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Bahrain intensify quest for maiden World Cup

Under the guidance of Dragan Talajic, tiny Bahrain aim to punch above their weight and land a long-awaited World Cup qualification blow.

  • Bahrain are aiming to qualify for a maiden FIFA World Cup
  • One of Asia’s smallest nations
  • Head coach Dragan Talajic spoke exclusively with FIFA

Thinking out loud, Dragan Talajic already knows where the answer to his own question will go.

‘Why is football the best game in the world?’ is an existential inquiry up there with the likes of the meaning of life, why the sky is blue or whether animals have souls.

For Talajic, the Croatian mentor in charge of tiny Bahrain, the answer is clear and equally applicable to his homeland and that of the nation he’s had a decades-long love affair with.

“In football, everyone has a chance to do something,” he explained.

For Croatia, population 3.8 million, that’s led to a remarkable run of back-to-back FIFA World Cup™ semi-final appearances; for Bahrain, population 1.4 million, a burning dream to reach the same heights.

“Both Croatia and Bahrain are small nations and all the time people think when you play you are the underdogs, you are not the favourites at any time. What happens is that something then comes from the inside that you want to show that people are wrong. Football is a game of 11 against 11.

“We have behind us only one and a half million and other countries have maybe one hundred million behind them but only ten of them in the field, plus a goalkeeper. Now we can fight for something and this mentality is the same between Croatian people and Bahraini people. We are small but, 11 versus 11, let’s see what we can do.”

Twice, against the odds assessed by virtue of that tiny population base, Bahrain have come within a whisker of gracing the sport’s grandest stage. A 2-1 aggregate loss against Trinidad and Tobago in the AFC-Concacaf play-off for Germany 2006 was followed by another play-off defeat four years later, this time against New Zealand.

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