Date: June 10th. 2019
Home Team: Bulgaria
Away Team: Kosovo
Competition: 2020 European Championship Qualifying
The hosts Bulgaria line up in a 4-4-2. Despodov is the Bulgarian Player of the year who plays in Serie A for Cagliari, he is man to look at in this match. Despodov lines up on the left flank. While talisman and captain Popov will lineup as the second striker. For Kosovo they lineup in a 4-2-3-1.. The main man for Kosovo is number 7 Rashica who applies his trade in the Bundesliga with Werder Bremen. Now I would be lying if I said in knew anything else about these players and their abilities but that is kind of the reason I am looking at this game. The main thing to look for when these two formations go up against each other is the midfield. When playing a 4-2-3-1 you have the numbers in midfield especially when your full backs get into the attack. On the flip side if Bulgaria is able to get through the midfield, with two strikers they will have more options on the attack. Also it is very well possible that Popov or Isa plays deeper then a regular striker to provide help in the midfield.
When I was going through games to watch this game certainly stuck out to me. The first thing was that 3-2 is an exciting game with a lot to dissect. But the main thing was the story behind Kosovo. Kosovo is the newest nation in UEFA gaining membership back in May of 2016. For years they were part of Yugoslavia and also Serbia & Montenegro. There is a lot of history there which I implore you to read up on. But now they are independent and also have a team to support. Going into this game they were 13 games unbeaten. So I was fascinated to watch this newly formed team and what made them so good. The only injury issue on both sides was that of Edon Zhegrova a dynamic young play maker who plays for Basel, was out with injury.
The first half started and a few things became clear. First off this was going to be a fairly open game. Both teams thought they could win and they played like that for the most part. As I suspected with Bulgaria, Popov did in drop into midfield. However he dropped really deep at some points. It was clear that he had license to really do whatever he wanted. He popped up every where. During some strings of possession he would pick up the ball from the center back and make a run with the ball through the midfield to create some opportunities. It was clear that he was the most influential player on the field. From there however there wasn’t much for Bulgaria. Kosovo made it a point in the first half to press high which caused some problems for Bulgaria. Kosovo’s full backs would push high and out number the Bulgarians who would proceed to give the ball away. When they did string together a few passes together they looked to the flanks, mainly for Despodov to create. The game was mainly dictated by Kosovo however. When they were good they were great. The played out from the back mainly looking to attack down the flanks as well. They were not shy about pushing their full backs high. They would play off the wingers and create chances through crosses. Now don’t get me wrong, they created chances with crosses but not all were very good. I would say both teams had issues with quality in the final third. However all the goals came from wide opportunities. This also makes sense when you have big Muriqi playing as your number 9. On the other hand for Kosovo they had numerous mental lapses that gave Bulgaria some chances. Both goals for Bulgaria came from simple mistakes. One from lazy marking on a corner and the other from a sloppy giveaway in midfield. There were also other mistakes that Bulgaria could have capitalized on if they had been sharper.
Overall I believe this was a fair result. Kosovo was the more talented team and they played like it. The score is fair because between minutes 40 and 60, Bulgaria were playing their best and deserved those two goals. However once they got that second goal they kind of sat back as if they were content with ending the game at that time. Sitting back and defending for 30 minutes usually leads to trouble and it did.
Man of the Match:
Rashica – Kosovo
Rashica was hands down the best player on the pitch. He played a part in all three of Kosovo’s goals. The winger was composed on the ball and was very confident going one on one with a defender. He terrorized the left flank and made it his own. He definitely a player to look out for especially playing in the Bundesliga for Werder Bremen.
Rashica 14’- This goal came from great build up play from a goal kick after a half chance from Bulgaria. After playing through the center backs, some link up play on the right side freed up Vojvada to whip in a cross. The cross was a good one but missed the intended striker. However it was Popov (The Right Back) who could not deal with it and his “clearance” went right to Rashica who slotted it home. Rashica is the man in form scoring in Kosovo’s last game. Overall I would say that the finish was great from an opportunity that was slightly deserved. The cross was great and asked questions of the defense forcing them to execute which Popov did not.
Popov 43’- This one was really against the run of play but Bulgaria was able to get this goal. Kosovo was lazy on a throw in and they were able to win the ball back easily. They gave it to that man Popov and he did the rest. Went on a short run with the ball then blasted it from the top of the box. It was great goal with great technique. A small mental lapse from Kosovo leads to a tie game.
Dimitrov 55’- After a small spell of possession Bulgaria was able to get a corner. Really simple stuff here. Out swinging cross from the left corner. Dimitrov, a substitute, starts from the top of the box. Kosovo is playing this very loose zone coverage. Dimitrov just runs right in and nobody can pick him up. The cross finds his head and Bulgaria is up 2-1 after a much better start to the second half.
Muriqi 64’- After Bulgaria dominated the first 15 minutes of the second half, things reverted back to how they were in the first half with Kosovo regaining control of the game. This was a great goal. started with a nutmeg by Rashica on the left, this led to an open Kololli to whip in a great cross to the far post for Muriqi. Muriqi has been solid this game linking up play and also being the typical number 9 in the box. After numerous crosses he finally got on the end of one.
Rashani 90’- After dominating the game since the last goal they were finally rewarded with a goal and ultimately the winner and it just so happened to be in stoppage time. This was a simple cross and finish. The ball was played up to Rashica on left and his cross perfectly found Rashani who was perfectly between his defenders which gave him enough space to finish the chance. The keep er may have had a chance to save it but the shot was from such close range that you cant blame him too much.
As always thanks for reading! Hit me up on twitter @Boombsh if you want to further conversation!