Revenge will, in a sense, be on Bosnia-Herzegovina's mind when they welcome Greece next week for a crucial 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ qualifier. In their first attempt to qualify for the FIFA World Cup, the young nation conceded three unanswered goals against Greece in a France 1998 qualifier, before going down at home 1-0 the next year.
The Bosnians continued that pattern during UEFA Euro 2008 qualification, losing both home and away against the same opponents to crash out. The Greek jinx, though, was eventually brought to an end when they claimed a goalless draw in a friendly on home soil two years ago.
The pair’s latest fixture in Greece again ended in a 0-0 stalemate in a qualifier for Brazil 2014 last October, but it was a result with which the Bosnians were left content, having secured a first point against their rivals in a major competition. Leading Greece at the group summit on goal difference, Bosnia-Herzegovina are now looking to strengthen their grip on the section with a maiden victory in the return, with skipper Zvjezdan Misimovic confident of upstaging the familiar foes this time around.
"It is truly a crucial match for us," the 30-year-old midfielder told FIFA.com in a recent exclusive interview, "Greece are key contenders alongside Slovakia in our group and they are a team we want to defeat most. A home win against them will definitely boost our confidence as well as our qualifying hopes. I can't wait for the game."
Having featured in Bosnia-Herzegovina's failed campaign for Germany 2006 and South Africa 2010, Misimovic, the country's most capped player with 75 international appearances, is optimistic that their fortunes will be revived in a group also featuring Lithuania, Latvia and Liechtenstein.
"We have a good group, or in fact, it couldn't be better," continued the German-born player, who is his country's second highest goal-scorer with 25 international goals. "There are top-quality players in our team and with the strong support from our fans as well as the FA, our chances of qualifying for our first World Cup is great."
It is little wonder that Misimovic is in confident mood, considering his eye-catching showings during their campaign for Brazil 2014 thus far. Misimovic was twice on target as they routed Liechtenstein 8-1 in the qualifying opener last September, before grabbing another brace in their 4-1 thrashing of Latvia.
While paying tribute to the whole team for their amazing run so far, Misimovic singled out Manchester City forward Edin Dzeko for his inspiring display.
"Our star players have done their job well and especially Dzeko," he said of the team's top-scorer, who completed a treble against Liechtenstein and most recently had a hand in two goals as they hammered Lithuania 3-0. "He is a good goal-getter and I believe he can help the team go through to Brazil 2014."
Despite faith in the team, Misimovic is aware that the rest of the campaign will be far from easy. Having bowed out in their first three FIFA World Cup bids, they came so close on the road to South Africa 2010, progressing to the play-off only to be edged out by Portugal 2-0 on aggregate. To prevent the agony repeating itself, Bosnia-Herzegovina must, says Misimovic, focus on winning each game to progress as group winners.
"There are still a lot of games ahead so it is too early to predict which team will qualify from the group. We should concentrate on a game at a time, and the results will come naturally as long as we maintain our performance level," said Misimovic, who provided 20 assists as Wolfsburg famously claimed the 2008/09 Bundesliga crown.
After short spells with Galatasaray and Dynamo Moscow, Misimovic decided to start a new adventure by joining Chinese Super League side Guizhou Renhe. Looking forward to the forthcoming year, he voiced his intent of playing well for both club and country.
"I want to help my new club finish in the top three in the Chinese league and seal qualification for next year's Champions League," he said. "And with the national team, I will do my best to provide assists and score goals in order to complete our World Cup qualifying mission."