Bulgaria hoping for help from Italy

SOFIA - Bulgaria are hoping Italy can do them a favour by beating Ireland in Dublin on Saturday and keeping alive their chances of making the playoffs for next year's World Cup.

"Knowing the Italians, I think they'll be searching for victory because they're keen to finish first in the group," said striker Valeri Bojinov at Sofia airport on Friday as the Bulgarian team left for Cyprus.

Italy lead European qualifying Group Eight with 20 points, followed by Ireland on 16. Bulgaria, who face Cyprus on Saturday and Georgia next Wednesday, are third on 11.

"Certainly we have to do our job in the matches against Cyprus and Georgia; we need to win the two games," added Bojinov, who plays for Italy's Parma after spells with Lecce, Fiorentina and Juventus.

Fellow striker Ivan Stoyanov said: "The bad thing is that even if we fulfil our task we'll still need outside help. But we have to be ready to capitalise if things go our way."