Bulgaria boosted by win in Malta

Bulgaria will go into a tough FIFA Women's World Cup qualifying group with confidence after winning the last of the mini-tournaments held for teams eliminated in the UEFA WOMEN'S EURO 2009™ preliminary round.

Bulgaria won their third mini-tournament
©Domenic Aquilina

Bulgaria will go into a tough 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup qualifying group with increased confidence after winning the last of the friendly mini-tournaments held over the last couple of years for teams eliminated in the UEFA WOMEN'S EURO 2009™ preliminary round.

Kostova clincher
Malta staged the event, with Bulgaria the only one of the four contenders to have come top in any of their three previous mini-tournaments, succeeding at home against Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kazakhstan last summer and in Sarajevo in the autumn. This time they went into their last game at the Centenary Stadium, Ta'Qali, facing a Malta side who had also beaten Latvia and Luxembourg, and Liliyana Kostova's 23rd-minute goal proved enough for a 1-0 Bulgaria win.

Bulgaria wins
Kostava had been in fine form earlier in the tournament, scoring a ten-minute hat-trick late in the first half against Luxembourg, Dejana Petrakjeva and Valentina Gospodinova making it 5-0 after the break. In their next match with Latvia, Kostova, Lili Zhekova, Silviya Radoyska and Nikoleta Voyskova struck in the second half for a 4-0 victory.

Maltese first
Hosts Malta, meanwhile, showed an improved performance having not won in 18 previous UEFA competition matches. That duck was broken in the opening day against Latvia when Natasha Pace opened the scoring in the eighth minute and in the second period substitute Emma Xuereb, Dorianne Theuma and the impressive Rachael Cuschieri ensured a 4-0 win. They then defeated Luxembourg 1-0 when Dorianne Theuma converted a 77th-minute penalty after Ylenia Carabott had been brought down in the box.

World Cup bids
Latvia secured third place when Angelina Ignatjeva's strike proved enough to beat Luxembourg 1-0. World Cup qualifying begins this autumn with Bulgaria taking on Denmark, Scotland, Greece and Georgia in Group 3 and Malta facing England, Spain, Austria and Turkey in Group 5.

Roll of honour
Turkey were the only one of the 15 teams that played in the four sets of mini-tournaments to top all of their groups, with Bulgaria managing the feat three times and the Faroe Island twice. Estonia also succeeded in the final set of competitions, joining a roll of honour which also includes Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Armenia. Croatia's Katarina Kolar was the overall top scorer in the series with eleven goals.

UEFA Women's Friendly Mini-Tournament winners
Round 1 (autumn 2007)
Group 1: Lithuania
Group 2: Bosnia-Herzegovina
Group 3: Croatia
Group 4: Turkey

Round 2 (spring 2008)
Group 1: Turkey
Group 2: Kazakhstan
Group 3: Bulgaria
Group 4: Azerbaijan

Round 3 (autumn 2008)
Group 1: Bulgaria
Group 2: Armenia
Group 3: Turkey
Group 4: Faroe Islands

Round 4 (spring 2009)
Group 1: Estonia
Group 2: Faroe Islands
Group 3: Turkey
Group 4: Bulgaria