Bulgaria sack coach Markov, seek replacement

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By Angel Krasimirov

SOFIA, Dec 2 (Reuters) - Bulgaria have sacked national coach Plamen Markov and could look abroad for a replacement, the Bulgarian Football Union (BFU) said on Tuesday.

"It was a tough decision but all 13 (executive committee) members voted for Markov's departure," BFU president Borislav Mihaylov told a news conference.

"It was preceded by a serious discussion as we wanted to understand why the national team doesn't perform well on the pitch," he said.

The 51-year-old Markov, who had a contract with the BFU until the end of 2009, has been released after three disappointing draws in the 2010 World Cup qualifiers this autumn.

Markov, a former CSKA Sofia coach who won five league titles and three national cups as a player, had shrugged off calls for his resignation after Bulgaria's humiliating 6-1 loss against Serbia in a friendly last month.

Mihaylov said the BFU would do their best to find a replacement before their extraordinary congress on Jan. 30.

"It could be a Bulgarian coach but it's not impossible to hire a top-class foreigner," he said.

Five foreigners, including former England manager Terry Venables and Macedonia's Slovenian coach Srecko Katanec, were on the shortlist for the job before the BFU appointed Markov for the second time in January.

He had previously quit after the Euro 2004 finals in Portugal where Bulgaria suffered three defeats.

Bulgaria are third in World Cup European qualifying Group Eight with three points from three matches. Italy top the standings with 10 points from four games, followed by Ireland with seven points from three matches.

(Editing by Alan Baldwin)