FROM THE PRESS BOX
FROM THE PRESS BOX
Q. The EURO 2020 qualifying campaign must have been disappointing, why did the side fail to perform?
A. The truth is that this is the level of the current generation. Unfortunately, the quality of the team cannot be compared to those of the previous sides. There had been some sparks under Petar Hubchev because of his style, as he relied on a well-organised defence and counter attacks, and he got the maximum out of players. Krasimir Balakov replaced him and was totally different. He was an absolutely phenomenal attacking player, and as a coach he is also like that and Bulgaria started to leak goals. Balakov also made some strange tactical decisions and suffered heavy defeats against England and lost also against Kosovo and the Czech Republic. Bulgaria went from a quite well-organised defensive team to being quite chaotic.
Q. Having three different managers during 2019 must have been disruptive for the players, how confident are you that the team can settle under Georgi Dermendzhiev and start to move forward again?
A. The lack of continuity had a negative effect. Firstly, there were the tactical changes and the different approaches of Hubchev and Balakov. Their philosophies are completely different. It’s like parking the bus with the former and having no bus at all with the latter. The arrival of Georgi Dermendzhiev brought back some calmness, but he has only been in charge for three games so far, including two friendlies. However, right now Dermendzhiev has also a lot of problems in attack. Captain Ivelin Popov has retired from the national team, Wanderson is injured, veteran Marcelinho has left Ludogorets and returned to his native Brazil, while Despodov is out with coronavirus. Rising talent Martin Minchev will be with the U21 side, who have some important qualifiers. This situation provides Dermendzhiev with a chance to experiment in attack against Ireland and Wales.
Q. Bulgaria had a positive experience in the first UEFA Nations League, gaining promotion to League B, how much are you looking forward to this campaign and what is the ambition?
A. The first edition of the Nations league was really a positive moment for Bulgaria after years of decline. The reason for that is clear. Bulgaria were playing against teams on approximately the same level, which brings with it the chance to do well. Unfortunately, the national team has not enough quality to be competitive against the top sides in Europe, while this tournament provides the chance to reach the European finals via the back door. That’s the case now as we meet Hungary at home in the EURO play-off. Bulgaria has not reached major finals since 2004 and is now just a win away from realising the dream. These games against Ireland and Wales provide a chance for the players to show character and mental strength needed for the play-off in October. Bulgaria will go for good performances, but the focus could be on the game against Hungary.
Q. A lot of people remember the Golden Generation of 1994. Is this an inspiration for the players that have followed them over the last 26 years, or does add a lot of pressure?
A. The success of the golden generation in 1994 was not only a blessing, but also a curse. They achieved all those years ago the dreams of many very talented generations before them. Bulgaria was there with the big boys and were beating them. At that time the whole country was united, the sky was the limit. The success of the team provided the platform for players like Dimitar Berbatov, Stilian Petrov and Martin Petrov to shine, but the truth is that football in general declined in Bulgaria in terms of finding and developing talent. All the stars of the mid 1990's took various positions in Bulgarian football. Hristo Stoichkov, Balakov, Hubchev and Luboslav Pebev were national team coaches, while Borislav Mihailov, Yordan Lechkov and Emil Kostadinov decided to take major roles in the Bulgarian Football Union. But despite their efforts, the decline is obvious, and that is also because of major reasons beyond their control.