England attract little interest in Bulgaria

SOFIA - Bulgaria are struggling to sell tickets for Friday's Euro 2012 qualifier at home to England, despite coach Lothar Matthaus saying that the match is the biggest of the year so far for football in the Balkan country.

Local officials said Wednesday that they had sold less than 15,000 tickets for the game at the 43,600-capacity Vasil Levski stadium in central Sofia.

"Our team only have a very slim chance of reaching the finals but I'm still surprised because there are so many English football fans in Bulgaria," Kristian Georgiev, a 24-year-old fan, told Reuters at a quiet ticket office.

Bulgaria, who have failed to qualify for a major tournament since Euro 2004 in Portugal, are fourth in Group G with five points from five games, six behind leading pair England and Montenegro.

The Bulgarian Football Union began selling tickets at petrol stations three weeks ago in an attempt to beef up sales.