Bosnia-Herzegovina earns first World Cup berth, tops Lithuania on Ibisevic’s winner
Bosnia-Herzegovina made history Tuesday, qualifying for its first World Cup in its fifth attempt as an independent nation.
The Bosnians, who haven’t advanced to a European Championship either, defeated Lithuania, 1-0, on a late goal from Vedad Ibišević. The VfB Stuttgart forward is already well known in St. Louis, where he lived as a child and played college soccer for the Billikens. He’ll now be immortal in Bosnia thanks to his 68th-minute finish in Kaunas.
Bosnia finished UEFA Group G play at 9-1-1 and qualified for the World Cup over Greece, which had an identical record but a far inferior goal differential. The Greeks beat visiting Liechtenstein 2-0 Tuesday and will have a second crack at a berth in Brazil in next month’s European playoffs.
Bosnia mounted sustained pressure on the host Lithuanians but failed to break through, thanks in large part to goalkeeper Giedrius Arlauskis, who plays for Russian club Rubin Kazan. Bosnia’s Senad Lulić (Lazio) put the ball past Arlauskis in the 62nd minute but was correctly ruled offside. Four minutes later, Ibišević blasted an almost perfect first-time shot that the goalie somehow reached.
But there was nothing Arlauskis could do in the 68th as Edin Džeko’s cross from the left found Ibišević unmarked just a few yards from the goal. It was an easy and historic finish for the 29-year-old.
Bosnia is ranked 18th in the world and has come close to advancing to the past two major tournaments. It fell in a two-leg playoff to Portugal before both the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012. Portugal will have to go through the playoff again thanks to Russia’s qualification Wednesday, but Bosnia is headed straight to Brazil.