Friday sees Bosnia and the Republic of Ireland go head to head in the first-leg of their Euro 2016 play-off. With the winner of the tie guaranteed a spot at next summer’s European Championship finals in France, the stakes could not be higher for either nation.
Bosnia go into Friday’s match on the back of a three match winning run that saw them finish in third place behind Wales and Belgium in qualifying Group B. Wins over both Wales and Cyprus in their last two qualifying matches secured Bosnia’s play-off spot and they will look to continue their fine recent form against Ireland. The victories over Wales and Cyprus were managed without the services of star striker Edin Dzeko who was absent through injury. Dzeko has now returned and has been in scoring form for his club Roma, scoring two goals in his last two appearances. Dzeko has scored 44 goals in 74 appearances for his country, including once in each of his last three home matches in qualifying. Bosnia have never featured in the finals of a European Championship before but having reached their first ever World Cup finals in 2014, they will be keen to be part of the action next summer in France. Unbeaten in their last four competitive matches at home, Bosnian coach Mehmed Bazdarevic will be keen to see his side take some sort of lead into Monday night’s second-leg in Dublin. Bosnia do have play-off history, losing to Portugal 6-2 over two-legs four years ago as they attempted to reach Euro 2012.
After a slow start to their qualifying campaign, the Republic of Ireland produced an outstanding victory over World champions Germany in their penultimate group match to ensure at the very least they would reach the play-offs for Euro 2016. Defeat to Poland in their final match saw them drop into the play-offs but having reached Euro 2012 via the play-off route, the Irish are fully aware of the task in hand. Ireland will be without key players John O’Shea and Jonathan Walters who are both suspended for Friday’s match and striker Shane Long is a serious doubt with a foot injury. Ireland manager Martin O’Neill is however confident that his side can take some sort of result back to the Aviva Stadium on Monday. Ireland historically struggle to score away from home, failing to score in six of their last 11 away matches and the loss of Long, who has 14 international goals, would be a significant loss.
Bosnia and Ireland have only met once previously, an international friendly in May 2012, in which Ireland, then coached by Giovanni Trappatoni, won 1-0 courtesy of a strike by Shane Long.
Bosnia are the 2.05 (21/20) favourites for victory on Friday evening, with Ireland available at 4.5 (7/2) and the draw 3.4 (12/5). The football tip for Friday’s play-off match is Bosnia at 2.05 (21/20).
By: Scott McGlynn