Balanced Bosnia and Herzegovina dominate Group 2

Defensive solidity and an effective attack gave Bosnia and Herzegovina first place in Group 2, 2010/11 semi-finalists the Republic of Ireland joining them in the elite round.

Bosnia and Herzegovina's Marko Maletić (left) vies for the ball with Bulgaria's Hristo Popadiyn
Bosnia and Herzegovina's Marko Maletić (left) vies for the ball with Bulgaria's Hristo Popadiyn ©Meridian Match

Bosnia and Herzegovina finished top of UEFA European Under-19 Championship qualifying Group 2 after three straight wins in Plovdiv, Toni Karačić's team proving to be strong defensively and equally effective in attack.

Karačić's solid outfit started as they meant to go on, first-half goals from Safet Šivšić and Ivan Kukavica earning a 2-0 opening victory against Russia. The Republic of Ireland represented a stern second test, but Bosnia and Herzegovina again passed it with flying colours, earning another 2-0 success thanks to goals by impressive striker Marko Maletić and a late Sanjin Prcić effort.

In their final match, the Bosnians showed both tactical discipline and physical athleticism to overcome Bulgaria 2-1, Amer Rahmanović's winner 12 minutes from time preserving his side's perfect record.

Ireland justified their growing reputation as a force in youth football by finishing runners-up in the section. Despite their defeat by Bosnia and Herzegovina, Paul Doolin's charges began with an impressive 4-1 triumph against Bulgaria, Anthony Forde and Connor Smith among the goals. Semi-finalists in Romania last summer, Ireland secured their place in the next stage with a 3-1 success against Russia, Forde again on the scoresheet.

Hosts Bulgaria can take some comfort from midfielder Todor Nedelev's impressive showings and victory against Russia, secured by Martin Kozhuharov's solitary goal, but could only finish third in the standings.