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Matchday 14: Messi, Argentina in round of 16

Five Aside Jun 25, 2014
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Safet Susic

Latest Team: Bosnia-Herzegovina

2014 FIFA World Cup

  • 3GP
  •  
  • 1Won
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  • 0Draw
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  • 2Lost
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Profile

Previous Clubs: Cannes, Istanbulspor, Al-Hilal, Konyaspor, Ankaragucu, Caykur Rizespor, Ankaraspor.

Honours: None

When Safet Susic guided Bosnia-Herzegovina to their first ever World Cup with a 1-0 win over Lithuania in October 2013, it signalled not only a victory for Bosnian sport but also a landmark day in the nation's troubled history.

Gaining independence in 1992 after the break-up of Yugoslavia, Bosnia was plagued by civil war until 1995 when it officially became recognised as a FIFA nation. Nineteen years and eight qualifying campaigns have since passed but Bosnia are finally ready to make their mark on football's most elite stage under the tutelage of one of the game's most exciting and flamboyant coaches.

Beginning his professional playing career as an attacking midfielder at his hometown club Krivaja, Susic achieved legendary status within the Yugoslav First League after finishing as top goalscorer with Sarajevo in 1980, a year after being named the Yugoslav Player of the Year.

Attracting interest from a number of European clubs, Susic decided to sign for Paris Saint-Germain in 1982, spending nine seasons in the French capital. Establishing himself as one of the country's finest-ever footballing imports, Susic helped Les Parisiens win the Coupe de France in his debut season and the Ligue 1 title in 1986. He was later voted by France Football as the best player in the club's history, ahead of the likes of George Weah, Ronaldinho and Carlos Bianchi.

A hero at international level, too, he netted 21 times in 54 appearances for Yugoslavia and was voted as Bosnia's most outstanding player of the last 50 years at UEFA's Golden Jubilee in 2004.

Eager to continue his football legacy, Susic switched his attentions to coaching in 1994 when he took over at Cannes -- the club at which he had retired. Spells at Istanbulspor and Al-Hilal soon followed before Susic settled in Turkey, managing four clubs and gaining a reputation for staving off the threat of relegation between 2004 and 2009.

Taking over the Bosnia national post from Miroslav Blazevic after the Dragons' agonising 2010 World Cup playoff defeat to Portugal, Susic began his tenure with a 2-1 friendly victory over Ghana. However, it was not all plain sailing for Susic, who experienced a public backlash when he led Bosnia to just one win in their next five matches, which culminated in many questioning his tactics following a crucial 2-0 Euro 2012 qualifying defeat to France -- dubbed the most shameful loss in the history of the Bosnia national football team.

Yet, Susic did a good job in steadying the ship and a respectable 1-1 draw in the reverse fixture in Paris ensured Bosnia finished in the playoff places once again, where the prospect of avenging Portugal awaited. A 0-0 draw in Zenica was a reasonable start but Bosnian hearts were again broken as Portugal stormed to a 6-2 win in the second leg in Lisbon, denying Bosnia their first appearance at a major international tournament.

However, the Balkan nation were not to be denied at the third time of asking and Susic's side booked their place in Brazil after finishing ahead of Greece in their unbeaten World Cup 2014 qualifying campaign. Bosnia achieved an all-time highest FIFA ranking of 13th in August 2013 and although their players lack international experience at the highest level, a notable proportion of the squad have featured in European competition for their club sides.

The strike partnership of Edin Dzeko and Vedad Ibisevic was the most potent in European qualifying as they shared 18 of Bosnia's 30 goals, albeit in a fairly weak group. Susic has given Bosnian football a new identity and it is one which is likely to win over many neutrals at the World Cup because eof his devotion to attacking football. However, that is not to say that Bosnia are weak defensively as Susic has instilled a discipline and organisation that also makes Bosnia extremely difficult to break down -- epitomised by the fact that they conceded just six goals in their ten qualifiers.

Matching up alongside the likes of Argentina, Nigeria and Iran in Group F, there is a very realistic chance that Bosnia can make it out of the group stages at the first time of asking. With Susic at the helm and an exciting pool of talent at his disposal, Bosnia are prepared to finally write global headlines for all the right reasons.

Strengths: Susic commands great respect from the Bosnian players and has discovered a method to make them both fearsome in attack and reliable in defence. He has thrived as the underdog at club level and is well equipped to coping under pressure.

Weaknesses: The World Cup marks Susic's first test on the international stage and he is largely inexperienced at the top European level. His gung-ho attacking philosophy has sometimes proved costly against the bigger nations and he is yet to win a managerial honour.

Career High: Taking his home nation to their first ever World Cup.

Career Low: Sacked mid-season by Turkish side Caykur Rizespor in 2008 amid fears that the club were in decline and destined for relegation.

Tactics: Though many international sides have switched to the ever-popular 4-2-3-1 formation, Susic prefers a diamond 4-1-2-1-2 to take advantage of Bosnia's array of attacking talent. However, he has proven on the odd occasion that he is willing to adopt a lone striker if the game requires. The major problem for Bosnia is their lack of a natural defensive midfielder and therefore, their philosophy is very much to attack and outscore the opposition.

Quotes: "Throughout the past years we have seen how the national team of Bosnia-Herzegovina has become a symbol of reconciliation and union for the whole country, thus once again demonstrating the powerful role of football in society." Sepp Blatter explains how footballing success under Susic has helped to unify Bosnia.

Trivia: His nephew, Tino-Ven Susic, currently plays for Croatian side Hajduk Split and made his international debut for Bosnia-Herzegovina in October 2013 despite featuring for Belgium at youth level.

Words: Max Bentley