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

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 Euro 96. 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),

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 
He 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.
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 spent most of his career with CSKA Sofia.
Dimitar Penev
CB: Ivan Dimitrov
He played 340 matches in the first League during his career, 70 matches for the Bulgarian national team.  He represented Bulgaria in the 1962 and 1970 FIFA World Cups. He also played for PFC Lokomotiv Sofia and PFC Akademik Sofia.  He was a tall, solid center-back.

CB:  Kiril Ivkov
He spent most of his career with Levski Sofia.   In 1974 and 1975 he was named Bulgarian Footballer of the Year.[ He was capped 44 times and played in the WC Finals in 1974.

LB:  Boris Gaganelov
He made 51 appearances for the Bulgaria.  He represented Bulgaria at the FIFA World Cups in 1966 and 1970.  With CSKA he won Bulgarian league 7 times and Bulgarian Cup 6 times.

LB: Trifon Ivanov 
Nicknamed "the Wolf".  He was a member of Bulgaria's Golden Generation that rearched the semi-final of World Cup 1994.  He was capped 76 times.  He played for Real Betis, Etar, CSKA, Neuchâtel Xamax, Rapid Wien, etc.
Trifon Ivanov 

LM/CM/AM: Yordan Letchkov
Perhaps 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.

He was the defensive midfielder for Bulgaria's Golden Generation in the 1990's.  He was capped 80 times.  He played at the World Cups in 1994 and 1998, and he was also in the Bulgarian Euro 1996.

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.
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
He was the 2006 Bulgarian Footballer of the Year.  He was capped 90 times for Bulgaria, playing at Euro 2004.  He was with CSKA Sofia when he moved to Switzerland.  He went on to play in the Bundesliga, La Liga and the Premiership.
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 was with CSKA Sofia.

AM: Krassimir Balakov 
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. He also had a successful spell with Sporting CP.

Krassimir Balakov 

ST: Nasko Sirakov
He 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 WC Finals: 1986 and 1994.  

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.

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.  Professionally, his best stint was with Porto where he spent 4 seasons.
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.  His best seasons were spent with Bayer Leverkusen and Manchester United.

ST/FW: Hristo Stoichkov
He 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. . 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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