Bosnia overwhelmed by class of Boksic

Lara Santoro sees a potentially volatile fixture in Bologna end in a convincing victory
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The Independent Online
The fledgling team from Bosnia-Herzogovina were trounced 4-1 by their more celebrated rivals from Croatia in a World Cup qualifying Group One match here last night.

The two teams were playing in their first competitive sporting event since 1993. The game took place in Italy because of the fears of football's world governing body, Fifa, about security and facilities had it been played at Bosnia's home Kosevo Stadium in Sarajevo. Despite the fraught build-up to the game, it passed off without serious incident in a largely empty stadium.

Two second-half goals from Alen Boksic of Juventus emphasised the gulf in class between the sides, and but for the heroics of the Bosnian goalkeeper Fahrudin Omerovic the Croats, who created numerous chances, would have won by a much larger margin.

Early on, however, Bosnia, most of whose team is made up of Bosnian Muslims, had shown they would put up a fight in a fixture laden with non- football overtones. Their brief period of glory came through the Hamburg player, Hasan Salihamidzic.

Salihamidzic scored Bosnia's equaliser, after the Croats had taken the lead from a crisp volley by West Ham's Slaven Bilic after 14 minutes. Salihamidzic's well-taken goal came against the run of play after 25 minutes, and there was the brief threat of an upset. But the Croats responded seven minutes later to re-establish their advantage thanks to a goal from Goran Vlaovic.

Boksic made the game safe after the break, with a neat lob in the 63rd minute and a curling, right-footed shot six minutes from time.

For the Bosnians, who have already been beaten 3-0 by the Greeks in Group One, the only heartening news on a historic night came from Imola where their Under-21 team beat Croatia 3-1.

In Bologna, a few hundred fans, mostly Croatian, were under intense scrutiny from the press after police reports of a few isolated incidents before kick-off in which cars were damaged and blows were exchanged.

Most of the fighting seemed to be amongst Croats, but in one incident police said a group of approximately 50 Croat supporters threw beer bottles at three Bosnian fans as they tried to make their way into the Stadio Renato Dall'Aria. The three Bosnian fans had apparently given a victory sign to the rival group of supporters. There were no reports of severe injury.

"The problems with the Croats is that they're drunk," said one police officer. A group of about 20 raucous fans from Rijeka, in Croatia, braved the rain to parade bare-chested, beating on drums and howling nationalist songs. Taking their place in the stands still bare-chested, they scrambled for sweaters as the evening progressed and temperatures dipped.

Most supporters from Croatia either rode on buses, hired by local football clubs or drove across the border sharing food and petrol costs.

Adil Sehezdin, an 18-year-old supporter from Zagreb, drove 12 hours through the night to make it to the game on time. "No politics," he said, "this is my team, my country."

Bosnian fans turned out in predictably smaller numbers and were a hardly visible presence. Organisers said less than a hundred actually made it to the game.

BOSNIA: Omerovic (Istanbul Sport); Sabic (Osijek), Besirevic (Osijek), Konjic (FC Zurich), Katana (Anderlecht), Geca (Visoko), Smajic (Basle), Bazdarevic (Nimes), Bolic (Tofas B), Teloigovic (Daewoo, S Kor), Salihamidzic (Hamburg). Substitutions: Pintul (Zeljernic) for Konjic, 17; Halilovic (Hapoel Tel Aviv) for Teloigovic, 59.

CROATIA: Ladic (FC Croatia, Zagreb); Jurcevic (Freiburg), Jarni (Real Betis), Jerkan (Nottm Forest), Soldo (Stuttgart), Bilic (West Ham Utd), Asanovic (Derby County), Vlaovic (Valencia), Suker (Real Madrid), Boban (Milan), Boksic (Juventus). Substitutions: Mamic (VfL Bochum) for Vlaovic, 22; Simic (FC Croatia) for Jurcevic, 42; Citanovic (FC Croatia) for Bilic, 86.

Referee: F Ouzuonov (Bulgaria).