Sweden VS Bulgaria Prediction
After the 1-4 defeat by France on Friday night, Bulgaria travels for Sweden where “The Lions” will face against one of their worst possible oppositions in historical aspect. Sweden and Bulgaria are two from the sides situated in group A of the 2018 FIFA World Cup European Qualifiers where we also find teams of France, Netherlands, Belarus and Luxembourg. After first two rounds Sweden shares top positions with France and the Netherlands, as both sides have won four points while Bulgaria is with three, thanks to their dramatic 4-3 victory vs Luxembourg in round one.
Sweden vs Bulgaria – Team News and Match Preview
The Swedes also had some difficulties against group underdogs Luxembourg and their match at the “Stade Josy Barthel” in Luxembourg was decided by just one goal scored by right-back Mikael Lustig in 58th minute. Not the most convincing performance by Sweden and plenty of missed scoring opportunities. This may cause some rotations by Swedish coach Janne Andersson, who said he’ll sleep carefully, few times, before taking so important decision. However, it’s obvious that Sweden is a team which must show much better efficiency and more effort against country like Luxembourg, although we have rejuvenation of Swedish generation. Lot of key players decided to retire from international football after the unsuccessful UEFA Euro 2016 campaign, where Sweden was one of the biggest disappointments. Indeed, Scandinavian team has won just one point thanks to an own goal by Ciaran Clark in the 1-1 draw vs Republic of Ireland, which was their only goal at the so anticipated tournament.
Only positives after that minimum success against Luxembourg can be pulled out from fact it was Sweden’s first victory since the 3-0 win over Wales part of their Euro 2016 preparation, as well as three points are three points, no matter what’s the exact result on the scoreboard.
Petar Hubchev will have to play against the odds as former defender has some serious issues regarding Bulgarian defense. They have already conceded 7 goals in just 2 matches and if that heavy defeat in Paris was pretty much expected, then we cannot find any positives from all three goals conceded by Luxembourg in matchday one. Moreover, both 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers and seven conceded goals in them were preceded by more woeful defensive record at the 2016 Kirin Cup in Japan, where Bulgaria lost to the host nation (2-7) and by Denmark (0-4). Of course, that happened in June and we have significant “improvement” – Bulgarians have conceded only seven in the official games, against 11 in both matches for a friendly cup.
We must also note that head coach Petar Hubchev was appointed as Bulgarian head coach in end of September when it was announced that former coach Ivaylo Petev will sign contract with Croatian Dinamo Zagreb, after resigning from its national team commitment at the same time.
Head-to-head history: Sweden vs Bulgaria
Bulgaria holds awful experience when they meet Sweden and their last success dates back from November 1967, when Bulgaria won with 3-0 in a qualifying match for the 1968 European Championship. This remains last victory for Bulgaria and it has been followed by only 2 draws in next 10 matches between both nations. This forms terrifying H2H record between Bulgaria and Sweden which inspires optimism to the home side, but “Lions” cannot find any of that when looking at these statistics.
Sweden comes after 8 wins in their last 9 matches against Bulgaria and only time when “Lions” have shown teeth was in the 1-1 draw from September 1993, when both nations were together in same qualifying group for the 1994 FIFA World Cup. Legend of Bulgarian football Hristo Stoichkov scored that goal which remains only goal for Bulgaria in that period from 1967 to nowadays, but both teams will remember that qualifying cycle with great memories since they finished on top two positions in Group 6, leaving favourites France on third position. Thus Sweden and Bulgaria have qualified for the World Cup staged by the United States of America where they met in a third-place decider – 4:0 victory for Sweden on 16 July 1994. We must note that Petar Hubchev was part from that glorious Bulgarian team and he personally took part in that so-called little final at the “Rose Bowl” in Pasadena, California.
Both qualifiers for the 1994 World Cup (1-1 in Sofia, 2-0 in Stockholm) are only part from the nightmare lived by Bulgaria when facing Sweden and besides that catastrophic defeat in 1994, Sweden have scored 13 more goals in their next five matches against Bulgaria. Undoubtedly worst one of them was at the UEFA Euro 2004 finals in Portugal where Sweden led by coaching duo Lars Lagerbäck and Tommy Söderberg wrecked Bulgaria of Plamen Markov with five goals to nil (5-0) at the “Estádio José Alvalade” in Lisbon. Devastating moment in Bulgarian football and this remains an open wound. However, that wasn’t all when Sweden achieved two more expressive wins in the 2006 FIFA World Cup qualifiers – 3:0 in both occasions.
