CHICAGO (AP) — Bosnia and Herzegovina had lost its first two matches to Mexico in international soccer.
The Dragons have midfielder Izet Hajrovic and goalkeeper Asmir Begovic to thank for turning their fortune around Tuesday night.
Hajrovic scored in the 41st minute and Begovic made a pair of big saves in the second half of Bosnia’s 1-0 victory over Mexico in a pre-World Cup friendly.
“We must be careful,” midfielder Zvjezdan Misimovic said. “The first game against Argentina (on June 15) is very tough. I think it’s one level up from Mexico.”
Mismovic noted that many in his country remain homeless after massive flooding.
“I hope we can put a smile on their faces for 90 minutes each game,” Mismovic said.
Hajrovic maneuvered into open space 8 yards from the net and left- footed Sejad Salihovic’s feed from the left side past diving keeper Alfredo Talavera. Senad Lulic also assisted.
“Bosnia played a good game,” Mexico coach Miguel Herrera said. “They played two good halves. Their goalie did really well.”
But Herrera complained that Bosnia’s last-minute substitutions just before the game, including forward Edin Dezko, were unfair.
“The last minute, other players, that’s dirty,” Herrera said through a translator. “This is a friendly. It should have been stopped. That’s no good. You won’t see this in the World Cup. That’s unacceptable.”
Dezko had Bosnia’s best offensive chances in the early going. The Dragons’ adjustments to their starting lineup created defensive confusion for Mexico for the first few minutes. Dezko took three shots, the first saved and the others floating over the net.
Begovic got his squad’s first shutout of the exhibition series. His two saves came late, on Francisco Rodriguez’s header in the 86th minute and Miguel Ponce’s 35-yard shot in the 92nd.
Mexican favorite Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez rifled a shot off the left post 24 minutes in, prompting a loud groan from the largely pro- Mexico crowd of 60,707 at Soldier Field. Hernandez was held shotless thereafter, and replaced by Alan Pulido in the second half.
“His determination was really good, just came up a little bit short,” Herrera said of Hernandez. “He moved well side to side. Lots of effort.”
Hajrovic was unaccountably left open on Bosnia’s goal after having been tightly marked for most of the first half. Dzeko was unmarked before his first shot, which Talavera saved by diving to his right in the fourth minute, and fired two more shots in the next four minutes.
After that, the Mexican defense settled in, and the Bosnians were held to the sides of the penalty area until Salihovic found the open Hajrovic.
Hernandez’ goalless run for Mexico dates back to last year’s Confederations Cup in Brazil. The Manchester United regular scored both goals in Mexico’s 2-1 victory over Japan on June 22, and has been shut out for El Tri since.
“I (was) a little unlucky today,” Hernandez said. “I’m thankful this wasn’t the World Cup.”
It was the last pre-World Cup match for Bosnia and Herzegovina, which begins its Group F series against Argentina in Rio de Janeiro on June 15. Mexico opens against Cameroon in Group A on June 13, and later plays Croatia.
“Croatia is similar to Bosnia,” Herrera said. “It certainly helps us to know what we have against Croatia.”