The leader of the team was undisputedly Hristo Stoichkov, an established footballer with FC Barcelona. As a left attacker/winger, Stoichkov covered a lot of ground and scored regularly in important moments. Upfront, he was helped out by former CSKA Sofia teammates L.Penev and Kostadinov. Penev, nephew of the team's coach, was the team's centre forward. With an impressive stature of over 1.90 meters, he roamed as a target man dominating in air battles. Kostadinov was a right winger, who played similarly to Stoichkov but on the opposite flank. His admirable pace often forced defenders to foul him.
Stoichkov's consistent and tenacious game inspired his teammates raising the entire squad's work rate. This was most evident with midfielder Krasimir Balakov, who for the first time in his career began performing at a world-class level. Balakov covered an enormous area of the pitch. Nearly all balls passed through his feet and his passes were quite precise. Yordan Letchkov emerged as the team's powerhouse technician. His skillful footwork mixed along with an adorable patch of hair (amidst his bald head) made him even more entertaining. Defensive midfielder Zlatko Yankov played as a garbage man behind Balakov and Letchkov.
Trifon Ivanov was the most prominent defender of the team. His spectacular tackles and mobility helped him neutralize some of the top attackers in the game. Stubby Kiriakov and Tzvetanov worked along each side of him. The former possessed top speed which allowed him to actively help in offense. Dutch-based stopper Hubchev fit well along with the rest of the defensive line.
Long-time captain, Borislav Mihailov, was a reliable figure at the back for Bulgaria. He made few mistakes on the job and thus managed to hold his position for over 100 international matches. At a very mature football age, he was eventually replaced by the talented and baldheaded Zdravko Zdravkov.
Bulgaria's coach Dimitar Penev was a laid back character who had good instincts when it came to team chemistry. Penev was a former international for Bulgaria. Before taking over as a head coach for the Bulgarian national team, he achieved significant success with CSKA Sofia. Penev incorporated many of his former club players (including his nephew Luboslav Penev) into Bulgaria's national team, a decision that he was widely criticized for. By 1994, Dimitar Penev silenced all critics.
1992 - 17 November 1993
After the fall of the Soviet Union, Bulgaria opened its doors to foreign player trade. This event gave chance for rich Western clubs to snatch up talented Bulgarian players cheaply. Stoichkov got recruited by Barcelona, Balakov and Kostadinov went to Portugal. That process helped in polishing the virtually unknown Bulgarian footballers by exposing them to top European leagues. Simultaneously, this contemporary generation of Bulgarian footballers joined forces in the country's national squad. They started working together at a synchronized moment. There were no big egos tampering amongst the team nor was there any external pressure for success. France was the first major nation to suffer from the strengthening of Bulgaria's national team. In their final match of USA 1994 qualification, they were overturned 2-1 with a goal by Kostadinov in the 90th minute.
17 November 1993 - 13 July 1994
Bulgaria's dramatic victory over France in the qualifications, catapulted the team into World Cup 1994. Virtually no one foresaw Bulgaria's success at the tournament. After a 0-3 loss from Nigeria, the team bounced back with a glorious 4-0 victory over Greece, the first World Cup win in the country's history. Even dedicated Bulgarian fans were astonished by the team's display of exciting football. The team maintained this success, beating returning finalist Argentina 2-0, toppled Mexico and even the defending champion Germany. At that time, Bulgaria had grabbed world-wide attention as the upcoming underdog. Eventually, at the semis, Italy put an end to this happy run. Regardless of this loss, the Bulgarian team was welcomed as champions upon return. Bulgaria's status had changed overnight from a football imbecile to a formidable nation.