Friday, November 28, 2014

Bulgaria Greatest All-time Team

Bulgaria 1994
This is my all-time team for Bulgaria. If there were an All-Time World Cup, this would be the 23 players I would bring to the tournament.  

Please also see my All-Time World Cup Team Index.

Bulgaria qualified for four straight World Cup Finals between 1962 and 1974, but they left no impression. Finally, the birth of the Golden Generation in 1990's gave rise of the Bulgarian football. In November, 1993, Bulgaria won probably their most important match in history.   They pulled a dramatic upset of France at the last match of the World Cup Qualifying rounds by scoring the winning goal at the dying minutes of the match. They leapfrogged France and qualified for USA 1994. At the World Cup Finals, they came from behind to beat defending champion Germany 2-1 in the quarterfinal.  They went on to finish 4th.

GK: Georgi Naydenov
He is considered the greatest Bulgarian goalkeeper for all time. Between 1955 and 1965 he played in 176 matches for CSKA Sofia. He was honoured as Bulgarian Footballer of the Year in 1961.  For Bulgaria, he had 51 caps.  He won a bronze medal at the1956 Summer Olympics.  He represented Bulgaria at 1962 and 1966 World Cup Finals.

GK: Borislav Mikhailov
He was captain of the Bulgaria national team during their surprising fourth-place run at the 1994 FIFA World Cup, as well their participation in European Championship of 1996. He also played at the 1986 FIFA World Cup and is currently the second most capped player for the Bulgaria national team with 102 caps (60 as captain).  His son also played for Bulgaria as a goalkeeper.

GK: Apostol Sokolov 
He was Lev Yashin's idol.  He was believed to be one of the greatest keeper from Eastern Europe.  Sokolov started his career with FC Bulgaria Sofia. In 1939 he joined Levski Sofia. After six first-team games, Sokolov moved to Spartak Sofia. Then he played for Prince Kiril Sofia, before returned to Levski in 1944.He was capped 15 times for Bulgaria during the 1950's.  He is the father of Georgi Sokolov.

RB: Aleksandar Shalamanov
He earned 42 caps for the Bulgarian national team, with which he participated in the World Cup 1966 and World Cup 1970.  He has participated in the Winter Olympics as an alpine skier in 1960.  He was a reserve player for Bulgaria's volleyball team in 1964. He began his career as a defender with CSKA Sofia in 1960-61, but moved to Slavia Sofia in 1961 to remain there until 1974, 

CB: Manol Manolov 
Manol Manolov played 57 games for Bulgaria and won a bronze medal at the 1956 Summer Olympics. Between 1948 and 1962 he played in 239 matches and scored 8 goals for CSKA Sofia. He was Bulgarian Footballer of the Year in 1958. He also played for Septemvri Sofia from 1944 to 1948 before joining CSKA.
CB: Dimitar Penev
He is regarded as one of his country's best ever defenders, winning Bulgarian footballer of the year in 1967 and 1971. He also participated in 3 world Cups for his country in 1966, 1970 and 1974. He started his career with Lokomotive Sofia in 1962.  He spent most of his career with CSKA Sofia.  He won 7 league titles for them.
Dimitar Penev
CB: Ivan Dimitrov
Ivan Dimitrov was a tall, solid center-back. He played 340 matches in the first League during his career. He played mainly for PFC Lokomotiv Sofia and PFC Akademik Sofia at home.  He played 70 matches for the Bulgarian national team between 1957 and 1970.  He represented Bulgaria in the 1962 and 1970 FIFA World Cups.

CB:  Kiril Ivkov
Kiril Ivkov spent most of his career with Levski Sofia.   In 1974 and 1975 he was named Bulgarian Footballer of the Year. With the national team, he was capped 44 times.  He played in the WC Finals in 1974.  He was also a part of the national team that won a silver medal at the Summer Olympics.

LB:  Boris Gaganelov
Boris Gaganelov made 51 appearances for the Bulgaria between 1963 and 1970 and 29 times as thei captain. He represented Bulgaria at the FIFA World Cups in 1966 and 1970.  With CSKA, he played over 350 league games.  He won Bulgarian league 7 times and Bulgarian Cup 6 times.

