Friday, November 28, 2014

Bulgaria Greatest All-time Team

This blogger Artur Yanturin of Russia copied many of my blog teams.  This blog was one of them.  It was my Russia All-Time Team here.  His team was written in 2020, but mine was uploaded in 2014.   His Spartak Moscow All-Time team entry of was published in October 2020, but mine was uploaded in 2017.  His entry of the Dutch-German rivalry between Real Madrid and Barcelona was written in 2020, but mine was uploaded in 2014.  He also copied many many of my blog entries.

His Facebook and Instagram

World Cup 1994 semi-finalist

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

Former Yugoslavia(all republics),
Yugoslavia 1994,
Serbia Croatia,
The rest of Southeast Euorpe(Greece, Turkey and Albania).

Bulgaria's football history witnessed a remarkable transformation, culminating in their impressive performance at the 1994 World Cup. While their earlier World Cup appearances lacked impact, everything changed with the emergence of the Golden Generation in the 1990s.

Between 1962 and 1974, Bulgaria qualified for four consecutive World Cup Finals. However, their performances during those tournaments failed to make a lasting impression on the global stage. It wasn't until the 1990s that Bulgarian football experienced a much-needed resurgence.

In November 1993, Bulgaria achieved what can be considered their most significant victory in history. In a dramatic upset, they defeated France during the final match of the World Cup Qualifying rounds. This victory came through a winning goal scored in the dying minutes of the match, propelling Bulgaria to surpass France and secure their qualification for the upcoming tournament in the United States.

Once at the World Cup Finals in 1994, Bulgaria showcased their resilience and determination. In the quarterfinals, they displayed an incredible comeback by defeating the defending champions, Germany, with a score of 2-1. This victory highlighted their ability to overcome adversity and marked a significant milestone for Bulgarian football. They continued their impressive run and finished in fourth place.

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.  

World Cup 1986

GK: Georgi Naydenov
Georgi Naydenov 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
Borislav Mikhailov 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 
Apostol Sokolov 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
Aleksandar Shalamanov 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
Dimitar Penev is regarded as one of his country's best ever defenders.  He was awarded the Bulgarian footballer of the year in 1967 and 1971. At the international level, he also participated in 3 World Cup Finals 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. He was also known for his coaching career with CSKA Sofia, where he mentored Hristo Stoichkov, Emil Kostadinov, Martin Petrov, Stiliyan Petrov, Dimitar Berbatov, etc.
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. 

Dimitrov represented Bulgaria on 77 occasions between 1978 and 1988, scoring 7 goals. He captained his country 56 times including at the 1986 FIFA World Cup.  He was Bulgarian Footballer of the Year: 1985.  For his club career, he started his career in Beroe (Stara Zagora), but he played mainly for CSKA Sofia.  Between 1986 and 1988, he played for Saint-Etienne.

LB:  Boris Gaganelov
Boris Gaganelov was born in 1941. He made 51 appearances for the Bulgaria between 1963 and 1970 and 29 times as their 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 the 1994 World Cup in USA.  He also played in the 1996 European Championship and the 1998 World Cup in France. He was capped 76 times.  At the club level,  Ivanov started his career with Etar Veliko Tarnovo. He later played for Real Betis, Etar, CSKA, Neuchâtel Xamax, Rapid Wien, etc. He died in 2016 at the age of 50.
Trifon Ivanov 
LM/CM/AM: Yordan Letchkov
Letchkov had over 45 caps for Bulgaria, but he was best remembered for scoring the winning goal against Germany in the quarter-final at the World Cup Finals in 1994, which gave his country the best ever finish at a major tournament.  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.

Zlatko Yankov 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. 

Stiliyan Petrov 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. He played 105 times for Bulgaria, appearing in Euro 2004.
Stiliyan Petrov
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
Ivan Petkov Kolev was 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 longest stint was with Wolfsburg. 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 European Championship in 2004.  
Martin Petrov
LW:  Dimitar Yakimov
Nicknamed "the poet of football" for his dribbling skills. Dimitar Yakimov 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 a World Cup finals. Four years later, he again assisted on the important goal that helped Bulgaria to qualify for the WC Finals. He played mainly with CSKA Sofia.

