Bulgaria Football Union (BFU) executive committee decided on November 20 to terminate the contract of national team head coach Lyuboslav Penev following a string of poor results that have effectively put Bulgaria out of the running for a spot in the Euro 2016 finals tournament.
Bulgaria started its qualification with a difficult away win in Azerbaijan, but has secured only one point in the next three matches, with a home defeat against Croatia and an away loss to Norway followed by an embarrassing draw at home with Malta at the weekend.
The result against Malta was worse than the mere loss of points because it came on November 17, the anniversary of the 1993 match in which a late goal against France on Parc des Princes by Emil Kostadinov secured Bulgaria’s qualification for the 1994 World Cup – where Bulgaria’s “golden generation” would go all the way to the semi-finals.
The difference between that team and the current crop in the national side was felt especially strongly on the date, with the players getting most of the blame in the aftermath of the match, but BFU president Borislav Mihailov – a member of the “golden generation” like Penev (although the latter missed the 1994 World Cup because of health issues) – said that the head coach should shoulder part of the blame as well.
Penev, who was already on the hot seat after the two defeats, had his contract terminated with immediate effect. BFU said that it hoped to appoint a new coach before the new year, with the new coach expected to be Bulgarian despite media reports that BFU might consider a foreign candidate.
Penev enjoyed some early success with the national side, and his disciplinarian streak was generally welcomed by the fans, who felt that the players had grown too complacent and failed to give their best for the national team.
However, Bulgaria missed out on qualification for the 2014 World Cup and the team’s result this year were deemed unsatisfactory. In all, Bulgaria won nine matches and lost eight, with seven draws, with Penev at the helm.
(Photo: juan carlos arellano/sxc.hu)