Bosnia coach Blazevic has just one wish

SARAJEVO - Bosnia's impressive World Cup qualifying double over Belgium left their Croatian coach Miroslav Blazevic in raptures and wanting to avoid his home country if the Balkan rivals reach the playoffs. Their potentially explosive clash is a possibility as both teams occupy runners-up slots in their respective groups, with the eight best second-placed teams advancing to the playoffs for four berths in next year's finals.

"We are looking good for a playoff berth after demonstrating our class in this historic double win over Belgium," said Blazevic, who guided his native Croatia to third place in the 1998 World Cup.

"I dread the possibility of playing my Croatia for a berth in the finals, I wouldn't know what to feel because I would really have mixed emotions about it.

"I'd rather play Switzerland, which is also my home, but the most important thing is that we make the most of our good schedule and don't let this opportunity slip."

Bosnia are four points ahead of Turkey and six behind leaders Spain with four games to go in Group Five following their 4-2 and 2-1 wins over Belgium on Saturday and Wednesday. They are at home to Turkey on Sept. 9 and Spain on Oct. 14 in two of their remaining four qualifiers.

Croatia are three points clear of Ukraine in second place in Group Six and five behind leaders England.

MASS CELEBRATIONS

Bosnia's accomplishment triggered mass celebrations in Sarajevo and other cities as it brought the Muslims, Croats and Serbs together in a rare display of national pride in an ethnically divided country.

The three ethnic groups, embroiled in a bloody conflict in the 1990s when Bosnia emerged as an independent nation from the rubble of communist Yugoslavia, flocked the streets together to rejoice until the early hours of Thursday.

"Blazevic deserves a statue because he has made us love our country again," said a teenage girl in Sarajevo, where fans waved Bosnian flags from the car windows of a seemingly endless motorcade.

Many of them hailed their new national hero Edin Dzeko after the Wolfsburg striker scored three goals over both games including a double on Wednesday.

Bosnia's team includes players from all three ethnic groups and another fan said the squad should serve as "a model to Bosnian politicians in building a prosperous state."

Blazevic seemed to echo his view.

"I was proud more than ever to hear the fans cheer in one voice Serb goalkeeper Nemanja Supic and myself," he said.

"Few teams can beat Belgium twice in (the space of) four days and that shows the team chemistry is fantastic."