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Zmajevi, the Dragons, are in the World Cup for the first time since independence, with Edin Dzeko at the helm
June 1, 20145:00AM ET
Players to watch
Edin Dzeko, nicknamed “the Diamond,” will lead Bosnia in the country’s first World Cup since independence. Dzeko, who stands 6 feet 4 inches, scored 10 of Bosnia’s 30 goals in World Cup qualifying games, making him the second-highest scorer of the European qualifying teams. The 28-year-old has been Manchester City’s striker since 2011, and brings to the table a record of scoring 26 goals and 16 assists in 48 games in the 2013-14 season.
Bosnia will play its first-ever World Cup as an independent nation this summer. Bosnia was part of Yugoslavia until its breakup in the 1990s.
While this is its first major tournament, the team has come close to qualifying several times before, losing to powerhouse Portugal in playoffs for the 2010 World Cup. Bosnia is one of Europe’s smallest countries, with a population of about 4 million — but the national team will bring an outsize challenge to Brazil.
Floods devastated the Balkans last month, killing dozens and displacing hundreds of thousands. Bosnia’s foreign minister even compared the devastation to that experienced during the 1992–95 war. It remains to be seen if the recent catastrophe will affect the team’s performance in the World Cup, but in a nation known for its resilience, it wouldn’t be surprising if the squad is hungry to give its country a reason to celebrate.
Did you know?
Some fans might say a soccer field is where the breakup of the former Yugoslavia began. Prior to that, Yugoslavia had one soccer team, but several club teams. On May 13, 1990, more than a year before the official start of the Croatian War of Independence, a riot broke out at a match between fans of Croatia’s Dinamo Zagreb and Serbia’s Red Star Belgrade at a Zagreb stadium. Hundreds were injured, and Zagreb player Zvonimir Boban even kicked a police officer off a Croatian fan. Although temporarily suspended from the league, he became a Croatian hero.