Matthaus plots more misery for England

LONDON - He did it before as a player for Germany and now Lothar Matthaus believes he can inflict more misery on England as a coach by masterminding a surprise victory for Bulgaria in Friday's Euro 2012 qualifier in Sofia.

Matthaus, who scored a penalty for Germany against England in the 1990 World Cup semi-final shootout before leading the side victory over Argentina in the final, is trying to revive the fortunes of the Balkan nation that has fallen on hard times since the heady days of a World Cup semi-final in 1994.

Fabio Capello's England, whose warm-up friendly against the Netherlands this month was postponed because of London's riots, lead Group G on goal difference from surprise package Montenegro with Bulgaria and Switzerland six points behind.

Defeat would virtually knock Bulgaria out of contention but despite a 4-0 drubbing at Wembley earlier in the group, Matthaus, who took charge after that defeat, believes all is not lost and his side can put a serious dent in England's hopes of qualifying for next year's finals in Poland and Ukraine.

"If we beat England, we can still qualify and I truly believe we can spring a surprise. We still have very good chances to play at the Euro 2012 finals," former World Player of the Year Matthaus told reporters.

"It's a key game for us, it's the biggest game for Bulgarian football this year and we can gain the confidence that we need so much. But that's not all.

"We have the players who are able to beat England. We lost 4-0 to England last year and this can't be changed but we can learn from the mistakes in that match.

"Our players will be more confident on Friday because they'll be playing in front of their supporters. We have to play with courage and not be afraid of England. They have to win because they are also away to Montenegro."

MORE CONFIDENCE

Bulgaria have never beaten England in nine previous clashes and have scored just once in the four played on home soil and Capello's side, whose away form has been more impressive than at home where they have been held by Montenegro and Switzerland, will be expected to gain three valuable points.

Capello will be heartened by the form of the sizeable contingent of players from both Manchester clubs who are setting a scorching early pace in the Premier League.

United's Wayne Rooney scored a hat-trick in his side's 8-2 thrashing of Arsenal last weekend while Ashley Young has impressed at Old Trafford following his move from Aston Villa and young guns Tom Cleverley, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones have given the squad a fresh new look.

City's Joleon Lescott could partner Chelsea's John Terry in the heart of defence with team-mates James Milner, Gareth Barry and Adam Johnson all options for Capello in midfield.

"We might have more confidence than usual with the way the season has started in our first three games," Lescott told the FA's website of the feel-good factor in Manchester. "I think we have done well."

While Capello's squad looks packed full of pace and goal threat, Bulgaria are struggling to find a natural successor for striker Dimitar Berbatov who has retired from international football and are yet to score at home in Group G.

Bolton Wanderers winger Martin Petrov, who made his international debut in the Euro 2000 qualifier against England in 1999, will be one of his country's main attacking threats and should be fit despite a back niggle.

Matthaus, however, will have to cope without central defender Apostol Popov and midfielder Chavdar Yankov, who are sidelined with long-term injuries.

Probable teams:

Bulgaria: Nikolay Mihaylov; Ivan Bandalovski, Valentin Iliev, Ivan Ivanov, Petar Zanev; Stanislav Manolev, Stilian Petrov, Marquinhos, Blagoy Georgiev; Martin Petrov, Ivelin Popov.

England: Joe Hart; Micah Richards, John Terry, Joleon Lescott, Ashley Cole; Theo Walcott, Frank Lampard, Gareth Barry, Stewart Downing; Wayne Rooney, Darren Bent.

Referee: Frank De Bleeckere (Belgium).


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