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Ireland v Bosnia-Herzegovina preview

After the Republic of Ireland’s name was drawn from the pot on October 18th and fate decided that they would face Bosnia-Herzegovina, the nation’s prevailing thought was ‘it could have been worse.’

After hammering Estonia 5-1 on aggregate in the play-offs for the 2012 European Championships, Ireland will encounter a different class of Eastern-European opposition in the first leg on November 13th.

Asmir Begović, Miralem Pjanić, Muhamed Bešić and Edin Džeko are names that people recognise and all of them are playing in the best leagues in the world. Players like Konstantin Vassiljev and Tarmo Kink featured for Estonia against Ireland in 2011 yet the accumulation of people thinking ‘who?’ as you read those names is unerring.

Pjanić has been outstanding for Italian side Roma in Serie A this season and to call him a dead ball specialist would be doing him an injustice. The diminutive playmaker has a conversion rate of 50% from free kicks in this campaign and he would have to miss his next 162 free kicks to have the same record as Portuguese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo.

Pjanić will be providing the ammunition for his club teammate Džeko, and despite the former Manchester City striker only scoring three times this season his international record is frighteningly impressive. In 74 appearances for his country, Džeko has found the back of the net 44 times. Ominously for the boys in green, his club form has shown signs of improvement lately as he set up one goal and scored another when Roma defeated Bayer Leverkusen 3-2 in the Champions League last month. Incidentally, the aforementioned Pjanić also found the net in that game at Roma’s home ground, Stadio Olimpico.

Despite the quality that Bosnia-Herzegovina possess, they endured a horrendous start to their qualifying campaign. The failed to win any of their opening four games, a poor run which included a 2-1 home defeat to Cyprus, a loss that Irish fans can sympathise with and relate to.

Make no mistake, the Republic of Ireland are a team that Mehmed Baždarević’s men did not want to face. They are the stereotypical ‘tricky away side’ that are physical and robust with smatterings of quality dotted throughout the side. Any team that beats the world champions are to be feared and despite the suspensions of both defensive stalwart John O’Shea and tireless forward John Walters, Ireland are more than capable of beating the Balkan outfit over the course of two legs.

In fact, the last time the two sides faced each other was back in May 2012 and Ireland prevailed as 1-0 winners thanks to a solitary Shane Long goal. Sound familiar?

Let us all hope that Ireland’s ball will be drawn again from the pot when the draw for the Finals takes place on December 12th and a UEFA bigwig will spare us the task of facing a heavyweight like Spain.

Euro 2016 Qualifying Play-Off

First Leg-Bosnia v Republic of Ireland (Friday, November 13th in Bilino Polje Stadium, Zenica)

Second Leg-Republic of Ireland v Bosnia (Monday, November 16th in Aviva Stadium, Dublin)

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