Bosnia vs Northern Ireland - Bosnia coach Prosinecki targets Nations League promotion

Posted Monday, October 15, 2018 by PA

Bosnia vs Northern Ireland - Bosnia coach Prosinecki targets Nations League promotion

Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill may no longer be particularly interested in the Nations League but that is not a view shared by Bosnia and Herzegovina counterpart Robert Prosinecki.

The two will pit their wits against each other on Monday night starting from very different positions.

Bosnia’s victory against the run of play in Belfast last month has helped propel them to the top of Group B3 while O’Neill’s men sit bottom after a 1-0 defeat to Austria, yet to pick up a point and facing the prospect of relegation.

O’Neill has insisted that would be of no great concern to him as he is focused on next year’s Euro 2020 qualifiers, but Prosinecki is targeting top spot and a promotion to League A.

“I would ask (O’Neill) if he would say the same had they won the last match,” Prosinecki said through a translator.

“Definitely for them maybe it’s more important to look to different matches for the Euro 2020 qualifying.

“For us, this is very important because the UEFA Nations League is an important competition and to be in League A is not a small thing.

“It’s definitely in our interest to be in first place, to be the best, and to play the best teams in Europe.”

But asked if O’Neill’s comments might indicate Northern Ireland would not play with the same determination on Monday, Prosinecki said not.

“When it comes to Northern Ireland’s attitude and the idea they might not try hard, I don’t believe so,” Prosinecki said. “It will be a difficult match and they will definitely try.”

Last month in Belfast, Northern Ireland dominated the match against Bosnia only to be undone by defensive mistakes in a 2-1 defeat.

O’Neill’s side enjoyed 67 per cent possession and had 26 attempts on goal at Windsor Park, but Prosinecki is confident there will be no repeat of that.

“I expect a completely different match this time around,” he said. “What’s important to mention is that we will play in front of our own fans.

“We know Northern Ireland well, we know this is a very, very good team. They had a strong chance against Austria and I think the result was not fair.

“We know quite well their mentality, which is that they will not give up. What is important for us is that we will try to dominate the match.”

Northern Ireland need to find a cutting edge away from home as they face the threat of relegation.

Friday’s 1-0 loss to Austria made it five away games in a row in which Northern Ireland have failed to score.

Anything but a win will take the relegation battle out of Northern Ireland’s hands, and that means finding a way of overcoming a Bosnia side who have lost just one of their last 11 competitive matches at home – a 4-3 loss to Belgium in World Cup qualifying.

“There’s no magic formula,” O’Neill said. “We need someone to stick the ball in the net, it’s as simple as that.

“We’re challenged a little bit at the moment with the striker situation.”

After Kyle Lafferty withdrew from the squad at the last minute, Liam Boyce missed the Austria game with a knee problem while Will Grigg suffered a hamstring injury after coming on as a substitute.

But Boyce returned to training on Sunday and could be involved to ease O’Neill’s concerns, with Josh Magennis and Kyle Vassell the only other fit strikers.

There has been no shortage of chances for Northern Ireland of late. They created 34 in their two games against Bosnia and Austria but ended up with only one goal.

Captain Steven Davis said that has created a frustration in the squad he wants to take out on Bosnia on Monday.

“Being clinical at this level is the difference,” the Southampton midfielder said.

“Even (against Austria), although we didn’t have as much control in the game, ultimately the best chance fell to me. If I’d have got that it would have put us in front and in a strong position.

“Of course we’re pleased that we’re creating chances, but it’s important that we’re clinical in front of goal.”

Northern Ireland have been on the back foot in this competition since they began with a 2-1 home loss to Bosnia last month – a particularly frustrating result given O’Neill’s team enjoyed 67 per cent possession and had 26 attempts at goal.

Nobody is expecting a repeat of those numbers on Monday, but if Northern Ireland could be the ones to capitalise on the break this time around, O’Neill would certainly be happy.

“We would like to have the level of possession we had in Belfast but we don’t think we’ll have that,” he said.

“I think we’ll have to be very strong defensively and the opportunities we get on the counter attack or through our own possession, we have to make sure we do better than we have done in the games so far in terms of turning that dominance into opportunities and goals.”

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