Bosnia: Guso; Hujdorovic, Mujcin (Topic 80'),
Hibic, Varesanovic, Salihamidzic, Sabic (Moratovic 86'), Akrapovic, Barbarez,
Spain: Casillas; Manuel Pablo, Abelardo, Paco, Sergi; Mendieta, Iván Helguera, Gerard (Guerrero 84'), Munitis (Etxeberria 58'); Raúl, Urzaiz (Celades 69').
0-1. 38. Gerard. Took Medieta's pass with his heel and shot into roof of net.
1-1. 41. Baljic. Free kick from wide on right which went through a crowd of players.
1-2. 71. Etxeberria. First time volley from edge of area as ball fell after clearance
Hello, Borja here together with my good mate Goran reporting on Spain's opening match for the World Cup qualifiers. Well there must of been some mistake here, Mr. Blatter's people seem to have drawn us against two teams at once, Bosnia and Herzegovina! Maybe, I thought, it is one of those double headers that you get in baseball. With so many matches to play in a season they are now loading them up two at a time? But no, my Balkans advisor Goran Arsic assures me that there is only one match and that Bosnia Herzegovina is the name given to one of the countries formed after the breaking up of Yugoslavia. Goran is going to be very useful in the future with so many new countries appearing every day. Before long nine out of every ten countries we play will be from East Europe if this keeps up. Anyway, Goran says that this should be an easy one for Spain and I shouldn't worry. Shouldn't worry? We're off to unknown territory where the only Spaniards are soldiers from the UN peacekeeping force and there are a reported one million unexploded landmines lying around? I mentioned this to my doctor during my annual check-up last week and he reassuringly told me that they are now recommending a stroll down Sarajevo high street as a sure cure for patients suffering from acute constipation. Funny sense of humour he's got, my doctor.
A quick look at the team sheets. After the disaster against Germany Camacho has made more changes and brought back a few old faces. In come Sergi, Helguera, Munitis and Urzaiz from the Euro 2000 squad, and Julen Guerrero and Celades were called up after playing well in their pre-season matches. Morientes was still injured, and Guardiola limped out of training (he is likely to be out for up to three months) and was replaced by Dani. The big change though was in goal, where Casillas was included in the starting line up for the first time. This was not a bad move; Casillas is young and has much to learn, but he is no worse than the four of five keepers Camacho has used recently and if he is to be the man of the future better he start now. As for Bosnia, Goran reminded me that three of their team (Hibic, Baljic and Bolic) play or have played in Spain, and Salihamidzic (try saying that after five pints of lager) plays for Bayern Munich. Nuff said.
Well we finally arrive at the Kosevo stadium in Sarajevo. All around the country there are signs of the recent war and it is hard to imagine what it must have been like to live through it. Still, the atmosphere is lively, although Goran advises me not to shout 'shoot' even if Raúl is five yards away from the goal, as some of the old sharpshooters may still have itchy trigger fingers. As I look up at the end where all the Spanish flags are waving, at first I think that we have been misinformed by the press - Spain must be playing in khaki shirts, as all the Spanish supporters are wearing what must be their team colours. But no, it's just the 650 or so soldiers in full battle uniform. I feel a little bit safer at least.
The first few minutes of the match belong to the home side, and Bosnia are unlucky not to be awarded a penalty for a possible hand ball by Abelardo. With the season in Spain not yet started the Spanish players are lacking match practice, and we start to get a bit concerned as Baljic, keen to show Real Madrid that they made a mistake letting him go on loan to Fenerbahce, shoots just wide. But then Spain come back, and Guso is forced to make a brilliant save from a Mendieta free kick. Casillas saves from Bolic and then 'gol, gol, gol', Mendieta lobs a pass to the edge of the area and Gerard, bringing the ball through with his heel, passes his defender and drives the ball into the roof of the net. But then disaster strikes just as we are settling down. Bosnia win a free kick wide on the right and Baljic strikes the ball hard and low. There should have been no danger, but somehow the ball creeps round/through the wall and past a crowd of players into the net. Back to the starting blocks, and we are lucky not to go into the break one down as Bolic places a shot wide.
Early into the second half Camacho brings on Etxeberria for Munitis (on the left!) and Celades comes on for Urzaiz, his first appearance since Camacho took over. Raúl is left alone up front (incidentally he makes a real pig's ear of a shot with his left foot) and Camacho appears to be going for the draw as Bosnia press forward, with Baljic and Barbarez both going close. But then the miracle happens. The ball bobbles up in the air after a headed clearance, and Etxeberria, on the edge of the area, hits it on the volley as it drops. Only one of these goes in out of every 100, but this is the one and the ball speeds past Guso and into the 'saco de cebollos'. There is a wave of khaki, red and yellow as the tension breaks, and then it is all Iker Casillas as he keeps out the Bosnia front line, including one spectacular point blank save from Hujdorovic. Julen comes on for Gerard near the end to calm things down, but Spain are old hands at this and they keep possession until referee Herr Fandel of Germany blows the final whistle. Spain have got out of jail and record their first three points, but you have to feel sorry for Bosnia, who deserved more. Hopefully things will improve when Israel visit the Bernabeu in Madrid next month.
After the match we stop in a local bar for a beer. In walks a Serb and says 'a drink for everyone in the house'. 'That'll cost you a bomb' says the barman. 'It's under the table', replies the Serb, 'and you've got ten minutes to get out'. 'Last orders gentlemen please', calls our host. We decide it's time to go....