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Bosnian Journalist Reveals How Their Football Fans See This Irish Team

Bosnian Journalist Reveals How Their Football Fans See This Irish Team
By Mikey Traynor

It's almost Friday, and it's almost time for our date with destiny in Zenica as Ireland take on Bosnia & Herzegovina in the first leg of the Euro 2016 qualification playoffs.

We've had some unfortunate news today as we received confirmation that Shane Long won't be playing in the first leg, but we're still hopeful as edge closer and closer to kick-off.

We say hopeful, it's more of a cautious optimism, and that also appears to be the mood over in the land of our opponents. We spoke to Saša Ibrulj, a Bosnian freelance football journalist who contributes to The Guardian and ESPN among others, and he explained that the mood over there is one of cautious optimism heading into the match:

I would say semi-confident. We are aware that Ireland is not Portugal, a team we lost to twice in playoffs, and that you don't have Cristiano Ronaldo, or Gareth Bale like our recent opponents, but the Bosnians are aware of the fact that we are playing a very disciplined, solid, aggressive team, and it's not going to be easy. Especially if we play like we did in most of the qualifiers.

Sounds familiar, doesn't it?

While most Irish football fans are familiar with the star players of our opponents, such as Miralem Pjanic and Edin Dzeko of AS Roma, we asked Saša to identify a dangerman who may catch us by surprise, and he pointed out a man who plays for Serie B side Cesena in towering striker Milan Duric.

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Duric proved himself to be an important figure in Bosnia & Herzegovina's qualification campaign with a goal and an assist in a 2-0 win against Wales, and the winner in a 3-2 victory over Cyprus late in the campaign to ensure his nation finished in the playoff places, so Ireland will need to look out for him.

Actually, at 6'6" tall, we probably won't need to look out for him, he should be clearly visible, but we'll need to keep him quiet as Ibrulj thinks he can be an effective player as a 'Plan B' for the Bosnians.

We also took the opportunity to ask what the general public know of this Irish team, and this is where our lack of a star player was pointed out, along with the suggestion that Ireland as a collective team are seen as the threat rather than just one or two players:

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Most of the people are saying that you [Ireland] don't have a big star. If you compare that to Wales, they had Bale and they had Ramsey, and most people would say the Irish team is basically Wales without those two, in terms of how they play.

The English Premier League is very popular in Bosnia, so players that play in that league are well known here. I would say Coleman, but not many names are mentioned, mostly people highlight how good you are as a team, and your fighting spirit.

Wales without Bale and Ramsey? Maybe we are underdogs after all! That's dressing room wall material for Martin O'Neill, and although Bosnia & Herzegovina manager Mehmed Baždarević was adamant that we do have the players to cause problems, we doubt he would have had examples ready if he was asked to follow that up.

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It's clear that our ability to stay in a fight and nick a result is what the opposition fans fear more than any one player, so lets hope we go out there and justify that fear.

Big thanks to Saša Ibrulj, be sure to follow him on twitter @sasaibrulj for more build up to Friday and Monday's games, and of course we'll look to contact him again if Ireland manage to win.

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