Greeks Hoping For Belgians Bearing Gifts (BIH-BEL Preview)
FIFA WORLD CUP QUALIFYING - GROUP H (MATCHDAY 9)
|Bosnia||12:00 PM (EST)||Belgium|
Georgios Tsitsonis from AGONAsport.com brings you a full preview of the match up between Bosnia and Belgium, where Greece need a Belgium win or draw to re-claim second spot in Group H (assuming Greece defeat Cyprus).
Greek fans will be tuning in to see how their side get on in the crucial World Cup qualifier versus Cyprus on Saturday. However, nearly three hours before that many supporters will be glued to their screens to see what happens between Bosnia and Belgium in Sarajevo.
That Group H qualifier is of the utmost importance to Greece as they now need outside help to have a chance at 2nd place in the group and thus potentially a spot in the playoffs.
Greek supporters will don their red and black hats to support Belgium in this match. What Greece need is simple in order to claim 2nd in the group. The Ethniki need to win their final two qualifiers over Cyprus and Gibraltar and hope that Bosnia drop points in their last two matches.
Group winners and already qualified Belgium are Bosnia’s biggest remaining opponents and represent a huge hurdle for Mehmed Bazdarevic’s side. After Belgium, Bosnia will then travel to Estonia on the final matchday so Greece are banking on Belgium to do them a gigantic favor by either drawing or defeating Bosnia on Saturday.
Miralem Pjanic’s recent quadricep injury is a devastating blow for the Bosnian side. The Juventus midfielder is key to so much of what Bosnia do and his omission from the squad could not have come at a worse time.
Bosnia received further bad news in recent days as it was revealed that Celtic’s Jozo Simunovic tore his hamstring. This means that the defender will miss both the Belgium and Estonia qualifiers.
Romelu Lukaku will be one player that won't feature on Saturday. The Manchester United striker has been in blistering form this season, but has been ruled out due to an ankle injury picked up against Crystal Palace at the weekend.
Lukaku’s brother, Jordan, has been replaced in the squad due to his injury by Watford’s Christian Kabasele. Vincent Kompany has also been left out as he has not completely recovered from an early-season injury. Marouane Fellaini and Jan Vertonghen also had small knocks after last weekend’s matches, however both have been passed as fit and have been involved in training.
Bosnia: Begovic, Cocalic, Kolasinac, Vranjes, Zukanovic, Jalalo, Maksumic, Hadzic, Visca, Lulic, Dzeko
Belgium: Courtois, Alderweireld, Vermaelen, Vertonghen, Meunier, Fellaini, Dembele, Carrasco, Mertens, De Bruyne, Batshuayi
9/3/17 Gibraltar-Bosnia 0-4 (World Cup Qualifier)
8/31/17 Cyprus-Bosnia 3-2 (World Cup Qualifier)
6/9/17 Bosnia-Greece 0-0 (World Cup Qualifier)
3/28/17 Albania-Bosnia 1-2 (International Friendly)
3/25/17 Bosnia-Gibraltar 5-0 (World Cup Qualifier)
9/3/17 Greece-Belgium 1-2 (World Cup Qualifier)
8/31/17 Belgium-Gibraltar 9-0 (World Cup Qualifier)
6/9/17 Estonia-Belgium 0-2 (World Cup Qualifier)
3/28/17 Russia-Belgium 3-3 (International Friendly)
3/25/17 Belgium-Greece 1-1 (World Cup Qualifier)
Bosnia and Belgium have met on seven previous occasions. The series is split between the teams with each having three wins and one match finishing in a draw. The last meeting between the two teams was in this qualifying section with Belgium thrashing their opponents 4-0. On Bosnian soil, the teams have played three times with Bosnia winning twice and drawing once.
Despite having already clinched qualification and having seemingly little to play for, Belgium are still the big favorites heading into this match. Roberto Martinez’s side will have a real shot at a World Cup seed if they finish off their campaign with two wins, while a draw or a defeat could be enough to see them be on the outside looking in as far as the top seeds go. The Red Devils have a single blemish on their qualifying record, the 1-1 draw against Greece back in March. Otherwise, the Belgians have been extremely dominant in Group H with 22 points from 8 matches and goal difference of +32.
This will be an altogether different affair though and Bosnia will treat this qualifier like a final. The quality certainly resides with Belgium and for Bosnia the loss of Pjanic could be the difference. That said it will be a tense night at the Grbavica Stadium, not only for the Bosnian fans in attendance, but for the millions of Greeks around the world hoping for a slip-up by the home side.
WHERE TO WATCH
Watch it live from AGONAsport here with a one-day pass (includes the Cyprus/Greece game), available WORLDWIDE except in Greece and Cyprus! For those in Greece, the game will be on OTE Sport 2 while ESPN3 will be showing it in the USA. For Canada, it will be on Sportsnet World Now and in Australia on WATCHESPN.