Bulgaria vs Netherlands Prediction, Preview, H2H, Lineups & Betting Tips 25.03.2017
The Netherlands national football team came back home after winning bronze medals from the 2014 FIFA World Cup finals in Brazil, but months later “Oranje” had to live with a bitter taste after a failure to qualify to the UEFA Euro 2016. This makes importance of the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifications even greater as the Netherlands simply can’t afford missing another major football forum. An upcoming visit to Bulgarian capital Sofia will be a huge test for Oranje’s ability since Danny Blind’s men have only a point above Bulgaria and eventual slip at the “National Stadium Vasil Levski” can be a certain blow over their aspirations.
H2H Stats – Bulgaria vs the Netherlands: Bulgaria and the Netherlands will meet for the first time after almost five years, when Bulgarian team crossed the road of “The Flying Dutchmen” prior UEFA Euro 2012. That happened in end of May 2012 when a team led by Bert van Marwijk suffered a surprising home defeat (1-2) at the “Amsterdam ArenA” in Dutch capital, few weeks before suffering a bigger disappointment at the European Championship finals in Poland and Ukraine.
Both nations share an overall balance of 10 previous fixtures but only five of them are having competitive status. Last time when Bulgaria and the Netherlands were together in a qualifying fixture was in period 2006-07 when they were eager to qualify at the UEFA Euro 2008 finals. After a draw (1-1) in Sofia and 2-0 home win for the Dutch team in Amsterdam, the Netherlands have qualified for finals in Austria and Switzerland.
In the meantime Bulgaria draws inspiration from four previous victories over the Netherlands (three of them are in the friendlies), but when it comes to a competitive encounter Bulgarians have only one win – 2-0 in a World Cup qualifier back in October 1968.
Guests from the Netherlands also have four victories against Bulgaria and draws are respectively two, as the two were in some of the past World Cup qualifiers.
World Cup 2018 Qualification: Bulgaria vs Netherlands 25.03.2017
Bulgaria is not the same football nation it used to be back in the days and with every next qualifying campaign their national team sinks even more. For a comparison last time when Bulgaria and the Netherlands were in same qualifying group, a decade ago, Bulgarians were third with an impressive amount of points (25). Moreover, Bulgaria lost only once and won in seven out of 12 qualifiers, but they finished behind the Netherlands having a point less.
In all following qualifiers Bulgaria can’t dream to reach similar number of points, neither victories, as “The Lions” lost their aggression. The team is currently led by a former sweeper in face of Petar Hubchev, who replaced Ivaylo Petev in late September, but all poor performances through the years are not a result of the coaching staff. Of course, it has some “contribution”, but even Jose Mourinho will face serious difficulties if he has to build a battleworthy lineup with current national pool of Bulgaria.
Ivaylo Petev, who currently leads Dinamo Zagreb, began the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers with Bulgaria and pressure was too much on him after two devastating summer defeats. Even they were at a friendly tournament, it’s always embarrassing if your country losses twice with 4 or more goals margin – 2-7 vs Japan and 0-4 vs Denmark at the 2016 Kirin Cup in Japan.
Last match of Ivaylo Petev as a Bulgarian head coach was a 4-3 victory over Luxembourg in first leg of the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers. The result speaks for itself, although Bulgaria won the game. That happened in stoppage time and it probably was the very first time when Luxembourg scored three times in a competitive match away from home.
After Petev accepted an invitation from Dinamo Zagreb later in the same month (September), Bulgarian Football Union had to take a quick action. Petar Hubchev has been appointed shortly before both qualifiers in October when Bulgaria had two extremely tough visits – against France and Sweden. Hubchev’s debut was at the “Stade de France” in French capital Paris where even if Bulgaria opened the score, “Les Bleus” were the final winners with 4-1.
Few days after losing to France, Bulgaria traveled to Swedeish capital Stockholm. The Swedes are one of the most undesirable opponents of Bulgaria in historical aspect and that rule has been confirmed after an easy 3-0 win for Sweden. Bulgarians had their chances but failed to impress in general.
Both October defeats were followed by a narrow success over Belarus in November which came as a partial consolation and the first positive result of Petar Hubchev after his appointment.
The Netherlands are one of the biggest names in European football and will be unthinkable if they miss another major football tournament. However, perspectives upon Holland are not so shiny and Danny Blind fails to meet the expectations for an improvement after a fiasco in the Euro 2016 qualifiers.
First challenge of the Netherlands was a 1-1 draw in Sweden when the Dutchmen found themselves in a losing position and Wesley Sneijder leveled the score. One month later Danny Blind had a significant test about his leading ability as first October qualifier was a warm up, while the second was against France. And if the Netherlands were convincing enough and won 4-1 over Belarus, only couple of days later “Oranje” lost 0-1 to France in Amsterdam. A result which pretty much improves chances of France as a main first-position pretenders in qualifying group A.
