England v Bulgaria: All you need to know about Euro 2020 qualifier opponents for Gareth Southgate's Three Lions

All you need to know about Bulgaria, who are the latest Euro 2020 qualifier opponents for Gareth Southgate's Three Lions on Monday night.

England will try again to qualify for Euro 2020 as they face Bulgaria on Monday night aiming to bounce back from defeat in the Czech Republic on Friday.

A win for Southgate's side in Sofia can secure their place at next summer's Euro 2020 if other results go their way.

Ahead of the Group A meeting in Sofia, the PA news agency takes a closer look at the hosts.

Form

Having not reached the finals of the European Championship or World Cup since Euro 2004, Bulgaria are in something of a rut.

Krasimir Balakov took charge in May but his side sit bottom of Group A with three points and no wins from their opening six matches.

England captain Harry Kane helped himself to a hat-trick as the Three Lions ran roughshod over the Bulgaria defence at Wembley last month, the 4-0 scoreline potentially even flattering the visitors.

Our best bets for Bulgaria v England
Our best bets for Bulgaria v England

Coach

A 92-cap Bulgaria international during his playing days, former midfielder Balakov was a popular choice as the nation's new coach following his appointment earlier in the year.

Narrow defeats to the Czech Republic and Kosovo, as well as the thrashing in England, and a goalless draw away in Montenegro means he has not had the immediate impact he would have liked.

The 53-year-old has coached in Switzerland, Bulgaria, Croatia and Germany and also enjoyed a successful playing career - the highlight being named in the FIFA all-star team at the 1994 World Cup having helped Bulgaria to the semi-finals in the United States during a golden era for the national side.

Stadium

The Vasil Levski National Stadium in Sofia would usually be close to its 46,000 capacity for the visit of a side such as England.

But 5,000 seats are closed off after anti-racism sanctions placed on Bulgaria by UEFA following incidents in qualifiers against Kosovo and the Czech Republic earlier in the year.

England manager Gareth Southgate has voiced his concerns over such an issue occurring on Monday, while his players have been briefed on UEFA's three-step protocol to taking action against any racist behaviour.

Ashley Young was targeted on England's last game at the stadium in 2011 but Southgate and his players will be wanting to leave with no repeat and three points in the bag this time around.

Players

Balakov is rightly revered as one of Bulgaria's best-ever players - most of whom come from the same generation around the early 1990s.

But there were none better than Hristo Stoichkov, who won five LaLigas and the Champions League with Barcelona.

None of the current crop can claim such achievements, the bulk of the players plying their trade in their homeland at the likes of Ludogorets and the Sofia clubs.

Captain Ivelin Popov plays for FC Rostov in Russia and has 16 goals from his 87 international caps, making him Bulgaria's most potent and experienced player among Balakov's squad.


England v Bulgaria previous meetings

The two nations have met on 11 previous occasions and boss Gareth Southgate will be keen to maintain the Three Lions' unbeaten record against the Eastern Europeans when they renew acquaintances on Monday.

Bulgaria 0 England 0, June 1962

England's first game against Bulgaria was a World Cup group match in Chile, with Johnny Haynes captaining the team in what would be his penultimate international appearance.

England 1 Bulgaria 1, December 1968

Geoff Hurst scored England's equaliser as the World Cup holders hosted Bulgaria at Wembley for the first time in an international friendly, Georgi Asparuhov having put the visitors ahead.

Bulgaria 0 England 1, June 1974

Frank Worthington scored the winning goal as caretaker manager Joe Mercer oversaw a friendly win at the Vasil Levski national stadium in Sofia.

Bulgaria 0 England 3, June 1979

Kevin Keegan, Dave Watson and Peter Barnes scored the goals as Ron Greenwood's team were convincing winners in a European Championship qualifier.

England 2 Bulgaria 0, November 1979

The return fixture in European Championship qualification brings another victory for England courtesy of goals from Watson and a debutant called Glenn Hoddle.

England 1 Bulgaria 0, March 1996

Terry Venables' side continued their preparations for Euro 96 with a win thanks to an early goal from Les Ferdinand at Wembley.

England 0 Bulgaria 0, October 1998

Hoddle is now the England manager and the Three Lions' four-match winning streak against Bulgaria ends as a goalless stalemate in European Championship qualifying.

Bulgaria 1 England 1, June 1999

The return fixture in European Championship qualification saw England struggle again as Alan Shearer scored in another disappointing draw under Keegan, with Bulgaria having had Martin Petrov sent off before the hour.

England 4 Bulgaria 0, September 2010

Jermain Defoe scored a hat-trick as Fabio Capello's side opened their Euro 2012 qualifying campaign with their biggest victory against Bulgaria. Adam Johnson netted the other goal at Wembley.

Bulgaria 0 England 3, September 2011

Before the nations were drawn together in Group A, England's most recent meeting with Bulgaria came eight years ago in Sofia. A Gary Cahill goal and two more from Wayne Rooney moved Capello's men a step closer to Euro 2012 qualification.

England 4 Bulgaria 0, September 2019

Harry Kane hit a hat-trick as England made it three wins out of three in European Championship qualifying Group A with Raheem Sterling also on target at Wembley as Southgate's men moved a step closer to qualification.

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