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13th Nov 2015

The three Bosnian players most likely to “do an Henry” against Ireland

Kevin Beirne

Only Bosnia & Herzegovina stand between the Republic of Ireland and their first major finals since Euro 2012.

The Irish are no strangers to the play-off format, having needed it to qualify for last two major tournaments. Victories over Iran in 2001 and Estonia in 2011 brought highs matched by the lows of defeats to Belgium and France in 1997 and 2009 respectively.

It was that defeat to the French six years ago which hurts Irish fans the most. An heroic performance from the Irish players following a 1-0 defeat at home in the first game sent the second leg into extra time. It seemed that penalties were an inevitability, until former Arsenal striker Thierry Henry interfered.

A French freekick was headed out of play until Henry stuck out his hand, controlled the ball and hit it back across goal for William Gallas to kill Ireland’s World Cup dream. The outrage that follows means it’s probably still not safe for Henry to visit Dublin any time soon.

But should have they have seen it coming? Was there a clue in Henry’s past that would have tipped off Irish defenders before it happened? Unfortunately we don’t own a time machine, so there’s not much use in trying to prevent it from happening now.

But what we can do is look at Ireland’s latest opponents and try to predict which one is most likely to lend his team an unfair hand and “do an Henry” in Dublin.

Edin Dzeko

Choosing Edin Dzeko is a simple case of Occam’s Razor – sometimes the most obvious answer is the right one. Like Henry, Dzeko is a goalscorer who is well-known to Irish and British fans thanks to his time in the Premier League.

During his time with Manchester City, Dzeko showed he was not afraid of the biggest stage by scoring probably the most important goal ever forgotten when he found the net against QPR in the dying minutes of the 2011/12 season.

Sergio Aguero’s winner two minutes later made all the headlines, but victory – and Man City’s first league title in 44 years – would have been impossible without Dzeko’s effort.

We can only assume he has been biding his time, waiting for another chance to etch his name into the history books. Having seen the infamy Henry gained from his handball, this could be his moment. And a recent injury only raises our suspicions further…

Sejad Salihovic

In their short time as a country, Bosnia & Herzegovina have not had much joy in play-offs, losing in the qualification play-offs to Portugal for both the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012. Although they qualified for the 2014 World Cup as group winners, they once again find themselves with a two-legged tie deciding their fate.

One player who had experience both of those previous defeats is midfielder Sejad Salihovic. He was sent off in the second leg of the World Cup play-off for dissent – a clear lack of respect for authority and basic rules of the game -which earned him a four-game ban.

Two years later, Salihovic looked to redeem himself  against the same opposition. He received a yellow card in the first leg, but he did not hurt his team too badly in a 0-0 draw. However he was dropped for the second leg, leaving him to watch helplessly as Bosnia were torn to shreds in a 6-2 defeat.

The 31-year-old is running out of chances for redemption, and knows that he will have to grab any opportunity with both hands.

Earlier this year, it was rumoured that Salihovic was dating singer Selena Gomez after he posted a picture of the pair riding a camel in Dubai. As someone who runs in celebrity circles, he might just be willing to do whatever it takes to avoid being labelled as a play-off loser yet again.

Armin Hodzic

Armin? Arm in? We’re not stupid, Bosnia. Henry broke the hearts of all Irish Arsenal fans by joining Barcelona before the big finale in the play-offs. Hodzic has already completed his first act as his club team Dinamo Zagreb beat the Gunners 2-1 in September.

The 20-year-old may have been an unused substitute that night, but he might get a chance against Ireland. His youth makes him both impressionable and eager to please, so he might just be willing to bend the rules to deliver a win.

Besides the obvious hint in his name, it’s more than possible that the youngster has been pre-emptively taunting the Irish people with his goal celebration for years. If he goes through with the plan, it would be – to paraphrase the USADA report on Lance Armstrong – the most sophisticated, professionalised and successful handballing programme that sport has ever seen.