia could profit with a point, so the last thing they need is to rush into anything that could catch them out on the counter.
Elsewhere, there are concerns over his back four. It seems that Susic was anything but satisfied with Ermin Bicakcic's performance in the 2-1 defeat to Argentina and he is set for the bench. The problem is the fact that Susic does not have a proper replacement and he'll use Sead Kolasinac. Again, Kolasinac is a left-back and Susic will have to improvise, most likely with Senad Lulic on the left.
The other option is to play the same back four as named earlier, but with Haris Medunjanin as a sort of safety fuse next to defensive midfielder Muhamed Besic. This could create confusion in the middle, where Miralem Pjanic and Zvjezdan Misimovic would have to find a way to work together.
Nothing will have been learned from the Bosnian training ground -- Susic uses these sessions for nothing more than warming up. He is an old-school manager, so his starting XI is impossible to predict by the markers and shirts he lays out in training. What's more, Susic normally allows the fans to enter the stadium, showing he is not afraid of someone spying on training.
The time has almost come, and Bosnians are ready. They need the win to make a huge step forward to the next round -- it really is now or never.