Bulgaria star eyes progress

Nikolay Mihaylov is in confident mood ahead of Bulgaria's clash against Malta, as the Czech Republic host Denmark on Friday.

Last Updated: 21/03/13 at 16:10 Post Comment

Nikolay Mihaylov: Hoping to follow in his father's footsteps

Nikolay Mihaylov: Hoping to follow in his father's footsteps

Goalkeeper Mihaylov is hoping to follow in the footsteps of his father and help Bulgaria qualify for the World Cup finals in Brazil next year.

Borislav Mihaylov, now president of the Bulgarian Football Union, was captain of the side that beat Germany to reach the semi-finals of the World Cup in 1994.

He was also in the squad four years later when Bulgaria qualified for the finals in France, and 15 years on that remains the last time they made that stage.

Hopes are high, though, after an unbeaten start to their Group B campaign

that sees them head into Friday's clash with pointless Malta second in the table behind Italy.

Mihaylov junior has established himself as the number one thanks to impressive form for his club side, FC Twente in Holland, and he told www.fifa.com: "It was difficult to cope with when I was young because everybody inevitably compared me to my dad.

"It was once I moved abroad that I was really able to step out of my father's shadow by putting in a lot of work and making sacrifices. But it's an honour to share the same name, especially as things are very different today."

Luboslav Penev was another of the stars of the previous generation and he is playing a key role in this campaign as manager of the national side.

Nikolay Mihaylov said: "My father's generation was rich in great players. Most of them were lucky enough to play in leagues in western Europe.

"They picked up experience over there and achieved better results when they came back to the national team.

"But there's also talent in my generation right now and, with Luboslav Penev in charge, we have a good team that has every chance of qualifying for the next World Cup in Brazil."

Bulgaria will expect to take maximum points on Friday but they will have to do so without the help of the fans, with the team ordered to play behind closed doors after supporters were found guilty by FIFA of racist behaviour against Denmark in October.

Penev said: "Although my players are professionals, it will not be easy to cope with the absence of the 12th player."

Friday's other match in Group B sees the Czech Republic take on Denmark, who desperately need the points having accumulated only two from their first three games.

The Danes will be without striker Nicklas Bendtner after he was banned from the national team for six months following his conviction for drink driving.

The Czech Republic have only managed one win so far, over Malta, and goalkeeper Petr Cech has his sights set on trebling that tally against Denmark and Armenia, who the Czechs visit on Tuesday.

Cech, who should win his 100th cap against Armenia, said: "If we were to get six points, the table would look 100 per cent better."

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