International Friendly Preview: Spain v Bulgaria
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Back after two years...Borimirov (L) in action against Leeds (Reuters)
Bulgaria should be in excellent spirits when they take on Spain in an international friendly on Wednesday as they have enjoyed a superb start to their Euro 2004 qualification campaign.
Plamen Markov's re-invigorated side followed up a 3-0 beating of Belgium in their opponent's own backyard with a very tidy 2-0 home win over Croatia, to restore some much needed pride back into Bulgarian football following their failure to qualify for both the last European Championships and World Cup.
Spain have also enjoyed an encouraging start to their quest to take part in the big show in Portugal by managing to get the better of Greece away (2-0) and making short work of North Ireland at home (3-0).
Getting there has never been the problem though, but that opens a whole other can of worms that we won't get into in this article.
Spanish coach Inaki Saez made Athletic Club Bilbao's Joseba Exteberria a happy man by issuing him his first invite to the national squad since September 2001. There was also a recall for Valencia keeper Santiago Canizares due to dropping a bottle of aftershave on his foot while at the pre-tournament training-camp. One notable absentee will be Real Betis starlet Joaquín, who has been left out due to a minor injury.
Bulgaria will be without their influential skipper, 36-year-old VfB Stuttgart star Krassimir Balakov, who has been granted a request be rested for the game. Veteran Cherno More goalkeeper Zdravko Zdravkov will take over the captain's armband in Balakov's absence. The big news in the Bulgarian papers, however, has centred around the return to the national side of 1860 München midfielder Daniel Borimirov, who has done an about-face on his decision to retire from the international scene.
Spain: Canizares, Casillas, Michel Salgado, Bravo, Helguera, Puyol (Barcelona) Marchena, Mendieta, Xavi, Baraja, Vicente, Albelda, Capi, Joaquin, Capdevila, Guti, Tristan, Jose Mari.
Bulgaria: Zdravkov, Kolev, Kishishev, Kirilov, Zagorcic, G Petrov, Stoianov, Petkov, Stilian Petrov, Borimirov, Yanchev, Svetoslav Petrov, Peev, Berbatov, Manchev, Todorov, Dimitrov, Chilikov, M Petrov.