Dzeko banking on home comforts with Bosnia

Bosnia's Edin Dzeko hopes to extend his birthday party with a World Cup qualifying win over Greece on Friday that would represent a big step forward for the Balkan country in their bid to reach their first major tournament as an independent nation.

Dzeko, who turned 27 on Sunday, acknowledged the Bosnians would have to be at their best in the cauldron of Zenica stadium to overcome the 2004 European champions, with the two teams leading Group I on 10 pojnts from four games each.

"This game is not decisive but a home win would take a lot of weight off our backs because Greece are the group favourites and being three points ahead of them after Friday's fixture would put us in the driving seat," Dzeko told reporters on Wednesday. 7

"A draw would also be a good result because we mustn't forget that Greece are a very strong team who've qualified for many major tournaments while we are trying to make a maiden appearance on the big stage," he said.

The Bosnians, eliminated by Portugal in the playoffs for the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012, will miss injured midfielder Sejad Salihovic, and playmaker Miralem Pjanic is doubtful with a sore ankle.


Bosnia coach Safet Susic, a versatile forward who scored 21 goals in 54 appearances for the former Yugoslavia, said he would ask Pjanic to declare whether he is fit to play several hours before the match.

"We naturally expect a good game and victory against Greece," Susic told reporters.

"It is our goal to remain top of the group and we will do our best to achieve that, although it's not going to be an easy task," he added.

The sides drew 0-0 in the reverse fixture in Athens and Bosnia will feel their optimism is well-founded having scored 15 goals in their campaign compared with Greece's five, although the bulk came in an 8-1 rout of Liechtenstein.

Greece coach Fernando Santos, who gave his players a day off on Monday, acknowledged the winner of Friday's clash would have the upper hand halfway through the battle to qualify for next year's 32-tournament in Brazil.

"Whoever wins the match, if there is a winner, will be very close to clinching the direct qualification spot," he said.

"But there is a long way to go and we mustn't forget that that Slovakia will keep chasing the both of us and the equation is not just about Bosnia and Greece."

The Greeks will miss injured Nikos Spyropoulos and Kyriakos Papadopoulos and uncapped 22-year old goalkeeper Juri Lodigin has been given a surprise call-up.

Central defender Avraam Papadopoulos is expected to return to the starting line-up for the first time since he limped out of Euro 2012 with a knee injury.