Northern Ireland are the one nation represented for the first time in these UEFA Regions' Cup finals - and Eastern Region AMA could wrap up Group A with a match to spare with victory against Tuzla Canton AMA of Bosnia-Herzegovina on Sunday.
A late Andrew Forsythe winner gave Eastern Region a 1-0 success against Basse-Normandie AMA of France on Wednesday in Radnevo, and it is there that they will take on a Tuzla team denied three points by a late equaliser from Bulgarian hosts South-East Region AMA in Sliven. If the Northern Irish side win, they would be assured of a place in the final unless South-East Region defeat Basse-Normandie.
'Great to be top'
Eastern Region manager Harry McConkey will welcome back captain Liam Bradley from suspension and expects Darren Kitson and Mark Craig to recover from minor knocks. McConkey told uefa.com: "It's great to be top. We won't let it go to our heads. We are only on the first step and now we have finished this game we can start to move to step two against Tuzla. But as I have said all along I think we can win this competition."
Tuzla’a first-choice goalkeeper Šefik Imamović was taken off at half-time against the hosts after a clash of heads with a team-mate, but after examination in hospital looks set to stay at the tournament, though his impressive replacement Emir Muratović may retain his place while defender Jasmin Bošnjić has completed a one-match ban. Coach Fuad Grbešić, whose team had a length coach journey from their homeland on Monday prior to the tournament admits that tiredness could be a factor. "Games every two days is difficult," he said. "The players usually play weekly and train three times a week."
South-East Region delighted the home fans in Sliven with substitute Ivan Petkov’s late equaliser against Tuzla, but coach Angel Stankov, who has midfielders Boris Galchev and Asen Valchev back after suspension, hinted that he may make changes to face Basse-Normandie in Sliven. He said. "We have had some problems, but that's normal, it is amateur football - most of the players work and just play for fun most if the time. But the team is very young, and now the pressure will drop after the opening game."
Basse-Normandie had dominated much of their opening encounter with Eastern Region before conceding, and now must win both their remaining matches and hope the Northern Irish do not pick up another victory. Goalkeeper Jérôme Marie and defender Jean-François Hoivet will be available after bans and coach Patrick Gonfalone said: "It is frustrating because we had played so well until conceding but this is football and these things happen. Now we must look ahead to the game against the Bulgarian side and hope we can get a win."
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