Bulgaria hires 1994 World Cup star Balakov as coach

SOFIA, Bulgaria — Bulgaria's soccer federation has hired 1994 World Cup star Krasimir Balakov as national team coach, looking to end a 16-year wait to play at a major tournament.

Balakov replaced Petar Hubchev, his teammate on the World Cup semifinalist squad, who resigned after the team drew its first two 2020 European Championship qualifying games in March.

Aiming to reach a first tournament since Euro 2004, Bulgaria is second in a five-team group led by England. The top two teams will advance to Euro 2020.

Bulgarian federation president Boris Mihaylov says "one of the biggest names in Bulgarian sporting history has agreed to a long-term commitment with the national team."

Balakov's team plays two qualifiers next month, away to Czech Republic and at home against Kosovo. Bulgaria plays England at Wembley Stadium on Sept. 7.

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