Petrov vows to reverse painful England memory

SOFIA - Pacy winger Martin Petrov can finally erase memories of an 11-year-old nightmare when Bulgaria visit England in their opening Euro 2012 qualifier on Friday.

In 1999, Petrov, who moved to Bolton Wanderers from Manchester City in June, made his international debut in the Euro 2000 qualifier against England, replacing former Bulgaria great Hristo Stoichkov in the second half.

Memories of the 1-1 draw, however, are still very painful as Petrov was shown a red card only eight minutes after coming on and he immediately broke into tears.

"I keep thinking back to this match and it's still painful, even after so many years," Petrov told reporters on Wednesday. "But I know there's no better way to get over this than playing against England at Wembley.

"I've been to many different countries and I took part in many important matches with the national team but there's always a special feeling when you're going to play against England. It's the country where I'm playing at the moment after all."

Bulgaria have an uphill task to qualify for the Euro 2012 finals after failing to reach the finals of the last three major tournaments.

The Balkan country have been drawn also with Switzerland, Wales and Montenegro in Group G.

"The most important thing is to qualify," said former Wolfsburg and Atletico Madrid winger Petrov. "We played some friendlies, we made some experiments but now it's time to achieve results.

"I don't think that the absence of some players will make England weaker," he added. Midfielder Frank Lampard and defender John Terry are both missing from Fabio Capello's line-up through injury.

"On the contrary, I think that the young lads who were called up will be eager to show they have a place in the squad and it'll make our life difficult."

"But I have no doubt that we'll have our chances and we'll take advantage of it."

Bulgaria coach Stanimir Stoilov will have to cope without former captain and all-time leading scorer Dimitar Berbatov and keeper Dimitar Ivankov who quit the national team earlier this year and midfielder Blagoy Georgiev, who is injured.

"We know England can be really strong when they force their opponents only to defend," Stoilov said. "But we'll be aggressive and brave and we will not be a punching bag."

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