O’Neill looks to learn from Coleman's Bosnia mistakes

Wales managed only one point against Balkans during qualifying campaign

Martin O'Neill will meet with his Welsh counterpart Chris Coleman over the next week as he looks to benefit from the experience of a man whose team qualified automatically for next summer's European Championships but failed to beat the Bosnians either home or away.

Edin Dzeko and co were superior both times against the Welsh. While they failed to capitalise on the slight superiority in Cardiff, where the two sides played out a scoreless draw a year ago, their greater urgency in Zenica was a significant factor as goals from Vedad Ibisevic and Milan Djuric earned them a vital three points.

"I think their group was a difficult one but what you have now is a resurgent Bosnia, " says O'Neill. "It's not the side that opened up the campaign and were kind of all over the place.

Top players

“They’ve sorted out a bonus system and they’ll be ready for the game; they’ve got their top players available to play but particularly I think the difference is in the attitude now of the Bosnian players compared to at the start of the group. I think it would be interesting to hear Chris’s view on that.

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“So, yes, I have spoken to Chris and I’m going to meet up with him early next week. Any information that he can give me about Bosnia is absolutely welcome. I called him a few days ago and he was very helpful.

“We will definitely meet up and it would be nice to see what his thoughts are on Bosnia in terms of the change of attitude from the first game they played to the one where Bosnia beat them over there when they needed to win. That information would be great.”

O'Neill said that he was slightly concerned about the fitness of Jon Walters after Tuesday night's dramatic League Cup defeat of Chelsea in which the striker was on the receiving end of a nasty-looking challenge not long after opening the scoring for Stoke. Still, he admitted a certain level of anxiety would be unavoidable whenever his players lined out between now and the first play-off game.

"I go to the games thinking I'll enjoy them for 10 minutes. But then . . . I said to the chairman of Stoke in the boardroom that I don't think you should play Jon anymore. Peter Coates, he's very good, I like him a lot and of course he started laughing."

Available

O'Neill believes that he is reasonably well fixed as things stand in the lead-up to the game with John O'Shea, Shane Long and Shay Given all likely to be available again even if two of the three might find first-team opportunities hard to come by at their clubs between now and then.

O’Shea, like Walters, is suspended for the first game but both are viewed as having big parts to play in the second, assuming they are fit. Long’s goal against the Germans was a reminder of what he can be at his best but the striker’s injury in Poland prevented him building on that performance and the manager admitted it may be difficult for him now to find his way back into a thriving Southampton side.

Aiden McGeady has a similar problem at Everton. Having apparently recovered from long-standing problems, McGeady has barely been able to get beyond the bench.

“He says he is fit, not match sharp, which is the point, but he is fit and over the injury he had that meant he wasn’t available for the Scotland game; it’s something that has sorted itself out,” said the manger.

“So from that viewpoint, he is training regularly and just hasn’t been able to break through.

“Of course, he would like to be playing pretty regularly. But I think that is something that is up to him, to try to break into the Everton side.

“If he can’t do so, then fitness can be an issue but I still think he is worth it for us, that he might just come on and do something or, even if he was not to start a game, give a cameo role. That is why he’s worth having around.”

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone is Industry and Employment Correspondent at The Irish Times