By Stephen Eisenhammer
RIO DE JANEIRO, June 15 (Reuters) - Bosnia paid the price for stage fright in their maiden World Cup appearance against heavyweights Argentina and will head into the next two group matches buoyed by a good performance, coach Safet Susic said after their 2-1 defeat on Sunday.
The Bosnians rarely looked second best against the twice Word Cup winners at the Maracana but were undone by an unlucky Sead Kolasinac own goal and a dazzling Lionel Messi effort before Vedad Ibisevic pulled one back in the Group F game.
"As I said yesterday the objective was to make it as difficult as we can for Argentina, the favourites to win the World Cup, and I think we played well in both halves," Susic told a news conference.
"When you play Argentina you have to play well and also have a great deal of luck. It was only because of the psychological pressure that we looked as if we had run out of steam a little bit in the closing stages," he added.
"We hope that the goal we scored will mean a lot to us in the upcoming games. We will probably need to amass four or even six points to go through but I told the lads this wasn't the crucial match.
"I am convinced that we still have everything to play for. Watching Argentina is one thing but playing against them is another. They are a great team with outstanding individuals and we definitely have no regrets."
Susic originally intended to deploy defensive midfielder Muhamed Besic to man-mark Messi but made a tactical U-turn in a bid to increase midfield creativity at the risk of giving the Argentine room to operate.
The decision, as well as leaving Ibisevic on the bench, backfired as Bosnia lacked bite up front while Messi's only real burst of quality produced Argentina's second goal after he was allowed to drive through the middle and beat keeper Asmir Begovic with a sizzling low shot.
Still, former Yugoslavia forward Susic defended his choices.
"It is difficult to play Messi or a player like him, I originally thought of man marking him but it is impossible," he said.
"I gave him some freedom but instructed my players that the nearest one to him must close him down whenever he gets the ball.
"And I don't regret at all leaving Ibisevic on the bench. We started two friendlies (before the World Cup) with the same formation and everything worked perfectly.
"I told Ibisevic before the match that we cannot play with two strikers against Argentina, it would have been too risky."
Ibisevic acknowledged Bosnia were somewhat overwhelmed by the occasion.
"It was an amazing feeling to play at the Maracana," he said.
"We were a little bit unlucky with the first goal and after that we were a little bit scared. After they scored the second it was too late to salvage a point."
(Writing by Zoran Milosavljevic, editing by Ed Osmond)
- Sports & Recreation
- Lionel Messi
- Vedad Ibisevic
- Safet Susic