AM/CM/UT: Stefan Bozhkov 
Bozhkov first started to play for a local team Sportist Hadzhi Dimitar. He made his debut in 1938, on his 15th birthday.  During his club career he played for PFC CSKA Sofia. Bozhkov won the top Bulgarian league ten times (all with CSKA), as well as the Bulgarian Cup, three times (all with CSKA). He earned 53 caps and scored 4 goals for the Bulgaria national football team from 1946 to 1958, and won a bronze medal at the 1956 Summer Olympics.

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: 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
Emil Kostadinov 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
Dimitar Berbatov 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
Simeon Simeonov, Zdravko Zdravkov, Rumyancho Goranov, Stefan Aladzhov, Radostin Kishishev, Plamen Nikolov, Kiril Rakarov, Ivaylo Yordanov, Nikola Kotkov, Valeri Bojinov, Tsanko Tsvetanov, Nasko Sirakov, Lyuboslav Penev, Nasko Sirakov, Ayan Sadakov,  Nikolay Ilie, Dobromir Zhechev, Dinko Dermendjiev, Todor Diev, Bozhin Laskov, Radostin Kishishev, Atanas Mihaylov, Nikola Kotkov, Ivelin Popov, Andrey Zhelyazkov, Stoycho Mladenov, Ivan Kolev, Nasko Sirakov.

