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Bulgaria to keep faith in under-fire Stoichkov

SOFIA, May 14 (Reuters) - Coach Hristo Stoichkov has the full backing of Bulgaria's soccer authorities despite the growing criticism he is facing, the Bulgarian Football Union (BFU) said on Sunday.

Flamboyant Stoichkov, one of Bulgarian soccer icons, was strongly criticised for Bulgaria's humiliating 5-1 defeat by Scotland in a Kirin Cup friendly on Thursday.

'Hristo has all our support,' said BFU's vice-president Lechkov, after returning from the exhibition tournament in Japan. 'No one doubts that Stoichkov is the right man for Bulgarian team.'

'The result in the match against Scotland is not the most important thing, it happens so often in football,' added Stoichkov's team mate Lechkov.

Former European Footballer of the Year Stoichkov succeeded Plamen Markov after Bulgaria's poor performance at the Euro 2004. But despite his boundless energy Bulgaria failed to qualify for World Cup finals in Germany.

Stoichkov, who as a player inspired Bulgaria to the semi-finals of the 1994 World Cup in the United States said he has no plan to resign.

'I'm not going to make a step back,' he said. 'I will not evade responsibility. We'll have to prepare for the European championship qualifiers and this is not the right time for resignation.'

Under-fire Stoichkov was criticised by some of Balkan country's media for lack of consistency in the way he is selecting the squad, despite a 2-1 win over Japan in the Kirin Cup.

Many Bulgarian fans also expressed their disappointment of Stoichkov's style of work. A poll, published in local Topsport website after Bulgaria's 5-1 defeat by Scotland, shows that less than 30 percent want him to keep his job.

However, Stoichkov, who suffered the heaviest defeat in his coaching career, rejected the attacks.

'The matches we played in the tournament were useful. I had the opportunity to draw some conclusions and I tested some players who I will rely on in the coming qualifiers,' said Stoichkov.

'Our main goal is to qualify for the Euro 2008 finals but we need to work in a calm atmosphere.'