Stanimir Stoilov is hoping to give Bulgarian fans "something to cheer and smile about again" after agreeing to become the new national team coach, a duty he will undertake in tandem with his day job at PFC Litex Lovech.
Stoilov will start his second spell as Bulgaria boss with next Wednesday's friendly game against Switzerland in Geneva, two days before he celebrates his 42nd birthday on 13 February. He previously acted as stand-in coach for two UEFA EURO 2008™ qualifiers in June 2007 when he was still coach at PFC Levski Sofia, but opted to stay with the club rather than accept the post full time.
Change of heart
Having left Levski in summer 2008, and taken up a new post at Litex, he was delighted to return to the job, saying: "I will give my best for club and country. Two years ago, when I was in charge of Levski and took interim charge of the national team, I didn't see it that way, but now it is different even if the team hasn't changed too much from last time."
Bulgaria kicked off their 2010 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign with draws against Montenegro, world champions Italy and Georgia, before losing a friendly against Serbia 6-1 – a result which marked the end of Plamen Markov's second spell with the national team. Now it is hoped that Stoilov can inspire a revival, having proven his ability to work wonders while at Levski.
Stoilov led Levski to the 2005/06 UEFA Cup quarter-finals, and went one better the following season as he led the Blues into the UEFA Champions League group stage – a first for a Bulgarian club. The dream now is that he can take the national team to the World Cup finals in South Africa, with Bulgaria having missed out on places in the 2002 and 2006 finals.
"We still have a chance of qualifying," Stoilov said as he surveyed Group 8, where his side lie third. "The most important thing is for the players to start believing they can win against the likes of Georgia and Montenegro. We must change our approach and attitude. We must play better as a team. I don't like a defensive approach – I like to rely on our offensive powers."
His first act was to recall former Levski stars like Elin Topuzakov, Iliyan Stoyanov, Valeri Domovchiyski and Dimitar Telkiyski – who had all missed out under Markov – with Bulgaria needing reinforcements to cover injuries to the likes of Martin Petrov, Valeri Bozhinov, Aleksandar Tunchev and Chavdar Yankov for their next qualifier. "Those players will probably miss the Republic of Ireland game on 28 March so I need to see the condition of the other players," he explained. "
I'm not afraid to take risks, I'm not afraid to fail. If there are setbacks they will be in the service of the national team. We must move forward from this difficult situation with honour."
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