Having travelled to Brazil on a wave of enthusiasm, Bosnia and Herzegovina are now facing up to the sobering realities of football on the biggest stage of them all. The south-eastern Europeans go into their third and final Group F match against Iran in Salvador on Wednesday having already been eliminated from the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™. Nevertheless, despite narrow 2-1 and 1-0 defeats to Argentina and Nigeria respectively, pride is the overriding emotion among coach Safet Susic’s side.

“We just need to enjoy the experience,” Haris Medunjanin told FIFA.com. “After all, it’s our first World Cup and that’s a really difficult challenge.” The midfielder, who plays for Gaziantepspor in the Turkish top flight, is aware that inexperience and some bad luck contributed to his side’s early exit from the tournament, but is satisfied that his team did not look out of place among the global elite.

“That’s just the way it is in football,” said the 29-year-old. “Now we need to look forwards and hopefully pick up three points against Iran. If we can manage to go out with a win it would mean we can return home with our heads held high.”

Ruefulness and disappointment are just two of a wealth of differing emotions Bosnia and Herzegovina have experienced in Brazil, where they won over many neutrals with their technically adept style of play. “Everywhere we’ve been over here there have been people supporting us,” said Medunjanin. “I can only imagine what it would have been like if we’d been playing in Europe. We could have had around 60,000 fans cheering us on - here it’s been around 5,000 and it’s been fantastic to see them all.”

Ibisevic eyes big win
With that in mind, Bosnia and Herzegovina are approaching their meeting with Iran with a sense of cautious optimism. “They’re very compact and very well organised,” said Vedad Ibisevic. “On top of that it’s an important game for them. But it doesn’t matter how many goals they’ve scored so far, we’re going to try to concede as few as possible while looking to hit the target at the other end ourselves.”

The 29-year-old striker, on the books at Bundesliga outfit Stuttgart, scored his country’s maiden - and to date only - World Cup goal and is eager to add another historic first before departing for home. A ticket to the Round of 16 may not be possible this time for the Dragons, but the chance of recording a first tournament victory will be all the motivation they need.