Bosnia sack coach Susic after Israel fiasco

SARAJEVO (Reuters) - Bosnia have sacked coach Safet Susic after a poor start to their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign culminated in Sunday’s 3-0 defeat by Israel which left their chances of reaching the 24-nation tournament hanging by a thread.

Bosnia national soccer team coach Safet Susic watches a training session in Zenica, November 12, 2014. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

“The Bosnian football association (NFSBIH) thanks Susic for the historic achievement of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup and it will never be forgotten,” the governing body’s general secretary Jasmin Bakovic told a news conference on Monday.

Susic was criticised for his tactics and team selection in Bosnia’s group stage exit from the June 12-July 13 tournament in Brazil and came under more pressure after a shock 2-1 home defeat by Cyprus in their Euro 2016 qualifying Group B opener.

The 59-year old former international forward, who scored 21 goals in 54 appearances for communist Yugoslavia, was granted a stay of execution after draws with Wales and Belgium but the Israel rout proved to be the final straw.

Bitter after the NFSBIH executive board unanimously relieved him of his duties, Susic said he was convinced Bosnia would have stood a better chance of reaching the European Championship finals if he had stayed in charge.

“I won’t feel accountable if we don’t qualify because the prospect of winning five of the six remaining matches and clinching a berth should be realistic,” he told Bosnian media.

“I hope the football association made the right decision while I will take a short break and then accept one of the offers that have come my way in the past few months.”

Asked if he regretted not stepping down after the World Cup, Susic said: “No. I wanted to take the national team to Euro 2016 after reaching the World Cup but the football association’s faith evaporated after the Cyprus defeat.”

Having taken over in 2009, Susic suffered a pair of successive playoff defeats by Portugal, in 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012 qualifying, before the Balkan nation hailed him as hero when they secured a 2014 World Cup berth.

But falling out with top scorer Edin Dzeko in a 2-0 friendly defeat by Egypt in March seemed to be a turning point as Bosnia failed to reproduce their qualifying form at the World Cup finals and then made a woeful start in Euro 2016 qualifying.

Writing by Zoran Milosavljevic in Belgrade; Editing by Ken Ferris