Squad Explanation
-- In Novermber 2021, I did an in depth review of the team.  I added several more players and rewrote a better explanation.
-- Hristo Stoichkov is probably the most famous player from Bulgaria, but Georgi Asparukhov was voted as the greatest Bulgarian footballer of the Century ahead him.  The two of them were my automatic selections to the team.
Georgi Asparuhov
-- The All-Time Bulgaria Dream team created by IFFHS was as followed:  Georgi Naydenov, Aleksandar Shalamanov, Dimitar Penev, Trifon Ivanov, Manol Manolov, Dimitar Yakimov, Stefan Bozhkov, Hristo Bonev, Krasimir Balakov, Georgi Asparuhov and Hristo Stoichkov.
-- Seven 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, Krassimir Balakov, Zlatko Yankov, Yordan Letchkov, Trifon Ivanov and Borislav Mikhailov all went to that WC Finals.  Mikhailov was also on the 1986 World Cup team.  
-- 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 those World Cup Finals.  Dimitar Penev and Dimitar Yakimov played in three of the four 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. Goalkeeper Apostol Sokolov was from before the Communist era. 
-- For goalkeepers, I first selected Borislav Mihailov who was the first Bulgarian footballers to earn 100 caps.  He was perhaps the best player in the 1986 World Cup Finals as well as a hero of the World Cup in 1994.  Both his son and father also played goalkeeper for Bulgaria. 
-- For the older fans, Georgi Naydenov was considered to be Bulgaria's greatest goalkeeper. I selected Georgi Spirov Naydenov, not Georgi Yordanov Naydenov. Georgi Yordanov Naydenov who was also a goalkeeper was capped 6 times for Bulgaria.  Both of them went to the 1960 Summer Olympics.  
-- Georgi Naydenov died under mysterious circumstances in Damascus on May 26, 1970, only 38 years old.  Some said he was poisoned. 
-- I seriously looked into Zdravko Zdravkov, Rumyancho Goranov and Simeon Simeonov. Simeonov made a name in the West when he made saves after saves against World Cup holder England in 1968 that ended in a 1-1 draw in Wembley.
-- Instead, I took Apostol Sokolov as my third goalkeeper.  He was a pioneer in the goalkeeper position. He is regarded as the first goalkeeper who began to leave the goal line like modern keepers, and even Lev Yashin said Sokolov was his inspiration.
Apostol Sokolov
-- Alexander Shalamanov was considered Bulgaria's greatest rightback.  He was named among Best XI in 1966 for World Soccer. I did not take a second rightback. 
-- I also considered Plamen Nikolov (born in 1957) as my backup righback.   He played mostly for PFC Levski Sofia. In 1984, he was named Bulgarian Footballer of the Year. He was banned for two years after a match against CSKA.  His transfer to Porto FC was cancelled and he missed the 1986 World Cup Finals. He was a successful player in the Swedish top division when playing for IK Brage. Bulgaria also had two other international players with that name. Plamen Nikolov (born in 1961) was a goalkeeper who was the backup goalkeeper at the 1994 World Cup Finals.  Then, central defender Plamen Venelinov Nikolov was capped 6 times between 2009 and 2011.  RB Radostin Kishishev who spent some time in the Premiership made honorable mention.
-- On the left, Trifon Ivanov was an icon due to his rugged appearance as well as being a part of the Golden Generation of the 1990's.  He enjoyed a few good seasons in Real Betis, but the club was relegated. At one point, he was one of four Bulgarians to play in a major European club Final.  Then, I took Boris Gaganelov who captained the national team for 29 times. I also put Tsanko Tsvetanov and Stefan Aladzhov on honorable mention.  In 1970, Aladzhov was named Bulgarian Footballer of the Year. 
-- Bulgaria beat France 2-0 at home on May 2nd, 1985 in one of the most important match of the 1986 World Cup Qualifiers. The Bulgarian Cup Final was pushed back to June 19 because of the fixture.  In the Final, a big brawl happened between players from CSKA and Levski Sofia both inside and outside the field. Rightback Plamen Nikolov was banned for two years as mentioned above.   Forward Nasko Sirakov (see below) was also involved in the ban, but he played in the 1986 World Cup. I was not sure of the details. The Bulgarian football underwent major changes as a result.  The FA became an union. The names of both clubs were changed to Sredets and Vitosha. 
-- For central defender, Dimitar Penev was an undisputed selection.  He was Lyuboslav Penev's uncle.  He is regarded as one of his country's best ever defenders.  He was awarded the Bulgarian footballer of the year in 1967 and 1971.  He was also known as Bulgaria's coach as they reached the semi-final in the 1994 World Cup Finals. Then, I took  Georgi Dimitrov who captained the national team 56 times, including the 1986 World Cup Finals.
Georgi Dimitrov
-- Kiril Ivkov, Ivan Dimitrov and Manol Manolov were all on my original team I created.  I somehow missed Georgi Dimitrov. In addition, my honor mention included Nikolay Ilie who was the first Bulgarian to play in Italy's Serie A and Dobromir Zhechev who went to 4 World Cup Finals. Out of this list, I needed two players.
-- Kiril Ivkov won the Bulgaria Player of the Year twice, but I did not see his name mentioned anywhere.  Manol Manolov was frequently mentioned.  He was on IFFHS Best XI for Bulgaria. So I took Manolov alongside with Ivan Dimitrov and Georgi Dimitrov.
