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When Bulgaria finished fifth in the 2003 World League, the Volleyball stood up and applauded an excellent performance. But when they finished fourth last year there was many who recognized that this is a team which is developing into one of the sharpest on the international stage.

However, with Martin Stoev having replaced Brunko Gavrilov as coach, it will be interesting to see if the traditionally strong Bulgarian offensive game continues in 2005.

The towering 210cm Evgeni Ivanov is an awesome sight on attack and defence while Plamen Konstantinov has been consistently one of Bulgaria’s best. Both will be key components in another World League competition which Bulgaria will be hoping for more of the same from last year, when they repeated their best ever result in the World League in seven attempts.

This Eastern European team, ranked 13th on the FIVB world rankings, is traditionally strong and on their day can quite easily cause an upset. The 2002 World Championship in Argentina was a perfect illustration of the calibre of this team. On route to a 13th place finish Bulgaria defeated the then World League title holders Russia 3-0 before pushing eventual World Championship bronze medalists France to five sets during pool play.

Unfortunately it was during the second round when Bulgaria went down to Italy, Argentina and Japan to destroy any chance of progressing any further. Previous history in the World League includes a five-year streak from 1994-1998 when their best finish was fourth in 1994. Since then their form has tailed off and yet proved unpredictable. European Championship form has seen the Bulgarians finishing sixth in 2001 and seventh in 1999, however, ending the 2003 tournament second from bottom of their pool was considered a disappointment.

For a team that reached the 1996 Olympics quarterfinals and has won three gold medals, a silver and a bronze at World Championship level, failure to qualify for the Sydney Olympics was a mystery while failure to qualify for Athens was more of a lack of urgency, missing out on the semifinals of the European Continental Olympic qualifying tournament on set ratio.

Despite the recent setbacks, Bulgaria are still considered to be one of the dark horses of world Volleyball who their World League opponents - France, Cuba and Italy - would be wise not to underestimate.
Overall Standings for Bulgaria
World League Played Total Matches played Win Lost % Wins
7 104 61 43 58.7