LB: Trifon Ivanov 
Nicknamed "the Wolf" due to his appearance, Trifon Ivanov was a member of Bulgaria's Golden Generation that reached the semi-final of World Cup 1994.  He also played in the 1996 European Championship and World Cup 1998. He was capped 76 times.  He played for Real Betis, Etar, CSKA, Neuchâtel Xamax, Rapid Wien, etc. He died in 2016 at he age of 50.
Trifon Ivanov 

LM/CM/AM: Yordan Letchkov
Perhaps Letchkob had over caps for Bulgaria.  He was best remembered for scoring the winning goal against Germany in the quarter-final at World Cup 1994.  He also played at Euro 1996.  He played for CSKA Sofia, Hamburger SV, Olympique de Marseille and Beşiktaş. His longest career was spent with Hamburger SV between 1992 and 1996.

He was the defensive midfielder for Bulgaria's Golden Generation in the 1990's.  He was capped 80 times between 1990 and 1999.  He played at the World Cups in 1994 and 1998, and he was also in the Bulgarian Euro 1996.  He played for many clubs all over Europe: Strandzha, Naftex Burgas, Chernomoretz Burgas, Levski Sofia, Lokomotiv Sofia, Kameno, Real Valladolid, Bayer Urdingen, Besiktas , Adanaspor , Vanspor and Genclerbirligi. 

He was most prominently played professionally for British clubs Celtic and Aston Villa.  At Celtic,  he became the first foreign player to win the SPFA Young Player of the Year award.  At Aston Villa, he was Players' Player of the Year: 2009, 2012.  He was also Bulgaria Player of the Year in 2003. He indicted to Aston Villa's Hall of Fame.
Stiliyan Petrov(R) with Dimitar Berbatov 
RW: Hristo Bonev 
Between 1967 and 1979, Bonev played for the Bulgarian national team 96 times, scoring a record 48 goals. He played for his country at the 1970 and 1974 World Cups. Most of Bonev's club career was spent with Lokomotiv Plovdiv, but he also played for CSKA Sofia and AEK Athens FC. One of the greatest Bulgarian footballers, Bonev was renowned for his vision and technique.

RW/CM/SS:  Ivan Petkov Kolev
Considered to be one of the best ever Bulgarian player.  He was capped 75 matches with 25 goals. He represented Bulgaria at both the 1962 FIFA World Cup and the 1966 FIFA World Cup.  He won a bronze medal at the 1956 Summer Olympics.  He was the first Bulgarian to be nominated for Ballon d'Or.

LW: Martin Petrov
Martin Petrov was the 2006 Bulgarian Footballer of the Year.  He was with CSKA Sofia when he moved to Switzerland.  He went on to play in the Bundesliga, La Liga and the Premiership.  His international career started badly.  He was sent off for a second yellow card just eight minutes after coming on as a substitute. Nevertheless, he went on to capture 90 caps for Bulgaria, playing at Euro 2004.  
Martin Petrov
LW:  Dimitar Yakimov
Nicknamed "the poet of football" for his dribbling skills. He was a star in the 1960's.  He went to three WC Finals: 1962, 1966 and 1970.  He scored the winning goal for Bulgaria in the World Cup qualifier play-off against France in 1961, leading his country to its first participation in World Cup finals. Four years later, he again assisted on the important gaol that helped Bulgaria for the WC Finals. He played mainly with CSKA Sofia.

AM: Krassimir Balakov 
Krassimir Balakov was one of the star player from the Golden Generation of the 1990's. He made 92 appearances for Bulgaria, between 1988 and 2003.  He was best remembered for forming a successful attacking partnership with strikers Fredi Bobic and Giovane Élber at Stuttgart, where he won two UEFA Intertoto Cups (2000 and 2002) and a DFB-Pokal (1997).  Before Stuttgart, He also had a successful spell with Sporting CP, playing with Luis Figo.

