Dzeko: Forget the injuries, Germany win says it all
Published 13/11/2015 | 02:30
In Bosnia, Ireland's stunning win over Germany has been the reference point for dampening expectations in the build-up to the winner-takes-all Euro 2016 play-off.
That was clear in the tone of the questions and answers at the hosts' pre-match press conference in Zenica.
Edin Dzeko, the most high-profile name in Bosnian football, was rolled out to face the cameras and he listened as his coach, Mehmed Bazdarevic, was asked if he was afraid of an opponent who showed they can compete with a 'top team'.
Bazdarevic made it clear that he was not afraid but, in the context of an Irish injury crisis that has weakened the travelling party, Dzeko (right) returned to the German match as evidence of the difficulty presented by Martin O'Neill's side. "It's not easy to win against them," said Dzeko. "If you win against them then you must be a good team."
The Bosnian delegation did tick all the usual boxes for queries seeking an opinion on Ireland's strengths.
"We are going to be ready for the aggressive game," said Bazdarevic. Dzeko added: "They never give up. They always give more than 100pc."
Still, when asked specifically about the fact that Bosnia have players engaged in this season's Champions League, with Dzeko and his Roma colleague Miralem Pjanic in mind, the ex-Manchester City striker insisted that it made no odds.
"It doesn't matter that some of our players are playing in the Champions League," he said. "I think it's 50-50. Ireland have players with a lot of experience who have played in big games. I know almost all of the players and they play in England - and we know that the English league is the best in the world."
However, Dzeko admitted that he was in good health after a goal in the Rome derby and a Champions League strike brought an end to a barren spell that had raised questions about his form.
"I was injured," he explained."But now I'm back and I've scored some goals. With the national team, it's different with the club. We all know why we're here and we think that we are ready.
"They are going to be two interesting games. I know that some important players are maybe not playing in the first game for Ireland so it's a big problem for you guys but I think you have other good players who can jump in so I don't think it's a big advantage."
The manager spoke in similar terms. "We respect Ireland's expertise and (absentees) will not change our strategy," said Bazdarevic. "Possession of the ball is going to be extremely important and we are ready to do our best."
Meanwhile, Wales boss Chris Coleman has backed Ireland to join Wales at Euro 2016 after giving the men in green the inside line on Bosnia.
Martin O'Neill has turned to Coleman for advice with Wales having faced the Bosnians during their successful Group B campaign. Wales secured a goalless draw in Cardiff and were beaten 2-0 at the Stadion Bilion Polje just last month, although the result was not enough to prevent them from qualifying. Coleman admits the 15,000 capacity ground is an unwelcoming proposition, but is confident Ireland can handle the hostility and seal the job on Monday.
"I gave him (Martin O'Neill) a picture of what we saw there and the experience we had and what Bosnia do," said Coleman. "They will not change how they play, Martin has a game-plan in place but he wanted an insight into our experience.
"It will be hard for them, it would be hard for anyone there. But it will be every bit as hard for Bosnia in Dublin, especially if you look at the results Ireland have got at home."