Just one point separates three teams at the top of UEFA Regions' Cup Group A - and any one of them could clinch first place on Sunday make it to the final.
Bosnia-Herzegovina’s Tuzla Canton AMA are a single goal clear of Bulgarian hosts South-East Region AMA, with Northern Ireland's Eastern Region AMA a point further behind. The Bulgarian and Northern Irish sides meet in Sliven, where the final will be held on Tuesday, and both will hope eliminated Basse-Normandie AMA will do them a favour against Tuzla in Radnevo.
Tuzla scored two late goals to beat previous leaders Eastern Region there on Friday, and coach Fuad Grbešić believes his side are coming to the boil at the right time. "We have four points, so do the Bulgarians, our goal difference is better," Grbešić told uefa.com. "The next match is most important for all these teams. We play Basse-Normandie, and I think we are in the right condition for these matches as we are used to the heat. We have a chance, but South-East Region are favourites to beat Northern Ireland."
Their French opponents, in contrast, are without a point having succumbed to late goals against both Eastern Region and South-East Region. Basse-Normandie captain Pierre-Yves Marie will sit out the game after his late red card against the hosts, but coach Patrick Gonfalone says that even though his team will finish the group in fourth place they want to end on a high. "So far we have not produced the form we planned to at the beginning of our stay in Bulgaria. That is why we were eliminated so early. And we deserved it for sure. The football we played at the first two games was disappointing. Against Tuzla Canton we will play to show why they call us a proud nation and that we have dignity and plenty of self-respect," he said.
South-East Region, who have attracted two crowds of close to 1,000 to Sliven's Hadzhi Dimitar Stadium, produced a late equaliser on Matchday 1 against Tuzla and also struck the only goal versus Basse-Normandie late on in a heated encounter. Coach Angel Stankov said: "The situation at the group is really complicated for us as we trail by a goal to Tuzla Canton. However, we will go in Sunday’s game against Eastern Region with the idea of playing good football. Our main goal before the tournament started was to play entertaining football and reach the final if possible. So far we are doing well."
The Northern Irish side, meanwhile, hoped to be going into this game already through or needing only a draw; as it is they must win and hope Tuzla do not pick up maximum points. Still, Eastern Region manager Harry McConkey is upbeat. "The good news is that we are still in this tournament. Although all the guys are very upset it is my job to pick them up and tell them that a win against the Bulgarians in the final game could well see us playing in the final. They've done Northern Ireland proud."
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