The Bold Magician - The Bold Genius!
Bulgaria had only qualified for World Cup USA 94 by scoring a goal in the dying seconds against France in their final qualifying game, and had never won a match in the finals prior to the competition. David Ginola, whose mistake lead to the goal, never played again for France while there was little expectation from Bulgaria.
Few gave us a chance against the reigning World Champions in the quarter-finals, and even fewer were backing us to win when Lothar Matthaus gave the Germans the lead from the penalty spot shortly after half time. Yet Hristo Stoitchkov had other ideas. The barrel chested forward had already made his name with Barcelona and would later to be named European Footballer of the Year. He turned the game around with a fine free-kick fifteen minutes from time. Just three minutes later, balding midfielder Yordan Lechkov would score arguably the most important goal in the history of Bulgarian football with a dramatic diving header from the edge of the penalty area. It was a goal which shattered the myth of German invincibility. The most successful European nation of all time were bidding to reach a third consecutive final yet were knocked out by one of the least fancied nations. Bulgaria would go on to be outclassed by Italy in the semi-finals, but we as a nation are so proud of our fourth-placed finish. Lechkov, meanwhile, would be remembered as the man who sealed the biggest upset of the tournament.
The 1994 World Cup finals certainly produced a great number of high points for the Bulgarian national side. But arguably their best moment came in the quarter-finals against Germany. In front of their legion of fans at the New York Giants Stadium, Bulgaria came from 1-0 down to beat the defending champions, thanks to goals from Stoichkov and the bald-headed Yordan Lechkov.