Krassimir Balakov 

ST: Nasko Sirakov
Nasko Sirakov is a legend at Levski Sofia in the 1980's.  In 1988, Sirakov moved abroad, playing in La Liga, with Real Zaragoza and RCD Español. He also played with Ligue 1's RC Lens. He was the Buglarian league top scorer four times.  He played in the World Cup Finals: 1986 and 1994.  He was a connection between the Golden Generation of 1990's to the 1986 World Cup team.  He also played at Euro 1996 at the age of 34.

ST: Georgi Asparukhov 
He is considered to be among the top Bulgarian footballers of all time. He was voted the best Bulgarian footballer of the 20th Century, ahead of Hristo Stoichkov.  He played for Levski Sofia from 1960 to 1961 and 1964 to 1971, and for Botev Plovdiv from 1961 to 1963.  Asparuhov was also nominated for the 1965 Ballon D'Or award, finishing eighth in the final standings. Asparuhov's career was cut short in 1971 at the age of 28 when he was killed in a vehicle accident.

ST:  Emil Kostadinov
He is best remembered for scoring two goals against France in the World Cup Qualfying match that helped Bulgaria to qualify for the WC in 1994.  He was capped 70 times.  Kostadinov started his career in CSKA Sofia. There he formed a trio with Hristo Stoichkov and Luboslav Penev in the late 1980s.  His best stint was with Porto where he spent 4 seasons and became a fan favourite. With Bayern Munich, he won the 1996 UEFA Cup with him scoring in the final itself.
Emil Kostadinov
ST: Dimitar Berbatov
He is its all-time leading goalscorer for Bulgaria. He has also won the Bulgarian Footballer of the Year a record seven times, surpassing the number of wins by Hristo Stoichkov.  He started with CSKA Sofia, but earned his reputation with Bayer Leverkusen between 2001 and 2006, playing in the Champions league Final in 2002. After two seasons with Tottenham Hotspur, he joined Manchester United.

ST/FW: Hristo Stoichkov
Hristo Stoichkov is Bulgaria's greatest player. At the 1994 World Cup, Stoichkov was awarded the Golden Boot as the joint top goal scorer of the tournament with six goals, as well as earning the Bronze Ball award. Bulgaria reached the semifinal before losing to Italy. At Barcelona, he was part of Johan Cruyff's "dream team" that won four consecutive La Liga titles and one UEFA Champions League.  He also won the Ballon d'Or in 1994.
Hristo Stoichkov
Honorable Mention
Lyuboslav Penev, Nikolay Ilie, Dobromir Zhechev, Kiril Rakarov, Dinko Dermendjiev, Radostin Kishishev, Ivan Kolev, Atanas Mihaylov.

Squad Explanation
-- Apostol Sokolov was a pionner in the goalkeeper position. 
-- Georgi Asparukhov was voted as the greatest Bulgarian footballer of the Century.
-- Eight members of this team came from the Golden Generation in the 1990's. that reached the semifinal of the 1994 World Cup Finals.  Hristo Stoichkov, Emil Kostadinov, Nasko Sirakov, Krassimir Balakov, Zlatko Yankov, Yordan Letchkov, Trifon Ivanov and Borislav Mikhailov all went to that WC Finals.
-- Bulgaria qualified for four straight World Cup Finals between 1962 and 1974.  That generation was also considered to be very good even through Bulgaria had not won a single game in previous WC Finals.  
-- Only four players did not come from the 4 straight WC Finals' period and the 1994 World Cup Finals.  Dimitar Berbatov, Martin Petrov and Stiliyan Petrov were from after the 1994 WC Finals.  They achieved great club careers in the West after the end of communism. Apostol Sokolov was from before the Communist era.
-- Bulgaria took the bronze medal at the 1956 Olympics and a silver medal in 1968.
-- Lyuboslav Penev was unable to participate at the WC Finals in 1994. He might have made the team if he had a good WC Finals. 
-- Dimitar Berbatov won the Bulgarian Player of the Year 7 times, a record. He is probable,y the best known Bulgarian footballer since the 1994.
-- It will take a lot more from Ivelin Popov to make this team. He is the best player of his generation.

Starting lineup

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