The 2014 FIFA World Cup marks Bosnia and Herzegovina's ninth qualifying campaign – and the one they hope will take them to their debut final tournament.
They have been gradually getting closer, denied by Portugal in the play-offs for both the 2010 World Cup and UEFA EURO 2012. But now for the first time they begin the spring top of their section, and on Friday welcome the other Group G team on ten points, Greece, to Zenica.
"We are stronger with each result, which leaves us in a leading position," coach Safet Sušić said. "But if you ask me if I would be satisfied with a draw, I won't be. We'll play to win, although we fully respect our opponents."
The 'Dragons', as the national team are known, have played Greece six times in the past – five of them competitive – losing four and drawing two, including a 0-0 stalemate in Piraeus last October, the only points either side have dropped in the group. A first victory would make Sušić's men clear favourites to get to Brazil.
However, Greece's last visit to the Bilino Polje stadium – in autumn 2007 – saw the then reigning continental champions run out 4-0 winners in UEFA EURO 2008 qualifying. Bosnia and Herzegovina's most-capped player, Zvjezdan Misimović, has met Greece in three of his 72 appearances and is eager for a first scalp.
"Winning this match will be difficult but we, and the fans as well, want it with all our hearts," said the 30-year-old midfielder. "Bilino Polje will see the fire of the Dragons and together with our 12th man, the fans, we have the strength and quality to play well and celebrate in the end."
Of course, even if they do win, there will be five more matches including two against Slovakia. Sušić is missing midfielder Sejad Salihović, with Miralem Pjanić just back in training after injury, meaning a recall for 36-year-old Elvir Rahimić, out of the team for six months but a veteran of an Under-21 game against Greece in 1996.
"I am happy to return to the Dragons," said Rahimić, hoping for a true footballing finale next summer. "My dream is to end my career in Brazil and for this we need a win against a very strong Greece."