Overall balance between Sweden and Bulgaria contains 14 previous fixtures and despite both wins in the Euro 1968 qualifying, Bulgaria still waits for a win. On other hand Sweden can boast with 10 victories and this underlines an absolute superiority in the H2H balance against Bulgaria.
Sweden vs Bulgaria – Betting Prediction and Possible Lineups
Hubchev was appointed for Ivaylo Petev’s successor with experience as a former coach of few lower division German clubs (FV Bad Vilbel, Eintracht Frankfurt II, Wolfsburg II), but his domestic experience prevails since he was head coach in clubs like Chernomorets Pomorie, Botev Plovdiv and Beroe Stara Zagora. He’s also former national team player from the “golden generation” which Bulgaria had in the 90’s, but this remains in the past and now Bulgaria’s national pool looks reduced on maximum. He didn’t had enough time to make rotations in the squad selected by his predecessor but this isn’t such an issue, since Bulgaria doesn’t have much choice nowadays, like we already mentioned.
Only rotation made by the 52-year-old Bulgarian coach was related with name of Levki Sofia’s central midfielder Georgi Kostadinov who was called as a replacement of injured right-back Yordan Minev. Exactly Kostadinov was in starting squad against France, marking its debut, and we won’t be surprised if he gets more credit by Petar Hubchev. Actually Bulgarian coach stated its huge disappointment about the lack of fighting spirit in the team and he already hinted some of the players have been “blacklisted”. Nonetheless, they may have one last chance in match against Sweden (Hubchev refuses to be even more exact with particular names), where he will require much more by every player.
Sweden returns in Solna (municipality in Stockholm County) where “The Blågult” will be keen for a second successive win. Their first 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifier was also on home turf and their draw vs the Netherlands (1-1) isn’t that bad result. Of course, Sweden must win against someone from the Netherlands or France if they want to retain good chances for eventual World Cup promotion, but it’s too early for some general conclusions after only two matches. Sweden should try to be more productive against Bulgaria in a first place and they’re in a must win situation, considering fact they’ll travel to France in November.
Janne Andersson can make some rotations in the starting lineup as one of them can be at the left-back where Ludwig Augustinsson and Oscar Wendt are competing with Martin Olsson, who started against Luxembourg. This time we may have Wendt back in the squad as he played whole match against the Netherlands. Basel’s central midfielder Alexander Fransson is one of the players who may also be returned in the starting lineup against Bulgaria, at the expense of Albin Ekdal. Biggest dilemma remains about Sweden’s attacking duo and fact Marcus Berg/John Guidetti couldn’t score against Luxembourg. Ola Toivonen and Christoffer Nyman are potential replacements but we believe Janne Andersson will provide another chance for its primary attacking options.
Final conclusion and Betting Tip
Bulgaria will strive to show better defending than in France and this shouldn’t surprise anyone. Petar Hubchev is a coach who’s well-known with his defensive mentality and he’ll probably rely on same centre-back duo Aleksandar Aleksandrov/Dimitar Pirgov, as latter made his international debut against France. Both are partners in Levski Sofia where they form strongest defensive duo in Bulgarian First League so far, but we cannot compare those matches with what’s on the corner.
Considering Sweden’s home advantage, better tactical discipline of the players, exclusively successful record they have against Bulgaria, we’re tempted to place a bet on Sweden with the Asian Handicap -1 on their side. We believe that history can repeat and Sweden can once again win with more than a goal margin, but even if they win with only a goal, you’ll have your money back. Since odds for a clear win (1X2 betting) are too low.
Venue: “Friends Arena”, Stockholm.
Referee: Michael Oliver.
Possible starting lineups of Sweden and Bulgaria
Sweden: Robin Olsen – Oscar Wendt, Victor Lindelöf, Andreas Granqvist, Mikael Lustig – Emil Forsberg, Alexander Fransson, Oscar Hiljemark, Jimmy Durmaz – John Guidetti, Marcus Berg. (4-4-2)
Bulgaria: Vladislav Stoyanov – Zhivko Milanov, Dimitar Pirgov, Aleksandar Aleksandrov, Strahil Popov – Ivaylo Chochev, Svetoslav Dyakov – Georgi Milanov, Ivelin Popov, Mihail Aleksandrov – Dimitar Rangelov. (4-2-3-1)