August 27, 2015 / 8:07 PM / 4 years ago

Soccer-Little Astana not ready for group stages, says coach

SOFIA, Aug 27 (Reuters) - Rank outsiders Astana are not ready to make their maiden appearance in the group stages of the Champions League, according to their Bulgarian coach Stanimir Stoilov.

The Kazakh team were drawn in Group C on Thursday alongside twice winners Benfica, 2014 runners-up Atletico Madrid and regular Champions League combatants Galatasaray.

“We’ll try to do our best,” said Stoilov. “I think we can get some points but it will be difficult.

“We’re still not ready to play at this level but you can achieve anything when you have a dream. We will enjoy the experience and we are certainly looking forward to it.”

Astana were founded just six years ago and won their maiden Kazakh league title in June.

“We have a team who want to develop,” said Stoilov. “I am a coach who knows what he wants and I know how to achieve goals ... nothing is accidental in football.”

Astana travelled around 3,500-km for their qualifying round second leg at APOEL Nicosia on Wednesday, drawing 1-1 to progress 2-1 on aggregate.

Stoilov also steered Levski Sofia through nine years ago as they became the first Bulgarian side to compete in the group stages.

“We are all celebrating and there is a feeling of great joy,” said the 48-year-old former Bulgarian international who is known for the way he promotes young players to the first team.

Stoilov, a tough disciplinarian, has twice coached his country.

President Nursultan Nazarbayev said Astana’s triumph over APOEL had “united all the people of Kazakhstan.

“I’m sure it will give impetus to further popularise the sport in our country,” the long-serving Nazarbayev wrote in a congratulatory telegram.

“Astana will battle with the world’s football giants. It’s a great opportunity for all our fans to see the game at a new level.” (Editing by Tony Jimenez)

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