Underwhelming Bosnia won’t get second chance in Portugal
No spark, a terrible pitch, shoddy set pieces and zero goals. This first leg play-off between Bosnia and Portugal would have done nothing to change the minds of the ever-increasing critics of international football.
In a season where goals have come freely in both domestic and European football, this underwhelming international spectacle suggested that neither side will be making much of an impression in Poland and Ukraine next summer, whoever it is who finally makes it through.
Quite who that side will be is still up for grabs as, unlike the winning outfits in the three other play-off ties, neither team here grabbed the initiative.
It is Portugal, though, who are rightly seen as favourites (1/2 to win on Tuesday) over Bosnia (11/2), and this is not simply down to home advantage.
Last night Portugal dictated for 70 minutes, dominating the central midfield while Nani and Ronaldo offered penetrating width. Their problem was a recurring one, however, with Helder Postiga a blunt knife upfront and his replacement Hugo Almeida looking equally tame.
Bosnia, impressive in the group stages and only 11 minutes from qualifying automatically at the expense of France, were guilty of giving their opponents too much respect – no doubt a result of their World Cup play-off exit to the very same side two years ago.
Nonetheless, as disappointing as they were, second-half substitute Vedad Ibisevic was gifted two glorious opportunities late but failed to hand Bosnia an undeserved advantage heading to Lisbon.
Coach Safet Susic will know that in those two late opportunities they may have seen their chances of qualifying for their first major tournament disappear, particularly given Portugal’s home record – they last lost at home in 2008, 19 games ago.