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One of the finest players of his generation, Safet Sušić is now making his mark as Bosnia and Herzegovina national team coach, having guided his side to the top of 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying Group G unbeaten. As he explained to UEFA.com, however, that feat should come as no surprise.
"Our people love football very much," said the 57-year-old, who took the reins in 2009. "You can't walk around our towns without seeing 100 boys dressed in national team jerseys, usually wearing the names of [Edin] Džeko, [Zvjezdan] Misimović or [Miralem] Pjanić. In our country, there have always been top talents – not a large choice of players, because we are a small country, but there has never been a lack of talent."
Indeed, Sušić was one of those talents, starring for FK Sarajevo and Paris Saint-Germain FC and scoring 21 times in 54 outings for Yugoslavia during an illustrious career. In 2003, he joined the likes of Alfredo Di Stéfano, Bobby Moore and Johan Cruyff in being named his country's Golden Player as part of UEFA's 2004 jubilee celebrations.
Now Sušić is tasked with inspiring and leading a new generation – a team he took to the brink of UEFA EURO 2012 qualification, only to suffer play-off defeat at the hands of Portugal. That was a carbon copy of their 2010 World Cup fate under Miroslav Blažević, an outcome Sušić believes will not be repeated on the road to Brazil 2014.
"The players in my team are extremely intelligent and ambitious," said Sušić. "They want to learn, they want to improve their quality, and from a defeat, especially a big defeat, you can learn a lot more. We are a small country, eager to achieve great results. After [the loss to Portugal], my players realised that only by taking a serious approach can we match those national teams."
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