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World Cup debut on legendary grounds awaits Bosnia

The Associated Press
World Cup debut on legendary grounds awaits Bosnia
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A 2014 World Cup official soccer ball, called Brazuca, sits on the sidelines as Bosnia-Herzegovina players pass the ball, background, during a training session at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Saturday, June, 14, 2014. Bosnia-Herzegovina will face Argentina in group F of the 2014 soccer World Cup at the stadium on Sunday. (AP Photo/Victor R. Caivano)

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) -- Bosnia-Herzegovina will make its World Cup debut against a two-time world champion led by one of the greatest players in the game at the legendary Maracana stadium.

It's not like the Bosnians need smelling salt to get excited before Sunday's match against Lionel Messi's Argentina.

''The very fact that we are here for the first time, that we play a great team, that we are playing against the best player in the world ... that's motivation enough,'' Bosnia coach Safet Susic said Saturday.

The match comes nearly 20 years after Bosnia played its first match as an independent nation in 1995, at the end of a civil war that followed the violent breakup of Yugoslavia.

It will also be the first World Cup game at the Maracana since Brazil lost to Uruguay in the last round of the 1950 tournament, which remains a deep wound in Brazilian football history.

''If we could choose the city or the grounds or stadium where we should play the first match we couldn't have chosen any better than the Maracana and Rio de Janeiro,'' Susic said.

Argentina goalkeeper Sergio Romero said he, too, was inspired by the location of his team's World Cup opener.

''It's incredible to play in this stadium, which has so much history. It's the first time I'm here,'' he said.

Argentina hasn't won at the Maracana since it beat Brazil 1-0 in a friendly in 1998.

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