Bulgaria Seeking First World Cup Win After Stunning France
SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) _ Led by Barcelona’s star forward Hristo Stoichkov, Bulgaria just might have its best chance for its first victory in the World Cup.
The team has made it to five previous World Cups, but still is hoping for a win in the final round. Bulgaria was drawn into a group with Argentina, Greece and Nigeria.
″I think now we can advance in the second round, winning our first ever match at World Cup finals,″ said forward Emil Kostadinov, a member of FC Porto in Portugal.
It was Kostadinov’s second goal, with only 10 seconds remaining, that gave Bulgaria a 2-1 upset of France in Paris on the final day of qualifying and a place in the finals. The stunned French went home.
Bulgaria has an impressive attacking line of foreign based strikers: Stoichkov of Barcelona, Boncho Genchev of Ipswich, Kostadinov and Krasimir Balakov of Sporting Lisbon. Yordan Lechkov is Hamburg’s rising star and the Bulgarian’s key playmaker.
Stoichkov was voted Bulgaria’s top player for three straight seasons before moving to Barcelona, where he has been a star.
The defensive unit is led by players from home champion Levski Sofia - Tsanko Tsvetanov, Emil Kremenliev, Zlatko Yankov and Petar Hubchev, who was sold recently by Levski to Hamburger SV.
But a big problem for coach Dimitar Penev will be the absence of Valencia’s captain Luboslav Penev, who had to undergo surgery two months ago and won’t be able to recover in time for the World Cup.
Of the three goalkeepers, Borislav Mikhailov is considered the strongest. He had five shutouts in qualifying.
Bulgaria played three ties in this year’s test matches against Mexico, Oman and Kuwait, but none of the foreign-based player took part in those games.
Coach Dimitar Penev hadn’t decided his final roster yet after bringing 27 players to training camp. He was awaiting an exhibition aganst the United Arab Emirates before making his final cuts.
″We were placed in one of the two best groups,″ said striker Peter Aleandrov. ″The other easy group is the one with USA, Switzerland, Columbia and Romania.
″Argentina and Bulgaria will advance for the second round,″ he boldly predicted.
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