Bulgaria summon spirit of '93

SOFIA - Bulgaria sporting director Nasko Sirakov recalled their famous victory against France at the Parc des Princes in 1993 to help inspire the players ahead of Wednesday's World Cup qualifier against Italy in Turin.

"We need a new Saint Emil," Sirakov told reporters on Tuesday, citing his former team mate Emil Kostadinov's last-minute strike that gave Bulgaria a 2-1 win over France to clinch a place at the 1994 World Cup finals in the U.S.

The dramatic late goal broke French hearts as Gerard Houllier's team were eliminated while Bulgaria went on to reach the semi-finals after beating Germany in the last eight.

"But you can't rely on luck when you're going to visit Italy," Sirakov said. "We have to rely on our own strength."

"I think we have quality players who are capable of deciding the issue of every single match."

Bulgaria, who beat Montengro 4-1 on Saturday, need another victory to realistically keep their World Cup hopes alive.

Stanimir Stoilov's men are third in Group Eight with 11 points behind Italy, who are top on 17 also after seven matches. Ireland are second with 16 points from eight games.

"I've watched Italy's match in Georgia and I can say they're not the team I know," said Parma striker Valeri Bojinov adding to the chorus of optimism in the Bulgarian camp. "We have to stay calm and take our chances."

"They'll be under pressure while we have nothing to worry about," he added. "We know we'll put our names in the history books if we beat them."

Bulgaria will miss suspended midfielder Dimitar Telkiyski but defender Zhivko Milanov, still recovering from a knee injury, flew to Italy hoping to play at the Stadio Olimpico.