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Bulgaria confident in ability

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Caoimhín Kelleher

Caoimhín Kelleher

Caoimhín Kelleher

A pandemic has denied them a chance to play against Ireland in front of their own supporters, and now the Bulgarian national team have the annoyance of losing players due to Covid-19.

But Bulgaria are confident that their superior technique will help them outwit Ireland and Wales in the coming days.

Liverpool goalkeeper Caoimhín Kelleher has been drafted into the senior squad after Kieran O'Hara was ruled out due to injury.

Stephen Kenny opted to promote Kelleher from the U-21 panel, as Kelleher and Bournemouth's Mark Travers offer cover for first-choice keeper Darren Randolph. Dara O'Shea and Seán Maguire were also called up for senior duty.

Bulgaria boss Georgi Dermendzhiev was hit with a blow before he could even work with his squad, as Slovakia-based defender Vasil Bozhikov was not released by his club, Slovan Bratislava.

Slovan - who have had a very costly encounter with coronavirus which saw them kicked out of the Champions League - maintained that, under quarantine rules between the two countries, Bozhikov would need to quarantine for 14 days upon his return from international duty, causing him to miss two league matches as well as Slovan's Europa League tie and they refused to allow him travel. CSKA Sofia defender Plamen Galabov was called in to replace the absent Bozhikov.

Bulgaria's recent form is poor, five defeats and a draw in their last six outings, but striker Dimitar Iliev is upbeat.

"I think every player who has been called up is optimistic," he said.

"Ireland and Wales are great teams but they are only superior to us physically.

"When it comes to technique, we will see."