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Nations of former Yugoslavia prove that size doesn't matterThe Balkan countries are all heading for World Cup qualification, so were Yugoslavia still together, how good would its team be?

Football, happily, is not simply a matter of population size. Franz Beckenbauer commented in 1990 that after reunification, Germany would be unstoppable, but since then they have won only Euro 96. The former Yugoslavia, meanwhile, seems to have gone in the opposite direction since fragmentation: remarkably, five of the former Yugoslav republics still have a chance of reaching next summer's World Cup.

Only Montenegro, whose zero coefficient ensured for them an almost impossibly tough draw, look certain to miss out. Even there, disappointing as results have been, there are highly encouraging signs, with home draws against Bulgaria and the Republic of Ireland suggesting they are rather better than their minnow-status would suggest.

Bosnia-Herzegovina were the team to catch the eye at the weekend, sweeping to a 4-2 victory away in Belgium despite the absence of the Hoffenheim duo of Vebad Ibisevic and Sehad Salihovic. In fact, any assessment of Bosnia seems full of despites; frankly, if there were any logic to such things they would be nowhere near second in their group.

This was the team, remember, who effectively went on strike in May after the coach Meho Kodro was dismissed. His crime was to protest against having to lead the side to Iran for what he saw as a meaningless end-of-season friendly; it subsequently emerged that of the $300,000 Iran paid Bosnia, only $120,000 found its way through the accounts of the Bosnian football federation (NSBiH).

Things got so farcical that the caretaker manager Denijal Piric ended up driving round Sarajevo knocking on players' doors and asking them to play, while a local who had wandered into the team hotel to have an ice-cream with his girlfriend was mistaken for a player and told to hurry up and get changed.

The secretary general of the NSBiH, Munib Usanovic, has been charged with money-laundering and tax evasion, although his case has been delayed after the death of judge who was presiding over it. He is deeply unpopular, and the incident in Genk that led to the game being held up for seven minutes as flares were cleared from the pitch was designed as a – misconceived – protest against him from fans.

Fortunately, Ciro Blazevic is Bosnian. The coach who led Croatia to the World Cup semi-finals in 1998 may be erratic, superstitious and 77 (although he says 72), but his eccentricity borders on genius. Into the crisis came charisma and one of the sharpest minds in football. Who else would have plucked the goalkeeper Nemanja Supic from the obscurity of Javor in the lower reaches of the Serbian first division to give him his debut against Belgium? Who else would have chartered a plane to ensure journalists could get to Genk when it became apparent there would be no room for them on the team's flight? Who else could have developed an atmosphere so that, in the words of one player, "it's like every day is your best friend's birthday"?

The highly promising 18-year-old Lyon midfielder Miralem Pjanic has lost his place in the team to the 33-year-old Samir Muratovic of Sturm Graz, but his attitude is typical. "If you asked 100 coaches in Europe they'd all pick me," he said. "But I'll happily sit on the bench or even in the stands because I love being around these guys."

If Bosnia beat Belgium in front of what is certain to be a fervent crowd in Zenica tonight, and Turkey fail to beat Spain, they will find themselves at least three points clear in second place in their qualifying group. True, they still have to face Spain at home, but then Turkey have to travel to Belgium, and face the trip to Zenica in September.

Serbia, having seemingly found a happy middle ground between the tricky artistry of tradition and the dour resolution of the "Fantastic Four" defence (Gavrancic, Krstajic, Vidic, Dragutinovic) that got them to the last World Cup, were impressive in winning 3-2 in Romania and they top their group by three points from Lithuania. France will close the gap to two points if they beat Lithuania tonight, but they still have to travel to Belgrade in September.

Slovenia lie fourth, but in the tightest of the groups, they trail the leaders Northern Ireland, whom they face today, by just two points. They have the advantage of having played both their games against the Czech Republic, and having both games against San Marino still to come.

Their manager, Matjaz Kek, a welcome diplomatic figure after the incessant controversies of his predecessor Brane Oblak, has rejuvenated the squad and made them organised again. They may not be particularly exciting, but they are formidable in their new home, the small but intimidating Ljudski Vrt stadium in Maribor. Their qualification will probably be decided by tonight's game at Windsor Park and by the trip to Slovakia in October.

Srecko Katanec, who took Slovenia to Euro 2000 and the 2002 World Cup, has not yet been able to work similar magic on Macedonia FYR, but even if they lose to the Netherlands tonight, they have a chance of second place and a play-off spot. True, they are heavily reliant on Goran Pandev for creative inspiration, and have won only one game so far, but they have back-to-back home fixtures to come against Norway and Iceland before what could be a decisive match away to Scotland in September.

Croatia, meanwhile, have slipped back after the Euros, but an emotional slump is understandable, particularly given the circumstances in which they were eliminated last summer. The return of Eduardo after his broken leg should restore edge to a sumptuous midfield and, although it is far from certain that they will finish above Ukraine – where they drew 0-0 last time out – neither is it implausible that they should reel England in.

