A draw in Montenegro was less than Bulgaria had hoped for from their first 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ qualifier. Striker Dimitar Rangelov, on the books at Bundesliga outfit Energie Cottbus, spoke to FIFA.com ahead of crunch meetings at home to world champions Italy and away to Georgia.
FIFA.com: Dimitar, how do you feel about the 2-2 draw away to Montenegro in your first South Africa 2010 qualifier?
Dimitar Rangelov: We were down to ten men but still took a point, so we weren’t disappointed with the final score.
How do things stand with you and the national team at the moment?
I’m just thrilled I've been invited to join up with the national team again. There’s a fierce battle for places in the national squad, especially in attack. My aim is to keep producing the goods in the Bundesliga, hope I continue receiving call-ups, and take my chances when they come.
On paper at least, qualifying from Group 8 in Europe appears manageable to Bulgaria. As well as Italy, you face Republic of Ireland, Cyprus, Georgia and Montenegro. What is your take on the group?
Italy are obviously the overwhelming favourites, but it’ll be very tight among the remaining teams, who are all on the same level and have similar ambitions.
Bulgaria have not qualified for the FIFA World Cup since 1998. Why do you think this is?
Back then, the team featured outstanding individuals from the best leagues in Europe. There was little continuity between that team and the new generation, and our confidence suffered as a result.
Bulgaria’s greatest triumph was finishing fourth at USA 1994. What do you remember about that tournament and the team which included greats such as Hristo Stoichkov, Krassimir Balakov and Yordan Letchkov?
I was only 11 at the time, but I was already interested in football. There was a real sense of euphoria in Bulgaria back then.
Do you idolise any particular player?
No, not really. Obviously, there are well-known and excellent players you use as a yardstick or just admire for their skills. But I’m not aiming to imitate anyone, just go my own way.
You joined Bundesliga club Energie Cottbus in 2006. What are your goals at club level?
As it was last season, our goal in Cottbus is to stay in the top flight. I want to make as big a contribution as I can towards that.