Emir Spahic will captain Bosnia against Argentina at the Maracana on Sunday
Emir Spahic will captain Bosnia against Argentina at the Maracana on Sunday

Spahic: 'Better late than never'

Munich – Sunday’s Group F opener between tournament favourites Argentina and Bosnia and Herzegovina is an historic occasion for everyone involved with the Balkan country’s national team, who are taking part in their first ever World Cup finals in Brazil.

Safet Susic’s side, who boast seven Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2 players in their squad, will be led onto the Maracana pitch by Bayer 04 Leverkusen defender Emir Spahic. The veteran centre-back cannot wait to get his first taste of World Cup action, as he revealed in an exclusive interview with bundesliga.com

bundesliga.com: Emir Spahic, you’re about to take part in your first ever World Cup, as are the entire Bosnia and Herzegovina squad. What does this tournament mean to you?

Emir Spahic: I’m incredibly happy to be taking part in a World Cup after all - it’s incredible! Better late than never. I was playing in the Champions League with Leverkusen this season and now I’m at the World Cup. Things couldn’t have gone any better.

bundesliga.com: And what does the World Cup mean to your home country?

Spahic:: The whole country is longing for our first match against Argentina to get underway, as it signals the start of an amazing chapter in our history. I’ve rarely seen the Bosnian people as happy as they were when we sealed our qualification for the World Cup. We’re not forgetting that we’re a small country, but we’ve got an exceptional team with many strong individuals. We’re ready to go.

bundesliga.com: Bosnia take on Argentina first, before facing Nigeria and finally Iran. How do you rate your team’s chances?

Spahic: Argentina are clear favourites, of course, as they’re one of the favourites to win the whole tournament. The battle for second place will be tough, but we will do our best to qualify for the last 16. We definitely have the potential to do so.

bundesliga.com: What are the strengths of the Bosnia and Herzegovina team?

Spahic: We have many players that play for very strong European sides, such as Manchester City’s Edin Dzeko, Roma’s Miralem Pjanic, Stuttgart’s Vedad Ibisevic, 1899 Hoffenheim’s Sejad Salihovic and Schalke’s Sead Kolasinac. The experience that these players have gained at their respective clubs in recent years gives us a decent chance of qualifying from the group. We’re not there to make up the numbers, I’m sure of that. In Safet Susic, we also have a coach who was an idol in Bosnia during his playing days and is considered the best player in Paris Saint-Germain’s history. We’re very excited and will fight for our country like never before.

bundesliga.com: What do you think could hamper Bosnia’s chances at the World Cup? A lack of experience at major international tournaments, perhaps?

Spahic: Absolutely. None of us have ever played at a World Cup before and our squad is lacking in strength in depth. If one of our key players gets injured, how will we make up for it? How will we react?

bundesliga.com: Who do you think are the favourites to win the tournament?

Spahic: Three teams have a chance of winning: Despite the pressure that comes with playing on home soil, I think Brazil will go far as hosts, as will Argentina with Lionel Messi and Spain, too, of course.

bundesliga.com: And what about Germany?

Spahic: Germany are strong, but not strong enough to win the World Cup, in my opinion. I think they will get knocked out in the semi-finals, as they still lack a little experience and desire to win. They have many world class players, but they often come up short when it really matters.

Interview by Alexis Menuge