All of which, of course, begs the obvious question of how good Yugoslavia would be were it still together. With the ball, it would seem, superb; without it, less so. Trying to pick a composite team with journalists from five of the six former Yugoslav republics this week, we ended up arguing over a long list of forwards, and desperately scratching around for any holding players at all. And while three of the defence seemed obvious, everybody had a different candidate at left-back.

The other major bone of contention was Eduardo, who was wanted only by the Croatian and the Bosnian with the others opposed on the grounds that, as the Slovenian put it, "Brazil was never part of Yugoslavia". That argument, though, is probably best left for another day: given Eduardo demonstrably does play for Croatia, he is available for selection, so I've included him.

So, here is the team, picked with the stipulation that it contained at least one player from each of the six republics. Our uneasy solution to the holding problem, in the end, was to play Dejan Stankovic just in front of the back four, with Luka Modric (although on current form, a very good case can be made for Zvjezdan Misimovic) operating as a distributor in a freer role alongside him: not ideal, and that midfield isn't going to win too many tackles but, equally, when possession is won, it's not going to be squandered.

(4-2-3-1): Samir Handanovic (SLO, Udinese); Darijo Srna (CRO, Shakhtar Donetsk), Nemanja Vidic (SRB, Manchester United), Josip Simunic (CRO, Hertha Berlin), Ivica Dragutinovic (SRB, Sevilla); Dejan Stankovic (SRB, Internazionale), Luka Modric (CRO, Tottenham); Edin Dzeko (BOS, Wolfsburg), Goran Pandev (MKD, Lazio), Mirko Vucinic (MON, Roma); Eduardo (CRO, Arsenal)


Artical from Jonathan Wilson - Guardian
http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/blog/2009/apr/01/world-cup-2010-former-yugoslavia-jonathan-wilson


I think that if Yugoslavia were together in early 90 they would have won World Cup :) ok that's just hipotetical and it is big "IF" but if I just remeber some of the players wow - Dejan Savicevic,Dragan Stojkovic - Piksi,Vladimir Jugovic,Robert Prosinecki,Davor Suker,Alen Boksic,Robert Jarni,Zvonimir Boban,Darko Pancev,Predrag Mijatovic,Sinisha Mihaljovic,Srecko Katanec,Sabanadzovic......and many more :)
Many of these players won World cup for young players in Chile in 88' and also many of them played when Red Star won CL in 1991. All of them were still very young than,and when they were on the pick of their careers bullsheet happend :(
I don't want to mix politics and to be nostalgic,I just got very interested when I saw jonathan artical and I wanted to hear your opinion ? :)
And Jonathan's list of players that would have played today for Yugoslavia is also very good....and I think that would have qualified for 2010 World Cup no metter in which group thay would have end up :D
 

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Like the parts about Bosnia the best (hilarious bana republic way to run a FA :D), we all know about Serbia and Croatia, but Bosnia's current crop of bundesliga players are quite good and talented, like Dzeko in particular. Hope they make the WC, would be nice underdog story. I had no idea it was the same coach of Cro's WC98, good news for them.

Btw, wtf is with that lineup? It has 2 midfielders and 4 forwards? Is this supposed to be the 50s? :D


P.S I thought you were Boris the Bullit dodger( the poster) due to your avatar, it make sense its a Macedonian making this nostalgic post :D
 

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Discussion Starter #3 (Edited)
Like the parts about Bosnia the best (hilarious bana republic way to run a FA :D), we all know about Serbia and Croatia, but Bosnia's current crop of bundesliga players are quite good and talented, like Dzeko in particular. Hope they make the WC, would be nice underdog story. I had no idea it was the same coach of Cro's WC98, good news for them.

Btw, wtf is with that lineup? It has 2 midfielders and 4 forwards? Is this supposed to be the 50s? :D
Pandev usually plays behind forwards,I 'm not sure about Dzeko...



it make sense its a Macedonian making this nostalgic post :D
ok if you say so :)
 

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I think that if Yugoslavia were together in early 90 they would have won World Cup :) ok that's just hipotetical and it is big "IF" but if I just remeber some of the players wow - Dejan Savicevic,Dragan Stojkovic - Piksi,Vladimir Jugovic,Robert Prosinecki,Davor Suker,Alen Boksic,Robert Jarni,Zvonimir Boban,Darko Pancev,Predrag Mijatovic,Sinisha Mihaljovic,Srecko Katanec,Sabanadzovic......and many more :)
Many of these players won World cup for young players in Chile in 88' and also many of them played when Red Star won CL in 1991. All of them were still very young than,and when they were on the pick of their careers bullsheet happend :(
I don't want to mix politics and to be nostalgic,I just got very interested when I saw jonathan artical and I wanted to hear your opinion ? :)
And Jonathan's list of players that would have played today for Yugoslavia is also very good....and I think that would have qualified for 2010 World Cup no metter in which group thay would have end up :D

Yeah, when you put that list together it makes you wonder. Some cracking players in there.