-- DM Stiliyan Petrov was the first foreign player to win the SPFA Young Player of the Year award in Scotland.  He is all Bulgaria all-time appearance leader with 105 caps.  In my search for additional defensive midfielders, my options were somewhat limited. I examined the credentials of Nikola Kovachev, a revered figure at CSKA, but struggled to ascertain his true potential. Consequently, I focused my attention on Ayan Sadakov and Zlatko Yankov as potential alternatives.
-- Both Ayan Sadakov and Zlatko Yankov were capped 80 times. Sadakov was a box-to-box midfielder. He played a crucial role in Bulgaria's memorable 2-0 victory over the reigning European Champions, France in a WC Qualifiers in 1985, effectively neutralizing Michel Platini.  He was considered one of the standout players for Bulgaria in the 1986 World Cup Finals. His assignment to shadow the legendary Diego Maradona further emphasized his defensive skills, resulting in a meaningful encounter where Maradona gifted him his shirt after the match. As a testament to his impact, a statue of him was erected in front of the Lokomotiv Stadium in 2018.  In 1992, Zlatko Yankov made a short-lived signing with Atletico Madrid, which being labeled as Atletico Madrid's poorest signing in history. Unfortunately, his time with Real Valladolid was also marked by difficulties and challenges. Despite that, Yankov defied the odds and emerged as a shining star during the 1994 World Cup Finals.  Sadakov seemed to be a better option.  However, according to a poll by journalist Filip Drumchev in 2020, Yankov was voted as the second best defensive midfielder after Stiliyan Petrov.  I normally do not trust polls, but for this time, I went with Yankov.
-- On the right, I took Hristo Bonex.  He shares the top spot as Bulgaria All-time leading scorers.  He was also third in appearance.
-- Yordan Letchkov cemented his place in football history by scoring the unforgettable winning goal against Germany in the quarterfinals of the 1994 World Cup.  His career was not just about that goal.  He also did well in the Bundesliga.  
Yordan Letchkov 
-- I selected Martin Petrov who was the 2006 Bulgarian Footballer of the Year as my starting leftwing.   He had no relation with Stiliyan Petrov. His club career was among the best for Bulgarian footballers playing outside Bulgaria. He had famous stints with Wolvesburg, Atletico Madrid and Manchester City.  Dimitar Yakimov played with Georgi Asparuhov on the national team.  He was the hero of three World Cup Finals.  He scored the goal that sent Bulgaria to the World Cup Finals in 1966.
-- Stefan Bozhkov's remarkable talents earned him a place in the prestigious European Ideal Team of 1956, where he was recognized as a runner-up to the Hungarian legend Josef Bozik. Furthermore, he also secured the 13th position in the France Football Golden Ball poll of the same year. Regarded by many as Bulgaria's first star player, Bozhkov's versatility shone through as he showcased his talents in nearly every outfield position. 
-- Krassimir Balakov was best remembered for forming a successful attacking partnership with strikers Fredi Bobic and Giovane Élber at Stuttgart.  It was one of the most dynamic trio in Europe.  He was probably the most famous Bulgarian player after Hristo Stoichkov and Dimitar Berbatov in the periods after the fall of communism. 
-- Hristo Stoichkov and Georgi Asparuhov were two football icons who required no introduction. Stoichkov placed second in the FIFA World Player of the Year award in both 1992 and 1994, ultimately earning him the prestigious Ballon d'Or in 1994. However, among the older generation of fans, Asparuhov was held in equally high regard. His memorable goal against England in the renowned 1968 match solidified his status as a revered player. The stadium of PFC Levski (Sofia) was named after him.
-- Emil Kostadinov scored the winning goal against France in 1993, which Bulgaria qualified for the USA 1994. It was perhaps the most important goals in the history of Bulgarian football, earning him the nickname "Saint Emil".  He was a household name in Bulgaria. I took him over Lyuboslav Penev and Peter Zhekov.
-- Dimitar Berbatov won the Bulgarian Player of the Year a record 7 times. He is probably the best known Bulgarian footballer since the 1994 World Cup Finals.  He is tied with RW Hristo Bonex as Bulgaria's all-time leading scorer.  
Dimitar Berbatov 
-- Lyuboslav Penev missed the 1994 World Cup due to illness, but his potential could have earned him a spot on the all-time team. He played in Euro 1996 and helped Atletico Madrid win the league in 1996.  He only made honorable mention.  His uncle is Dimitar Penev who rankled as one of Bulgaria's great defenders.  He also participated in the 1986 World Cup and Euro 1996.  I put him on honorable mention as well.
-- Peter Zhekov was the last player dropped. Although he was the European Golden Boot winner in 1968, I only put him on honorable mention.  He needed to do more internationally.  He did not play much in the World Cup Finals.  I prefered Emil Kostadinov.
-- On the original team, I had Nasko Sirakov. He played in La Liga. He also 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.
-- Ivan Kolev was the first Bulgarian nominated for the Ballon D'or.  He went to the 1962 and 1966 World Cup Finals.  I never saw his name elsewhere.  I found this fact by chance.
-- It will take a lot more from Ivelin Popov to make this team. He is the best player of his generation.

Starting lineup


  1. Naydenov
    Shalamanov Ivkov Penev Stefan-Aladzhov
    Yakimov Bonev Balakov
    Berbatov Stoichkov

  2. You do a great job with these but not having Bonev in the starting XI is ridiculous. He's Bulgaria's second greatest player and I don't think it's close.