In October last year, Vedad Ibisevic sent Bosnia-Herzegovina wild with joy.
His 68th minute strike in their final World Cup qualifier against Lithuania in Kaunas saw Bosnia-Herzegovina qualify for football’s showpiece event for the first time in their history.
“That was definitely one of the happiest moments of my career,” Ibisevic tells Dawn five months after that historic goal in an exclusive interview arranged courtesy Red Bull.
“It was very emotional. I think that after everything I’ve been through in my life, I deserved to score the decisive goal.
“I’m happy for the fact that my goal took Bosnia and Herzegovina to a major tournament for the first time.”
After that historic night in Kaunas, the 30-year-old VfB Stuttgart striker is now looking towards the World Cup finals in Brazil which kick off in almost 75 days time.
“My primary goal is to maximally prepare and to be in optimum form in Brazil,” says Ibisevic, Bosnia’s Footballer of the year in 2008.
“Qualifying for the World Cup means a lot for Bosnia and Herzegovina.
“We will promote our country in the biggest festival of football and I think it’s a huge step forward and great advertisement for the country.
“Some people will probably hear about our country for the first time.”
One of the Bundesliga’s most prolific scorers over the last few seasons, Ibisevic hopes he’ll have no problems in finding his scoring boots for Bosnia at the World Cup finals.
Although this season has seen Stuttgart struggle as they battle against relegation, Ibisevic has scored 10 goals.
He hopes he will go to the World Cup having secured Stuttgart’s Bundesliga survival.
“I want to finish the season strongly with Stuttgart and ease our relegation fears,” Ibisevic says with Stuttgart lying two points off safety in the Bundesliga.
And he hopes the tough battle to avoid relegation wouldn’t affect him much for the World Cup.
“To play for a club and to play for the national team is not the same thing,” he says.
“I agree it has happened in the past that some players played great for their clubs, but suffered from burn-out at the World Cup.
“I hope that will not happen to me. I will do my best to be in top form.”
The debutants have been drawn in Group ‘F’ for the World Cup finals alongside Asian heavyweights Iran, African giants Nigeria and tournament favorites Argentina.
“Our group is tough. The draw could have been better, but it could have been worse, too,” Ibisevic reckons.
“However, there are no easy opponents at the World Cup. No one is there by accident, all teams have their qualities and it should be respected.
“Our job is to play the best we can in all three games. If you play to the limit of your abilities, the result will come.
“Can we get to the second round? There is a chance. Absolutely!”
At the World Cup, Ibisevic will link up with Manchester City striker Edin Dzeko up front for Bosnia-Herzegovina with AS Roma’s Miralem Pjanic playing just behind them in an exciting offensive trident.
“Our team always plays attacking football because we have such players and that’s why we have scored a lot of goals in qualifying,” Ibisevic says.
“Dzeko and Pjanic are top players and we work well together and I hope it will be like that in the future too.
“However, it isn’t just the three of us. It is important that the whole team plays well. Every player in the Bosnia-Herzegovina team is very important.”