Portugal v Bosnia – World Cup Qualifying Playoff

Portugal v Bosnia
Saturday 14 November 2009 and Wednesday 18 November 2009
2010 World Cup Qualifying

If a third straight World Cup is to be in Portugal’s future, Carlos Queiroz’s side must get past Bosnia in the present, and they’re going to have to do it without Cristiano Ronaldo.

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The Real Madrid star injured his right ankle in a Champions League tie against Marseille at the end of September, and after aggravating the injury in Portugal’s World Cup qualifier against Hungary on Oct. 10, Ronaldo has been absent.

Even when present, however, Ronaldo wasn’t nearly as prolific for his country in World Cup qualifying as he has been at club level, which could be part of the reason why Portugal find themselves in the position they are right now.

Of course, one can’t pin everything on Ronaldo, because the rest of the squad misfired to the tune of three 0-0 draws that put Portugal in a rather precarious position halfway through qualifying. But, they woke up in a big way in the second half of qualifying, picking up 13 of a possible 15 points in their last five matches to surge past Sweden and Hungary for the runner-up spot in Group One behind winners Denmark.

With Ronaldo out, Portugal will rely on a couple of World Cup veterans to help create and produce. Simao led Portugal with four goals in qualifying, with three coming in their two vital wins last month, and he’ll be a key for Portugal, along with Deco, who’s revived his Chelsea career under Carlo Ancelotti.

These next two matches also present the opportunity for Nani to showcase his abilities, and if he’s switched on, he might be the man that leads Portugal to a berth in South Africa. Or it could be Liedson, who made a quick impact upon his call-up to the Portuguese squad, scoring a vital equalizer on his debut against Denmark in September.

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Bosnia & Herzegovina Preview

While Portugal look to qualify for the third time in a row and the fourth time overall, Bosnia are on the verge of making history and qualifying for the World Cup for the first time.

Spain ran away with Group 5, reeling off 10 wins in 10, but Bosnia booked a place in the playoffs by virtue of finishing four points ahead of third-place Turkey.

There’s a good chance that Portugal will need at least a few goals, because Bosnia have the capability to rip their defense apart from several directions.

Those who follow the Bundesliga closely can attest to the talents of Wolfsburg duo Edin Dzeko and Zvjezdan Misimovic, and as they helped spearhead Wolfsburg’s Bundesliga title run last season, they led Bosnia’s run to a place in the playoffs.

Dzeko finished with nine goals in qualification, while Misimovic netted five times. The threats don’t stop there, whether it’s strikers Vedad Ibisevic and Zlatan Muslimovic, or other playmakers in Sejad Salihovic, Senijad Ibricic, or rising young star Miralem Pjanic.

Portugal v Bosnia Prediction

Portugal host the first leg at the Estadio da Luz in Lisbon, and Bosnia had their struggles in away fixtures against their tougher Group 5 opponents, losing to both Spain and Turkey. However, Portugal lost to Denmark and drew against Sweden on home soil, so Bosnia should be confident about being able to be at least on level terms going into Wednesday’s second leg at the Bilino Polje in Zenica.

Prediction: Bosnia to qualify.

Listen to all our World Cup qualifying predictions on this week’s Soccerlens podcast.

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