x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Bosnian national team coach berates Dzeko for selfish behaviour

Susic says Manchester City striker will play when told to and will not have influence in call-ups

Bosnia-Herzegovina's Edin Dzeko, left, fights for the ball with Egypt's Ahmed Said Oka during their international friendly in Innsbruck, Austria, on March 5, 2014.  Pierre Teyssot / AFP
Bosnia-Herzegovina's Edin Dzeko, left, fights for the ball with Egypt's Ahmed Said Oka during their international friendly in Innsbruck, Austria, on March 5, 2014. Pierre Teyssot / AFP

SARAJEVO // Edin Dzeko will play for Bosnia when he is told to and will not be allowed to pick personal friends for the Balkan country’s national team, coach Safet Susic said on Saturday.

The normally soft-spoken Susic let rip following Bosnia’s 2-0 friendly defeat by Egypt on Wednesday, which unveiled a rift in the dressing room between the 58-year-old coach and Manchester City striker Dzeko, who criticised him for playing the full 90 minutes.

Dzeko, who was denied a substitution request in the second half, said immediately after the game he had agreed with Susic to be replaced at half time but the coach denied any such accord and also defended his decision to leave midfielder Senijad Ibricic out of the squad.

“There was no such agreement with Dzeko,” Susic told the online edition of the daily Dnevni Avaz.

“He wanted to come off in the second half but I left him on because despite his claim that he was suffering from a niggling knee injury, the team doctor said he was match fit with a proper warm-up.

“As long as I am in charge, Dzeko will play when and if deployed while he won’t be allowed to suggest or influence team selection in any way and that also goes for the captain, Emir Spahic, who also seemed to have his own ideas.

“I know it’s difficult to be without someone who’s a close friend and a roommate because I was a player, too, but I never dared question the coach’s decisions.

“The bottom line is, players who are not regular starters for their clubs are down the pecking order and those who are in the national team will do them no favours by advocating their selection.

“I don’t care if I have the players’ support or not because I don’t fear a public backlash, nor am I taking the team to the World Cup in Brazil on a tourist expedition. I told the players that a hundred times.”

The Bosnians, who reached their first major tournament as an independent nation, are in Group F with Argentina, Nigeria and Iran.

Having received a royal reception in Sarajevo when they secured their berth with a 1-0 win at Lithuania in October, the Bosnians were jeered by 10,000 fans who travelled to the Austrian city of Innsbruck for the Egypt friendly.

Dzeko, Bosnia’s top scorer in qualifying with 10 goals, was targeted throughout the second half and Susic said the striker would have to get used to all kinds of reactions.

“The present and the future matter more than the past in this business and the sooner Dzeko accepts that the better. People forget past merits very quickly and he can rest assured that they will jeer him again if he doesn’t live up to expectations.

“On that note, the defeat and the performance against Egypt should be a hard lesson learned by Dzeko and the rest of the team.”

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