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Preview: Bosnia-Herzegovina vs. Finland - prediction, team news, lineups

:Headline: Preview: Bosnia-Herzegovina vs. Finland - prediction, team news, lineups:
Sports Mole previews Saturday's World Cup Qualifying - Europe clash between Bosnia-Herzegovina and Finland, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
Sports Mole

Bosnia-Herzegovina and Finland will both aim to move above Ukraine into second place in World Cup 2022 Qualifying Group D during Saturday's battle at the Bilino Polje Stadium.

The hosts occupy fourth spot in the group with seven points taken from six games so far, while Markku Kanerva's side are one point and one place better off than their opponents.

Match preview

Resident draw specialists Bosnia have certainly displayed a true sense of resilience to keep their World Cup 2022 hopes alive, but failure to convert one point into three has been their downfall for the majority of this Qualifying period so far.

A 2-0 victory over Kazakhstan last month represented the hosts' first win of Group D at the fifth attempt, but they followed that up with a 1-1 draw against Ukraine to leave their hopes of a spot in Qatar hanging in the balance, as Anel Ahmedhodzic cancelled out Andriy Yarmolenko's opener.

Ukraine are not in action until Tuesday having played a game more than most of the other sides in their group, and with Bosnia only two points behind their counterparts, a home victory would see them occupy the playoff place before the final matchday in Group D.

Last month's stalemate with Ukraine saw Ivaylo Petev's side stretch their unbeaten run across all tournaments to five matches - during which time they have won twice and chalked up seven goals - but that pair of victories represent their only triumphs from their last 18 games.

A spot in just their second World Cup as an independent nation could still be on the cards for Bosnia, but they are now winless in four World Cup Qualifying games at home, and their opponents harbour similar aspirations of a second-placed finish.

Seeking to follow up their first-ever European Championships appearance with a maiden World Cup bow, Finland kept their hopes of a second-placed standing and a spot in the playoffs well and truly alive against basement side Kazakhstan last time out.

Three days after going down 2-1 to rivals Ukraine, Teemu Pukki banked his fifth and six goals of qualification to hand his side their second win of Group D following a previous 1-0 success over Kazakhstan back in September, but it has been a struggle for Finland to produce the goods against their fellow Qatar hopefuls.

A tally of eight points from a possible 18 sees Finland sit third in the group as things stand - one point behind Ukraine with a game in hand - but a draw will not be enough to see them usurp the Blue and Yellow in the rankings due to the inferior goal difference.

A nail-biting finish to Group D is set to ensue with three teams all still capable of booking their spot in the playoffs, and Pukki was once again the star of the show in his side's first meeting with Bosnia - bagging another brace in a 2-2 stalemate back in March - but the hosts have won both clashes with Huuhkajat on their own turf.

Bosnia-Herzegovina World Cup Qualifying - Europe form:
  • D
  • L
  • D
  • D
  • W
  • D

Bosnia-Herzegovina form (all competitions):
  • L
  • D
  • W
  • D
  • W
  • D

Finland World Cup Qualifying - Europe form:
  • D
  • D
  • W
  • L
  • L
  • W

Finland form (all competitions):
  • L
  • D
  • W
  • L
  • L
  • W

Team News

Bosnia midfielder Elvis Saric has been forced to withdraw from the squad due to injury, while goalkeeper Jusuf Gazibegovic has tested positive for COVID-19.

Ibrahim Sehic was always expected to get the nod in between the sticks, though, while Miralem Pjanic ought to return to the middle of the park after missing out against Ukraine.

Now sitting on 60 goals for the national team, Edin Dzeko is set to spearhead the attack with support from Smail Prevljak.

Meanwhile, Finland will have to make do without defensive duo Thomas Lam and Juhani Ojala due to injuries, but competition for places in the Finland rearguard is already rife.

Joona Toivio and Robert Ivanov could ultimately get the nods after keeping a clean sheet against Kazakhstan, with Kanerva unlikely to consider many changes from that triumphant side.

Only three players have scored more goals than Pukki in UEFA Qualifying, as the Norwich City man eyes his 99th cap for the national team on Saturday.

Bosnia-Herzegovina possible starting lineup:
Sehic; Civic, Ahmedhodzic, Hadzikadunic; Stevanovic, Gojak, Pjanic, Cimirot, Kolasinac; Dzeko, Prevljak

Finland possible starting lineup:
Hradecky; Granlund, Ivanov, Toivio, Hamalainen; Kamara, Schuller, Nissila; Lod; Pukki, Pohjanpalo

We say: Bosnia-Herzegovina 2-2 Finland

Another entertaining affair should be in store this weekend, with both sides desperate to gain the upper hand in the battle for second place before the final matchday.

Finland may have a greater sense of urgency to prevail given that they will face France on the final day, but Bosnia will not go down without a fight, and we expect the draw specialists to take yet another point from this encounter.

Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting over 1.5 goals in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Over 1.5:data

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