Spain 1 - Bulgaria 0
(Cañizares 46'); Michel Salgado, Puyol (Iván Helguera 46'),
Marchena, Raúl Bravo (Capdevila 79');Albelda, Baraja (Xavi 46');
Mendieta (Etxeberría 46'), Guti (Capi 62'), Vicente; José Mari
(Diego Tristán 46'). 4-2-3-1.
From our international correspondents Borja Pantzov and Goran Arsic.
So here we are, the big one. Not for anyone else, no, but for me, Borja Pantzov it is. The team of my father Getxa is coming to Spain to play the team of my mother, a sort of local derby for me at least. Not that I ever met my father, he left home eight months and twenty nine days before I was born, but my mother told me about him as I was growing up. Well she didn't know that much about him either to be honest, only that he arrived on a Bulgarian navy ship one night and that he had a nice smile, but I have had a soft spot for the Bulgarian national team ever since.
Not that this is the team of the glory days of Stoitchkov and the rest, the side that beat Germany in the World Cup in the U.S. of A. in 1994 and went on to finish fourth. Those days are now gone, and now they have a team of players who are all called Petrov without a really well known name amongst them. Really though, there are four Petrovs in the squad and another called Petkov who the local press and television called Petrov as well, to avoid confusion we suppose (like the Australians called Bruce). From the looks of the under 21 side there is no new talent coming through either, not even anyone called Petrov, and they lost 7-1 to a second choice Spanish side so it looks as if there are dark days ahead for our boys.
So who has Mr. Reliable Iñaki Sáez brought in for this game? Well, Cañizares is back (about time), and there is another old face from the manager's under 21 days, José Mari, who scored a hat-trick just as Don Iñaki was about to stick a pin in the paper to decide who to call up next. The Atlético striker actually played once for the full side some time ago, but then went on a long holiday in Italy and has not been seen since until he popped up back in Madrid as part of a job lot. Otherwise much of the same, but Raúl is still not fully fit after his tummy troubles and Joaquín has pulled out after injuring himself at the weekend, with Etxeberría getting a surprise call up to replace him.
So we get to the ground and find our seats. Goran is unusually quiet tonight, maybe because we were out to five o'clock in the morning around the tapas bars in Granada. A slight drizzle doesn't help either, the atmosphere dreary as we kick off with, Goran waking up a bit, a French lady linesman running the touchline in front of us. Right from the start it seems José Mari wants to make the best of his opportunity, and heads over in the first minute. Guti and Baraja both do the same before Spain go ahead, a quick passing move between Vicente and Baraja and Vicente crosses for José Mari to stroke the ball into the far corner of the net. I am happy but I am sad.
It seems we are on for a repeat of last night's match, but our captain Mendieta mis-hits a shot in front of goal, and after that Bulgaria get back in the game, with Manchev having a couple of goes at goal. Then Casillas makes the save of the night with his feet from Borimirov, and Berbatov puts the rebound over the bar. What is happening, but just before half time we almost score again when Guti heads Mendieta's free kick against the post.
Half time. By now Goran has lost interest in the lineswoman and is drifting off to sleep. I have a look in the programme and in fact Bulgaria are not so bad, we are top of our group for Euro 2004 and actually I do know some of the players, Berbatov is of course at Leverkusen, one of the Petrov's is at Celtic, Kishishev at Charlton and a couple more play in Germany. There is hope yet.
Second half now, and as expected there are a lot of changes, five in the Spanish side and two for Bulgaria. The game starts to get worse as a result, and only Vicente is showing any form. He can't keep his shot down though and blasts one over the bar. Peev shoots wide for the visitors before being substituted, and Capi heads wide.
Goran is fast asleep, his head lolling on the shoulder of a very embarrassed gentleman sitting to his left, but he is not the only one as the songs are replaced by yawns. In the last minute Raúl Bravo shoots, but hits Capi who is standing in the way. That sums up the game, another disappointment, especially after yesterday's youth game. That's it now for this year, and we will be back in February for another friendly game with Germany. I wake up Goran. Come on, I tell him, the bars are opening soon. There's this great Bulgarian place I know.....