Matthaus: Bulgaria can still qualify for Euro 2012

SOFIA, Sept 23 (Reuters) - Bulgaria can still reach the Euro 2012 finals despite losing their opening two Group G qualifiers, new coach Lothar Matthaus said on Thursday.

"I realise it's a big challenge," Matthaus said after being presented to the media. "I know that Bulgaria lost to England and Montenegro in the first two matches but I think the team still has a chance to finish second and then qualify for the finals."

Germany's former World Cup winning captain replaced Stanimir Stoilov to become Bulgaria's fourth coach since Hristo Stoichkov quit in 2007.

"It's an enormous task and we need to work very hard to achieve it," the 49-year-old, who captained West Germany to the 1990 World Cup title and won a record 150 caps, said.

Matthaus urged the local supporters and media to get behind the team in their struggle against the odds to reach the tournament in Poland and Ukraine.

"Bulgaria is a footballing country but we can be successful only if the fans and the media give us their support."

"I know the Bulgarian football for a long time and I know the current players are very skilful. However, I will ask every team member for full commitment and for passion too."

Matthaus, who will make his debut against Wales next month, became the first foreigner to take over as Bulgaria coach since Czech Rudolf Vytlacil vacated the post in 1966.


The 1991 FIFA World Player of the year said that he would try to persuade Manchester United striker Dimitar Berbatov to come out of international retirement.

Berbatov, who is the Balkan country's all-time leading scorer, quit the team in May.

"No doubt, I'll talk to him (Berbatov) and I hope that he'll change his mind," said Matthaus. "I believe that every player should be proud to play for the national team.

"I've been in a similar situation with the German national team during my playing days and I think I can tell him some things. But it's up to him after all."