Bosnia-Herzegovina vs. Ivory Coast: Road to Brazil | International Friendly Preview
These two nations face off for the first time in their history. The World Cup test match will serve both in preparation for what awaits in Brazil with Bosnia set to face the likes of African side Nigeria in Group F (plus Argentina and Japan) and the Ivory Coast in Group C against European team Greece (as well as Colombia and Japan).
BOSNIA'S HOME AWAY FROM HOME: That's what St. Louis represents for the squad coached by Safet Susic given the large Bosnian community in the area. In fact, they played in the city as recently as last November against Argentina at Busch Stadium (2-0 defeat)
And a little home cooking should sit well for former St. Louis University star Vedad Ibisevic (READ: ESPN The Magazine feature), who had a rough season with his club in Germany (only one goal in 2014 for Stuttgart), but he showed over the weekend that the mojo comes back with his national team — he scored a brace in a scrimmage vs. Bosnia's U-21s (WATCH the goals here).
ONE OR TWO FORWARDS?: You'd expect Ibisevic to get the start against Ivory Coast once again, although some Bosnian media are pushing for a more conservative one-forward set-up with Manchester City's Edin Dzeko when they face Argentina again in a game that counts: June 15 in Rio de Janeiro (6 pm ET, ESPN). But the real issue might be at centerback given injury (Ermin Bicakcic) and visa issues (Ervin Zukanovic).
ARE IVORY COAST UP FOR IT?: For their part, after a few days of training in Dallas, Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast) look like they're also feeling right at home in St. Louis, taking in a Cardinals baseball game this week.
But the Elephants are going to need to roll up the sleeves on those orange jerseys if they're going to convince critics like Tottenham striker Emmanuel Adebayor, who says that "When the moment comes, [Ivory Coast] forget to do their work. How else could it be that in the last 4-5 years, they have not won the African Cup of Nations? Everyone wants to be a hero and that's what kills Ivory Coast."
To which the Ivorians say this:
— SergeAurierOfficiel (@Serge_Aurier) May 29, 2014
YAYA A NO-NO?: But if they're going to make a run in Brazil, the Ivory Coast can't do without their own Manchester City star, Yaya Toure, who reports indicate is set to miss the Bosnia match, following treatment in Qatar for what he called a small tear in his left thigh. The influential midfield gatekeeper has been the only member of the provisional 28-man squad absent from camp and he was scheduled to join the team on Thursday.
THE STAR YOU KNOW
- Edin Dzeko, forward, Bosnia-Herzegovina: He may have won the English Premier League title with ManCity, scoring some key goals along the way. But he was still not a first-choice selection on a star-studded squad. The rumors of a potential move might gain steam with a monster showing in Brazil.
THE PLAYER WHO WILL SURPRISE YOU
- Gervinho, winger, Ivory Coast: He's only 27, but he's already played in a World Cup back in 2010. He didn't show off his best side in South Africa or in England with Arsenal. Things have changed this last season in Italy with AS Roma and the Elephants will hope they have rediscovered a talent who many expect could turn into the revelation of Brazil 2014.
The grass field is set for Bosnia & Herzegovina and Ivory Coast to practice at the Edward Jones Dome tonight! pic.twitter.com/n7KsZE4r5n
— St. Louis Rams (@STLouisRams) May 29, 2014