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Season review: Bosnia and Herzegovina

Published: Friday 30 May 2014, 9.10CET
HŠK Zrinjski won the title and FK Sarajevo won the cup, with Bosnia and Herzegovina's success in reaching the FIFA World Cup lifting spirits and demanding sacrifices.
by Fuad Krvavac
from Sarajevo
Season review: Bosnia and Herzegovina
Zrinjski celebrate winning the 2013/14 Premier League championship ©Fedja Krvavac
Published: Friday 30 May 2014, 9.10CET

Season review: Bosnia and Herzegovina

HŠK Zrinjski won the title and FK Sarajevo won the cup, with Bosnia and Herzegovina's success in reaching the FIFA World Cup lifting spirits and demanding sacrifices.

Bosnia and Herzegovina's success in qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup – their first – demanded sacrifices at home, with clubs willingly redistributing the Premier League's 30 rounds – 19 in the autumn and just 11 in the spring – to give the national team more chance of training together before heading to Brazil. HŠK Zrinjski won an exciting title race, FK Sarajevo took the Bosnian and Herzegovinian Cup, while former champions FK Leotar were relegated.

Champions: HŠK Zrinjski
Top at the winter break, FK Željezničar failed to claim a third successive title, with the competition fierce throughout, and NK Široki Brijeg, Sarajevo and Željezničar all falling just short of Zrinjski's final total as the Mostar side secured a third championship following successes in 2004/05 and 2008/09. "We're happy and we have the quality to get even better results," said coach Branko Karačić. "We totally deserve this title." Zrinjski did not hit top spot until a 3-2 victory over Široki Brijeg in the 26th round, when they overturned a 2-0 deficit in the last ten minutes, proceeding to seal glory with a match to spare.

Cup final: FK Sarajevo 2-0, 3-1 NK Čelik Zenica (agg: 5-1)
"We have shown we are the best in this competition because we eliminated the best clubs: Željezničar and Zrinjski," said coach Dženan Uščuplić after Sarajevo completed their two-legged triumph – rubber-stamping their fifth Bosnian and Herzegovinian Cup success. "I am particularly happy because I also won the cup as a player."

Sarajevo won the away leg 2-0, but the home return was postponed twice due to the terrible floods that beset Bosnia and Herzegovina; eventually Krste Velkoski, Bojan Puzigaća and Nemanja Bilbija scored the hosts' goals in a 3-1 victory. Zenica-based Čelik had eliminated Široki Brijeg in the semi-finals.

European places
HŠK Zrinjski – UEFA Champions League, second qualifying round
FK Sarajevo – UEFA Europa League, first qualifying round
NK Široki Brijeg – UEFA Europa League, first qualifying round
FK Željezničar – UEFA Europa League, first qualifying round


Armin Hodžić in action

Player of the Year: Armin Hodžić (FK Željezničar)
There were some fine players in the Premier League this term, but 19-year-old Hodžić was's pick, notching 14 goals to finish as the division's second-highest scorer, his haul including a hat-trick against downwardly mobile Leotar. On a second loan from Liverpool FC – where work permit issues prevented him making headway – the forward ended the season by signing for GNK Dinamo Zagreb. "I'm happy I will be able to play for Dinamo," he said. "I will be part of the best club in the region." Fans in Bosnia and Herzegovina see him as the natural successor to Edin Džeko in the national side.

One to watch: Amer Gojak (FK Olimpik Sarajevo)
Originally on the books at Željezničar, the 17-year-old midfielder showed considerable class – and a decent shot too – as he worked his way into the Olimpik team, starting regularly in the final weeks of the campaign and scoring twice. Capped at youth level, he broke into the national Under-21 side for the first time in 2014, and is already committed to linking up with Hodžić in Zagreb having agreed a deal to join Dinamo in January 2015.

Surprise package: NK Vitez
Promoted last term, Vitez were widely predicted to have a short stay among the elite, yet they proved extremely resilient at their temporary home – Zenica's Kamberovića polje Stadium. They lost only three of their 15 home games, recording nine wins despite effectively playing each as the away team. It took until the final day of the campaign for them to win a genuine away fixture, though ninth spot in the 16-club league was something to be proud of. They return to their renovated Gradski Stadium in the autumn.

Leading scorer: Wagner, NK Široki Brijeg (18)

Relegated: FK Leotar, FK Rudar Prijedor

Promoted: FK Sloboda Tuzla, FK Drina Zvornik

Number: 810
Champions in 2002/03, Trebinje-based Leotar set a miserable record this season with a nine-game drought in front of goal – 810 minutes – the worst barren patch since the Premier League was first contested by sides from the whole territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2002.

Quote: "Nobody gave us much of a chance to win the title. Sincerely our main aim was to get into Europe, but when the chance to win the title showed up, we did not want to miss it. We were not taken seriously yet we quite deservedly won the title."
Zrinjski coach Branko Karačić enjoys being an underdog.

Last updated: 09/06/14 9.39CET