Unhappy Bulgaria Returns Home, Recriminations Flying

Sports | September 9, 2007, Sunday // 00:00| Views: | Comments: 0
Bulgaria: Unhappy Bulgaria Returns Home, Recriminations Flying Penev cut a frustrated figure in the Bulgarian dugout as he gave his players tactictal instructions during the match. Photo by Gong.bg

Bulgaria's national football team returned to Sofia on Sunday to prepare for next week's home tie against Luxembourg, with recriminations flying in the aftermath of the 2-0 loss to Holland the previous evening.

The defeat at the hands of one of Bulgaria's main rivals for qualification for next year's European Championship has put a strain on the previously united team.

Captain Dimitar Berbatov summed the frustration best: "Once again we let in stupid goals, which cost us points. It's time we understood that if we make mistakes, an experienced team like Holland will punish us for them."

His feelings were echoed by winger Martin Petrov, who said: "We let in ridiculous goals and made individual mistakes. We had our chances, but failed to take them."

Berbatov and Petrov were guilty of the worst misses, particularly the former, who wasted a free header six yards out early in the first half.

But in the end, it was defensive frailty that let Bulgaria down, with goalkeeper Dimitar Ivankov failing to properly cover the near post for the first goal, although he was blind sighted for the second.

Manager Dimitar Penev joined in the criticism of Ivankov at his press conference after the match and the goalkeeper could be replaced by Georgi Petkov for the Luxembourg game. He ducked the media upon arrival in Sofia and was not available for comment.

Ivankov hit back, criticising his defenders for not closing down Ruud van Nistelrooy for the second goal.

"I am surprised by what Berbatov and Penev said, but it's typical Bulgarian behaviour - blaming each other. We're all to blame for the loss, the mistakes were complex, the entire team has to defend, starting from the strikers to the goalkeeper," he said.

Bulgaria's qualifying campaign is now out of their hands and they must hope their opponents stumble, while picking out maximum points from their remaining games, if they are to stand any chance of qualifying for the tournament in Austria and Switzerland.

But on Saturday's evidence, it would be better not to qualify, according to Berbatov. "Maybe it's better we do not qualify, because we would get humiliated if we play like this," he said.
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