I suppose it's something us Brits think about; How good we'd have been in the 60s, 70s, 80s and to a lesser extent the 90s if we'd have been able to put together a team consisting of players from The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. If the England team could have been joined by the likes of Best, Law, Dalglish, Souness, Giggs etc

What we'd give to have Kenny Miller leading the line for us tonight.:(
 

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Yeah, when you put that list together it makes you wonder. Some cracking players in there.

I suppose it's something us Brits think about; How good we'd have been in the 60s, 70s, 80s and to a lesser extent the 90s if we'd have been able to put together a team consisting of players from The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. If the England team could have been joined by the likes of Best, Law, Dalglish, Souness, Giggs etc

What we'd give to have Kenny Miller leading the line for us tonight.:(
Yea you are right :thumbsup:
Giggs,Best,.......
It really makes you wonder :)
 

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Yeah, when you put that list together it makes you wonder. Some cracking players in there.

I suppose it's something us Brits think about; How good we'd have been in the 60s, 70s, 80s and to a lesser extent the 90s if we'd have been able to put together a team consisting of players from The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. If the England team could have been joined by the likes of Best, Law, Dalglish, Souness, Giggs etc

What we'd give to have Kenny Miller leading the line for us tonight.:(
Man, Just imagine England with Law and Best playin the world cup final against Brazil in 1970?? What a game it would be.
 

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what this guy doesn't realize is Eduardo would never get citizenship in Yugoslavia....Simunic wouldn't be allowed to play for the NT because he is from the diaspora (or any diaspora, you know how the Yugoslavs viewed diaspora). Yugoslavian selections were also politically, just ask Bilic

The team is good on paper, but it's Balkan x4...meaning they will choke when it matters or beat Brazil but then three days later lose to Iceland :D
 

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The team would be very good but not quite there to compete for a title probably. Deep line-up though.
 

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What, ex-Yugo's have small penises? :confused::D

On the article, what's to say that the team would be able to play to it's potential? It may well just sabotage itself from within, unfortunately.
 

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The article contradicts itself, first it goes to say the fragmentation of Yugoslavia and unification of Germany didn't have any effect and hence "size doesn't matter", then goes dreaming about how good a unified Yugoslavia would be which means size really matters.
 

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Each of our countries have great talent, Srbija is full of great defenders, Croatia has a bit of everything, Bosnia has the likes of Ibisevic & Salihovic (Hoffenheim), Dzeko & Misimovic (Wolfsburg), Stilic (Lech Poznan), Pjanic (Lyon), etc... We have lacked in defense, but with the returns of Nadarevic and Jahic to parter Spahic and Pandza, we have a great chance of getting the 2nd spot.

Spain 6 18
Bosnia 6 12
Turkey 6 8
Belgium 6 7
Estonia 6 5
Armenia 6 1

We won 2-1 in Zenica..
x2 Dzeko.
 

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Wish people would realise we have some very good wingers coming through. Krasic if he continues playing like he is, will be moving to a very big club. He's brilliant.
 

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It's looking promising for Bosnia this year but im still hopeful that Turkey can prevail and manage to reach that second position.
 

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Nice article not big on the formation at all. Simunic does not belong as a starting CB i know there trying to even the thing out a little but Krizanac or Ivanovic are much better options. Also there is no way Dragutinovic makes it in as starting left back 2 years ago yes now heck no. Obradovic belongs in that spot easily he is young but is a nice threat going forward and was lacking a little in the defensive part of his game but is really coming along well. For weaker teams you could also go with Danijel Pranjic because he adds to the attack very well but would be exposed against better competition.

Then we have his complaint about the lack of holding players and while we certainly aren't rich with talent in that area there are some prospects. Gojko Kacar, Ognjen Vukojevic and Nikola Pokrivac also Ivan Juric who is established in Italy but 33 and has not really conviced for the Croatian national team as of yet.

Lastly 4-2-3-1 is not really an ideal formation to me id go with a 4-4-2 with one midfielder sitting centerally in between the defense and three attacking midfielders and would go as follows.


Hanadovic(gk)-Srna(rb)-Vidic(cb)-Krizanac(cb)-Obradovic(lb)-Kacar(dmf)-Pandev(left wing)-Modric(centeral attacking midfielder)-Krasic(right wing)-Dzeko(cf)-Vucinic(cf)

I would have rather not put Pandev as a left winger but you need to include all the nationalities according to the article. I believe Misimovic,Salihovic, and Jovanovic are better options in that role. Same applies to Hanadovic he has talent no doubt but I'd much prefer Stojkovic or maybe even Pletikosa at this point.The reason i dropped Eduardo is because I don't think he would play for a united Yugoslavia even though I greatly admire him on and off the field.

kind of off topic but relevant I think Zlatan Ibrahimovic WOULD today be playing for a Yugoslavian national team. But since he plays for Sweden I selected Dzeko in his place no knock on Dzeko though I think this kid is going to be a good one.
 
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