After the disappointment of losing to the Republic of Ireland in the EURO2016 qualifiers, many of my fellow fans were ready to throw the baby out with the bath water. Dzeko was no longer a diamond, and the back of Miralem’s jersey might as well have read Panic. Interestingly, there were already calls for Bazdarevic’s head, this early on into his tenure. However, if Bosnia is to mature as a national team side – we have to begin by showing some maturity.
We cannot make sweeping changes overnight and expect immediate positive results. Are changes needed? Absolutely. We looked toothless against Ireland. A team that we were much better than on paper, beat us on the pitch, and it wasn’t even close. There was no excuse.
First of all, the whole team’s demeanor and energy has to change and Bazdarevic has a responsibility to lift the team mentally to such an occasion. This doesn’t have to be the stuff of legend here (Al Pacino speech, Spartaaaaa! etc), just some fire. Let’s put that Balkan temperament to good use for once. Tap into some anger, and if it’s not there, manufacture it.
Secondly, tactical choices have to improve. 4-4-2 isn’t going to get it done. As much as I like Ibisevic, pairing him with Dzeko has seldom worked against better sides. If you want to use a secondary striker, at least compliment Dzeko with a different sort of forward instead of a cheaper imitation. Playing players out of position is also another specter of the Susic days. Can we please stop forcing Zukanovic to pretend to be a left-back, or Ognjen Vranjes to be a midfielder?
All that being said, I’m not ready to can Bazdarevic, just yet. Was he the wrong choice for the managerial position to begin with? Probably. My choice would have been Vahid Halilhodzic, but that’s a story for another day. This team is in a transition period, and the last thing we would want to do right now is create more havoc with another managerial fiasco. The players seem to have taken to Mesa, so let’s rally around him, and push him towards the right choices.
Stability starts with the right atmosphere within the locker room. Bazdarevic has to set the tempo and instruct the veterans like Emir Spahic, Edin Dzeko and Asmir Begovic to lead, not just by example but by you know – words. If the team is slouching, straighten it out. Another perennial problem around this team is the constant, and ever present unprofessionalism. It has seeped into every facet of the organization.
Any journalist that has been around the team even for a short while will attest to this. Not only are the players’ families constantly around them, but fans themselves. Hotel corridors crowded with Bosnian loyals, clad in blue, yellow, and white. Don’t get me wrong – in many ways this is what makes us different, right? We have some of the most loyal and well-traveled fans in Europe. You can’t buy something like that, even if you have cash for days like Germany or England. However, fan support can be shown equally as well in the stands and on the streets, it doesn’t have to cross the line to plain over-saturation. I would love to interview Lulic for that game winning assist, but I can’t because Huso is chatting him up about that time they met in Zurich and their wives shopped at the same dress shop. It has to stop.
Not only does it distract from team chemistry and an atmosphere of a single team unit, but creates an overall toxic impression that anything goes, in and around the team. I’m not excusing the players either. Everyone understands you have family that supports you, but do they have to stay at the same hotel and chat up the manager about what choices he should be making? Please.
Another aspect that could be important is the need to build a regular and consistent starting squad. Bazdarevic has made important strides towards this goal. Shifting players between positions, moving them out of position, and cycling through different names can cause serious damage – contribute to confusion on the field – and set the idea that we are doing, which we’ve looked like in the past.
What is the bottom line? If we are going to move forward as a serious European squad, we should act like one of the big boys, instead of imitating them with occasional solid displays and constant unprofessionalism.