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OFFICIAL club website of stoke city

FIFA World Cup Brazil 2014 Preview: Asmir Begovic

ASMIR BEGOVIC might be having sleepless nights ahead of Bosnia & Herzegovina's debut at the World Cup Finals - he's got to face Lionel Messi and co in the very first game!

But when Stoke City's goalkeeper walks out at a sold-out Maracana in Rio de Janeiro this evening (kick off 11.00pm BST) to face an Argentina side littered with stars, he'll be buoyed by the pride of a nation that makes its bow at the tournament following their independence in 1992.

Whilst scoring his first ever goal against Southampton back in November will be one highlight for Asmir to look back on, the World Cup is sure to be the pinnacle of his professional career.

How big an achievement is it for you personally to be going to the World Cup Finals this summer?

"It's a huge achievement and going to a World Cup is the pinnacle of any player's career and my desire is no different. I'm super excited because it's been a lifelong dream of mine and there's been a lot of hard work that I've had to do, so going to the World Cup will be fantastic."

What would represent a successful tournament for you as a nation?

"If we're being realistic, with it being our first major tournament, we need to go there and make sure we make the most of the experience and give a good account of ourselves. Results wise we want to get out of the group stages and if we can do that it will be a huge success. I believe in the squad we have, we have some quality players and I think we can surprise a few people, but getting out of the group is a first target and anything after that is a bonus.'

We all know about you as a player Asmir, but which of your teammates could rise to stardom and make a name for themselves out in South America?

"Well we have more established players like Edin Dzeko who's at Manchester City of course and our captain Emir Spahic who has been playing in Europe for a while. Vedad Ibisevic is a quality striker and our left back Sead Kolasinac is a young talented boy who can make a big impact but there is Miralem Pjanic who is a big star at AS Roma, he is a young vibrant player who I believe could become to be one of the best in the world and can potentially be a star at the World Cup."

Can you give us a random fact about your country that maybe not many people would be aware of?

"We hosted the 1984 Winter Olympics, in fact in the opening ceremony the flag was raised upside down by mistake. We also speak three different languages - Bosnian, Croatian or Serbian."

Tell us why Stoke City supporters should adopt Bosnia as their second country of choice, after England of course?

"I think they should adopt us because we could be the feel good story of the World Cup and we are the underdog, one of the smallest countries in the competition in fact. We could be the story of the World Cup and for them there is surely nothing better that to see a Stoke player playing in the tournament."


POPULATION // 3.83 million
NATIONAL DISH // Cevapi - a grilled dish of minced meat, which Begovic admits to being his favourite meal
NATIONAL ANTHEM // Drzavna himna Bosne I Hercegovine
BEST WORLD CUP FINISH // Never previously qualified

A creative midfielder who played more than 350 games for Paris Saint Germain, Susic had previously coached in France and Turkey before taking his current role as Bosnia boss in 2009. He has secured himself a spot in history by leading the nation to their first every international finals.

Experienced and dogged Bayer Leverkusen centre half, the 33-year-old has also played club football in Russia and Spain. He recently suggested that Begovic could be the future captain of his country.

Regarded as one of the most potent strikers in Europe, Dzeko may not get regular starts for Manchester City but his goal-scoring pedigree is there for all to see, and boasts an impressive record at international level having netted 33 goals in 58 internationals.

Topping their qualifying group on goal difference after a nervy 1-0 away win in Lithuania last year. The result sparked wild celebrations back in Bosnia as hundreds of thousands of football fanatics took to the streets to celebrate the landmark achievement.

Begovic had the choice to represent Canada and Bosnia earlier in his career. Despite featuring at youth level for Canada, he eventually opted to play competitively for Bosnia and Herzegovina, the country of his birth, five years ago.

Bosnia & Herzegovina vs Argentina - Sunday 15th June (11.00pm British Summer Time)
Bosnia & Herzegovina vs Nigeria - Saturday 21st June (11.00pm)
Bosnia & Herzegovina vs Iran - Wednesday 25th June (5.00pm)

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