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Exit the Dragons: Bosnians curse their luck

The width of a post effectively denied Bosnia and Herzegovina a round of 16 place; "we did our best" shrugged goalkeeper Asmir Begović, but better may be to come.

Were expectations met?

Up against Argentina and Nigeria, as well as Iran, in Group F, it was no great surprise that FIFA World Cup finals debutants Bosnia and Herzegovina failed to reach the knockout stage. Coach Safet Sušić and his players had set their hearts on a round of 16 place, but the margin between success and failure was to be cruelly small. A noble 2-1 loss to Argentina in their opening game was followed by a 1-0 reverse against Nigeria, a contest in which Edin Džeko had an effort deflected on to the upright at the death. Had they earned a draw, their convincing departing win against Iran might have been much more than a consolation prize.

Group F: Bosnia and Herzegovina 1-2 Argentina
Group F: Bosnia and Herzegovina 0-1 Nigeria
Group F: Bosnia and Herzegovina 3-1 Iran

What the media say

Klix.ba: In Salvador, Bosnia and Herzegovina were the masters of Iran, and achieved their historic first win at the World Cup in Brazil. With a bit of luck in the match against Nigeria, the Dragons might have achieved significant results.

Sportske novosti: The aim was to reach the second round, but they could not beat a superior Argentina side, and lacked luck against Nigeria. However, in the end they celebrated with a victory which delighted all the Dragons' fans.

What they say

Safet Sušić: "It will go down in history that this team with these coaches went to the World Cup for the first time. We disappointed some people, but when we look at some of the other teams, maybe this was the best we could do. However, we got a win as rookies at this competition, and that is a success for us"

Asmir Begović: "We did our best; we battled and now it is up to us to learn from our mistakes and to be better in the future. Yet we have achieved a victory and we can be proud of that. We have to turn our focus to the upcoming qualification campaign as soon as possible."

Vedad Ibišević scores against Argentina
Vedad Ibišević scores against Argentina©Getty Images

Just getting to Brazil was a notable achievement in itself, and there can be absolutely no shame whatsoever in the way Bosnia and Herzegovina performed. There was no evidence of nerves, even when Sušić's men made their finals debut against two-time world champions Argentina at the famous Estádio do Maracanã. Even conceding an own goal inside three minutes did not flummox them, Vedad Ibišević going on to score Bosnia and Herzegovina's first finals goal. Against Nigeria, they struggled to create until too late, but there was never any doubting their desire to attack in Group F. They did not come to Brazil to cower; they went out and played.

Room for improvement

Previous near misses when the Dragons narrowly failed to reach the finals of UEFA EURO 2004, the 2010 World Cup and UEFA EURO 2012 did not dent Bosnia and Herzegovina's resolve, and their finals debut should not cause any discouragement now. The system works. The challenge now is to introduce more and more young players into the squad and step up competition for every place.

Emerging talent

At 21, Ferencvárosi TC defensive midfielder Muhamed Bešić returns from Brazil with his reputation soaring, not least for the way he shadowed Lionel Messi. Another German-born star, FC Schalke 04's 21-year-old left-back Sead Kolašinac, also demonstrated he has a great international future, as did Swiss-born Izet Hajrović, the Galatasaray AŞ midfielder, 22, showing impressive attacking verve.

European Qualifiers

Having broken their finals duck in Brazil, Bosnia and Herzegovina have good reason to believe they will make their UEFA European Championship debut in France in two summers' time. Belgium look to be their biggest rivals in Group B, and they will face them in Zenica on 13 October following opening fixtures against Cyprus and Wales. If they can maintain the positive mood, the future looks bright.