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Soccer-Bosnia's Susic under fire ahead of key visit to Slovakia

Reuters

SARAJEVO, Sept 9 (Reuters) - A shock 1-0 home defeat by Slovakia has left Bosnia coach Safet Susic fending off criticism from fans and media for his team selection ahead of a pivotal reverse fixture against the same opposition on Tuesday.

Friday's reverse ended Bosnia's unbeaten run in World Cup qualifying Group G and allowed Greece to draw level at the top with 16 points from seven matches, four more than third-placed Slovakia who hauled themselves back into the hunt for a top-two finish after their win in Zenica.

Former Yugoslavia forward Susic, who won widespread praise for the team's flamboyant style which had produced 23 goals until Friday's setback, was incensed with being on the receiving end for the first time.

"We have only ourselves to blame for losing the match against Slovakia and all we can do now is deny the droves of fans who seem to think that they are more qualified to coach Bosnia than I am," the 58-year old was quoted as saying by daily Oslobodenje on Monday.

"I resent the criticism because if I had fielded a different line-up and we still lost it would have been the same. The fans were unaware that Mensur Mujdza was unfit to play and Avdija Vrsajevic jumped in as a last minute replacement at the back."

The Bosnians host Lichtenstein and visit Lithuania in their final two group matches in October after the trip to Slovakia and Susic conceded his team had underestimated the Slovaks who will be fired-up to complete the double over his men.

"After watching Slovakia's 1-1 draw with Romania in a friendly, we got the ill-judged impression that we would win easily and perhaps we shouldn't have watched it at all," he said.

"The players are still dejected and it's my job now to lift them for what will be a very difficult match in Zilina, where we will have to perform within out limits to win and stay in the driving seat.

"Mujdza has recovered and will take back his slot in defence from Vrsajevic, while Miralem Pjanic is nursing a knock but should be fit."

The Bosnians have never qualified for a major tournament as an independent nation, having lost to Portugal in the playoffs for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine. (Writing by Zoran Milosavljevic in Belgrade; editing by Justin Palmer)

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