Two goals from Filip Vodenicharov helped put South-West Region-Sofia Amateur into the finals of the UEFA Regions' Cup.
Vodenicharov scored both goals in a 2-0 final-day win against Italy's Toscana Amateur to win the Group 7 hosts a place in the finals of the tournament next June. A 22-metre free-kick and a clinical finish from around the penalty spot ensured that the Bulgarian side ended the mini-tournament a point ahead of their Italian opponents.
Coach Ivan Iliev was quick to praise Toscana, but spared a few words for his star player too. "We are extremely happy that we could win against a strong opponent and qualify," he told uefa.com. "My player Vodenicharov scored two beautiful goals in the first half, and we played very compact football today."
Toscana would have progressed if they had taken a point from the final game in Botevgrad. "I am very disappointed that we lost today," said coach Alberto Cappellini. "But I would like to congratulate to the winners and thank them for the good organisation of this mini-tournament."
The Bulgarian and Italian sides had been on a collision course ever since they posted emphatic wins in their first games of the tournament. An own goal helped set Toscana on the way to a 4-1 win against Russia's Chernozemie Amateur, while the hosts won 4-0 against Finnish side Järvenpään Palloseura.
Cappellini's men seemed to have made a major step towards the finals of a competition that an Italian side has won on two previous occasions when they overcame JäPS 4-0 in their second game, with second-half goals from Giuseppe Cobuzzi, Matteo Bertini, Massimo Bresciani and Paolo Montagni.
The coach was in high spirits afterwards, saying: "I am happy now because we have won both matches. We came to win this tournament, and we hope to win the Regions' Cup again for Italy. We are pleased that UEFA organises this tournament as it is - apart from the games - all about friendship, fun, and fair play!"
The home side struck late to earn a 2-2 draw against Chernozemie in their second game. Trailing 2-0 with ten minutes remaining, despite having dominated possession, Kaloyan Karadjinov and Vodenicharov both scored to cancel out earlier efforts from Chernozemie's Evgeny Sviridov and Konstantin Bernikov.
"We were the better team until the last minutes," said Chernozemie coach Aleksandr Shabanov. "I am not glad about this draw, however I must give my compliments to the Bulgarians, as they fought until the end."
"I came close to heart-attack during this game, as we had so many good chances but my players simply could not score," said his opposite number Iliev. "I am happy about the draw, however we had one good chance in added time. From now on we have to concentrate on the last game and the strong side from Italy."
Iliev's men did just that, going on to win the tournament, while Chernozemie and JäPS shared the spoils with a 1-1 draw on the final day. JäPS Mikko Eskelinen said: "We played three good matches and the players learned a lot for their future development, so I am happy that we finally earned a draw."
"Unfortunately it was difficult to play a better game for us, maybe due to the heavy rain before and during the game," added Shabanov. "We were very satisfied with the organisation of this tournament and want to thank to the Bulgarian Football Union for their great organisation."
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