November has been a month of “Benelux” for the Netherlands, who had a friendly match against neighbours Belgium (1-1), followed by a 1-3 win in Luxembourg. Thus Holland gathers seven points in four games and occupies second Group A position, due to a better goal difference they have compared with Sweden.
Match Preview: Team News, Squads and Missing Players
Only some years ago Bulgaria had active footballers like Dimitar Berbatov, Stiliyan Petrov, Martin Petrov and others, who were regular first-team players in top European football leagues. Nowadays Bulgarian national team is filled mostly by players from the domestic league. Normally that’s not something bad, but not if a league is one of the poorest when it comes to quality of football and results. Most people usually associate Bulgaria with the team of Ludogorets Razgrad, but most of their players are foreigners and even Bulgarians are not available for that game.
First-team goalkeeper Vladislav Stoyanov, veteran Yordan Minev and captain Svetoslav Dyakov are all injured, naturalized Brazilian playmaker Marcelinho is not in the group, leaving Ludogorets with only one representative in the squad. That’s Aleksandar Vasilev who can eventually make a debut if Petar Hubchev decides to give him a chance.
Besides all missing names from Ludogorets, Ivan Ivanov, Zhivko Milanov, Georgi Milanov, Mihail Aleksandrov and Dimitar Rangelov are other players having certain national experience but not in the group due to different reasons.
Under these circumstances coach Petar Hubchev should make some rotations and he drafted some players who are eager to make their debut, or do not have particular national team experience. Two of the potential debutants are within a goalkeeping list where Georgi Kitanov (CSKA Sofia) and Nikolay Krastev (Levski Sofia) compete with Nikolay Mihaylov (Mersin İdmanyurdu) for a starting position between the sticks. Nikolay Mihaylov plays in second league of Turkey, concedes lot of goals and is mostly known as a son of Borislav Mihaylov. Latter is former national team goalkeeper and current president of the Bulgarian Football Union.
Situation in defense also looks worrying as the Bulgarians already conceded 10 goals in only four rounds and fact that Luxembourg have scored three times in Sofia surely testifies for our claim.
Meanwhile the Dutch team can’t complain from a lack of footballers playing in top European football leagues. However, they do not represent same value as some of the past (whether we speak about far or recent past) generations in Dutch football.
Danny Blind selected a squad for an upcoming journey to Bulgaria, as well as for a home friendly against Italy on Tuesday. Nevertheless, it’s pretty clear that Blind is keen to use his optimal selection in Sofia as the most experienced names in that roster are of Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben. Latter is expected to push through the right wing. On other flank Sneijder is in a contention with players like Memphis Depay and Quincy Promes, who both show good form in their club teams and can cause some real damage to the shaky Bulgarian defense.
The 22-year-old striker of English Tottenham Hotspur, Vincent Janssen, is the only one among all selected players who could not travel to Bulgaria as he still recovers from a flu. This opens position on top of the Dutch attack for Bas Dost who scored just once in 12 national team appearances, but his current form in Portuguese Sporting CP may earn him a chance. Dost scored 24 goals in 23 Primeira Liga fixtures this season and six goals in the last two rounds.
Main issues of the Dutch side are in defense where both centre-backs Jeffrey Bruma and Virgil van Dijk are not available, so they should be replaced by a duo Bruno Martins Indi-Stefan de Vrij.
Bulgaria vs Netherlands Betting Prediction
Visitors from the Netherlands are favourites and we believe that a wrong step in Bulgaria may be too much for Danny Blind. Next games of the Dutch team are friendlies against Italy, Morocco and Côte d’Ivoire, while the only qualifying match until end of August 2017 is against Luxembourg. This makes their trip to Bulgaria extremely significant and if “Oranje” want to keep their hope for finishing on top, they must chase a mandatory win in Sofia. Otherwise they should even be afraid about their second position in the group since the Swedes are also looking to the top two spots.
Considering the entire mess in Bulgarian football and lack of quality players, we are ready to place a bet on the Netherlands using the Asian Handicap -1. This means our stake will be refunded if the Netherlands wins in Bulgaria with only one goal difference. Anyway, we believe the great pace of all Dutch players should be a real threat to Bulgaria’s defense and it will cause them serious problems on Saturday night.
Venue: “Natsionalen Stadion Vasil Levski”, Sofia.
Referee: William Collum from Scotland.
Possible Lineups of Bulgaria and the Netherlands
Bulgaria: Nikolay Mihaylov – Petar Zanev, Bozhidar Chorbadzhiyski, Nikolay Bodurov, Strahil Popov – Ivaylo Chochev, Simeon Slavchev – Spas Delev, Ivelin Popov, Aleksandar Tonev – Andrey Galabinov. (4-2-3-1)
Netherlands: Jasper Cillessen – Daley Blind, Bruno Martins Indi, Stefan de Vrij, Joël Veltman – Kevin Strootman, Davy Klaassen, Georginio Wijnaldum – Memphis Depay, Arjen Robben, Bas Dost. (4-3-3)