Just 90 minutes stand between Bosnia-Herzegovina and their first ever appearance at a FIFA World Cup™ as they prepare to take on Portugal, semi finalists at Germany 2006, in their European Zone qualifying play-off second leg.
Miroslav Blazevic's troops lost the first leg in Lisbon 1-0, rendering victory in Zenica absolutely imperative for the hosts. The good news for the Bosnians is that their home form in qualifying for South Africa 2010 has been very positive indeed. Sixteen goals, three victories, a draw against Turkey and a solitary defeat against Spain saw them finish second in the Group 5 table, although they did concede a mammoth five goals against a rampant La Roja.
While visitors Portugal will once again be without star man Cristiano Ronaldo, the Bosnians will be forced to find replacements for the suspended Emir Spahic, Elvir Rahimic and Samir Muratovic. FIFA.com caught up with Bosnian playmaker Zvjezdan Misimovic for an exclusive interview ahead of the crunch encounter.
FIFA.com: There are less than 48 hours to go until the decisive second leg against Portugal - how is the atmosphere in the squad?
Zvjezdan Misimovic: The atmosphere within the team is good. We came away from Portugal with a respectable result and with a bit more luck we'd have got even more from the game. Still, we're all very positive about the situation.
You lost the first leg in Lisbon 1-0. Why do you think that was?
We should have played more courageously from the start, not just in the second half. At the beginning of the match we were far too cautious and we didn't want to make any mistakes. We'll certainly be playing a more attack-minded game in front of our home fans.
Do you think having your home fans behind you will help?
Our fans are great and they'll be a big support on home turf. I think they'll prove to be a massive advantage for us. They could make all the difference.
You've had a chance to suss out the Portuguese now. How do you rate Carlos Queiroz's team?
We know that their team boasts a lot of experience and plenty of quality, but we proved in Lisbon that we can create chances and that's given us confidence for the second leg.
We always have the potential to score a goal, but we mustn't forget that there are 90 minutes to do so and we don't have to score right away.
How will you be approaching the game?
Obviously we'll try to get forward as much as possible because that's where our strengths lie. We need to cancel out the 1-0 deficit and that means we have to play attacking football. We always have the potential to score a goal, but we mustn't forget that there are 90 minutes to do so and we don't have to score right away.
The Portuguese will be without the injured FIFA World Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo. Is that a big advantage for you?
First of all I'd like to wish him all the best in his recovery. Of course Portugal missed him, he's one of the best players in the world. It's difficult to compensate for a loss like that, but I think Portugal have enough quality in their ranks to cope without him.
In spite all the optimism, have you also contemplated the possibility of failing to qualify?
Anything is possible and only the 90 minutes will tell. We already consider it a success that we've come this far. It's the farthest our country has ever gone in qualifying. We're thinking positive, of course, but we need to be prepared for anything.
What would happen in Bosnia-Herzegovina if you were to clinch qualification on Wednesday night?
It would be unbelievable. It would be our country's biggest achievement of the last few years and the people back home would be euphoric. Before there was a lot of scepticism about our national team, but now football is undoubtedly the No1 sport.
The last match of the group stage ended in a 5-2 defeat against Spain. Was that just a blip?
There were many reasons why that game turned out as it did. At 0-0 we had three excellent chances and you have to make them count against a side as good as Spain. They knocked the wind out of us with the first two goals and we can't allow that to happen again. The Portuguese are equally capable of punishing any lapses in concentration.
What would playing at the FIFA World Cup mean to you personally?
It's every footballer's dream to play at a major international tournament, so I think it's a massive achievement for any player.
Four Bundesliga stars started in the first leg against Portugal in the form of Vedad Ibisevic, Sejad Salihovic (both Hoffenheim), Edin Dzeko and yourself (both Wolfsburg). Is the fact that you play with Dzeko at club level an advantage?
Definitely. You don't have much time to train with the national team, so it's ideal if you know someone from your club and know how he ticks and how he reacts in certain situations.