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Sliskovic unveiled as new Bosnia coach

© Reuters 2002

By Nedim Dervisbegovic

SARAJEVO, Jan 23 (Reuters) - Blaz Sliskovic is the new coach of Bosnia, the national soccer association (NSBIH) said on Wednesday.

Sliskovic replaces Miso Smajlovic, whom he had assisted for the last two years.

NSBIH president Jusuf Pusina hopes Sliskovic will guide Bosnia to the finals of a major tournament for the first time since the Balkan nation entered qualifying competitions following the 1992-95 war.

"We think this is the best decision after all and he should, with his youth, experience and respect he enjoys, be the unifying force that will bring Bosnia's football a better future," Pusina told a news conference. Sliskovic, who will travel to Friday's draw for the 2004 European championship in Portugal, said he was honoured by the appointment.

"This is great recognition for me and I hope I will justify it with good results," he said. Former Croatia coach Miroslav Blazevic was the leading candidate for the job until last weekend when he pulled out of talks because of strong opposition in Bosnia, where he was born.

"Baka", as the 42-year-old Sliskovic is popularly known, was one of the most talented players in the former Yugoslavia in the 1980s and his career took him from his hometown club Velez Mostar to Hajduk Split, Olympique Marseille in France and Pescara of Italy.

He made 26 appearances and scored three goals for the former Yugoslavia national team and captained Bosnia in one match.

Sliskovic finished his career in Hrvatski Dragovoljac in Croatia and took up coaching there in the mid-1990s. He followed it with spells with several Bosnian clubs.

He said he would try to get the best out of the mix of foreign and Bosnia-based players who make up the national team, insisting on commitment and discipline, which had been lacking in previous years.

"They have to show they want to play for their country and I want them to respect me and other players," he said. He said no-one was guaranteed a place in the national team, including high-profile names such as Elvir Baljic, the Real Madrid forward who is currently on loan at Rayo Vallecano.

"All of them will have a chance and it's up to them afterwards," he said, adding that he would blood younger players into the national side.

"They all have to run, because that's where we are inferior to European soccer and if they do not want to run I will name 11 17-year-olds in the team who will do that."

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