Лъвовете (The Lions)
Stiliyan Petrov (105)
Bulgarian Football Union
Dimitar Berbatov, Hristo Bonev (48)
72 1 (12 January 2017)
Vasil Levski National Stadium
The Bulgaria national football team (Bulgarian: Български национален отбор по футбол) represents Bulgaria in international association football and is controlled by the Bulgarian Football Union, the nation's governing body of football and a member association of UEFA.
- The beginning
- Years in international wilderness
- 1960s and 1970s
- 1962 World Cup
- 1966 World Cup
- 1968 Euro Cup
- 1968 Summer Olympics
- 1970 World Cup
- 1974 World Cup
- 1986 World Cup The knockout rounds
- 1994 World Cup Semi final triumph
- Euro 1996 Group stage
- 1998 World Cup The last stand of the Golden Team
- 2000 Euro Cup qualification The end of a legendary era
- 2002 World Cup qualification Beginning of a drought
- Euro 2004
- 2006 World Cup qualification Failure
- 2006 Kirin Cup
- 2008 European qualification Near miss
- 2010 World Cup qualification Close call
- 2012 European qualification Upset
- 2014 World Cup Qualification World Cup near miss
- 2016 Euro Cup Qualification Continuation of the drought
- 2018 World Cup qualification
- Historical Kits
- National stadium
- Competition history
- Recent call ups
- Previous squads
The Bulgarian team's home ground is the Vasil Levski National Stadium in Sofia and Petar Hubchev is the current national manager. A previous bronze medal winner at the 1956 Summer Olympics and a runner-up at the 1968 Olympic football tournament, Bulgaria has appeared in seven editions of the FIFA World Cup and has participated in two UEFA European Championships.
The country's finest hour came in the 1994 FIFA World Cup in the United States, in which they overcame defending champions Germany to advance to the semi-finals of the tournament. Despite losing to Italy and Sweden in an eventual fourth-place finish, Bulgaria's major 1994 World Cup campaign provided the tournament's top scorer and future Ballon d'Or recipient Hristo Stoichkov.
Despite these achievements, the Bulgarian team faced a severe drought starting from their elimination at the UEFA Euro 2004, failing to qualify to a major tournament and reaching their lowest FIFA ranking (96) in 2012 as well as finishing fifth in their group of the Euro 2012 qualifiers.
The Bulgaria national team was founded in 1922. In 1923, the Bulgarian Football Union was established and the team's first match was held in Vienna on 21 May 1924, with a 6–0 defeat to Austria.
Bulgaria was invited to participate in the 1930 FIFA World Cup in Uruguay, but eventually rejected the invitation because the players were incapable of having an extended leave of absence from work.
Years in international wilderness
The Bulgarian side at this time could not progress in qualifying to any major tournaments from the time of 1930 to 1960. This period of time was the international wilderness for Bulgaria. They would end up finishing, on many occasions, in second or third place in their qualifying group and proceeding to the play-offs, but in the end, failing to qualify. Bulgaria, however, did defeat many strong teams in international friendlies during those years. The only tournaments they were able to qualify for were smaller tournaments, such as the Balkan Cup, of which they have won four times. Success arrived when they qualified for the World Cup for the second time in 1962
1960s and 1970s
Bulgaria qualified for the World Cup for the first time in 1962 and followed that up with consecutive appearances in 1966, 1970 and 1974. The team, however, did not have much success and finished third in their group three out of the four times.
The team qualified for its first UEFA European Championship in 1968 and went on to win their group with wins over Norway (4–2), Sweden (3–0) and Portugal (1–0) before losing to the eventual champion and host Italy in a two-legged quarterfinal. Bulgaria won the first leg 3–2, but lost the second by a 2–0 score to lose 4–3 on aggregate.
At the 1968 Summer Olympics, the team won the silver medal. They finished first in Group D by beating Thailand 7–0, Guatemala 2–1, and drawing 2–2 against Czechoslovakia. They advanced to the quarterfinals by beating Israel and the semifinals by beating host Mexico. In the final, the team was defeated by Hungary.
In 1976, the team won the Balkan Cup by beating Romania in the two-legged final 1–0 and 3–2.
1962 World Cup
Bulgaria finally qualified to their first international tournament, the 1962 world cup, and this would be the first time that they qualified, after not doing so for 32 years. Bulgaria was drawn in a tough group alongside England, Argentina and Hungary. Bulgaria would open up their campaign with a narrow 0–1 loss to Argentina then would lose their second match 1–6 to Hungary. Mathematically eliminated from progressing to the next round, Bulgaria drew England 0–0 to finish fourth in the group with only one point.
1966 World Cup
Bulgaria would qualify for their second-straight World Cup in 1966. They were drawn into an even more challenging group than 1962, alongside superpowers Hungary, Portugal and a Pelé-led Brazil. Bulgaria would open their campaign match with a 0–2 loss to Brazil thanks to two free-kick goals by Pelé and Garrincha. Later on, Bulgaria would lose 0–3 to the Eusébio-led Portugal, then lost again to Hungary (1–3). They would finish fourth in their group zero points earned, their worst ever World Cup performance.
1968 Euro Cup
After their poor World Cup performance, Bulgaria qualified for Euro 1968, where they were drawn in a group with Norway, Sweden and again Portugal. Bulgaria started off very well with a 4–2 win over Norway, followed by a 3–0 destruction of Sweden. Their final match, against Portugal would determine who would win the group, where Bulgaria defeated Portugal 1–0, securing a first-place group finish and a shot at the two-legged quarter-final. Here, they were drawn with hosts Italy. They started off well with a 3–2 victory over the Italians, but fell 2–0 in the second leg, resulting in aggregate 4–3 aggregate loss and elimination from the tournament. Italy would go on to win the European Championship, while Bulgaria would finish in fifth-place, being the only team in the tournament able to defeat champions Italy in a match.
1968 Summer Olympics
A month-and-a-half after the Euro came the Olympics, which Bulgaria had qualified for the fifth time in their history. They were drawn in a simple group with Thailand, Guatemala and Czechoslovakia. Bulgaria would start off with a 7–0 win over Thailand. They would later go on and draw with Czechoslovakia 2–2 to increase their point standards. Their final match would determine if they would go on to the quarterfinals. As the time came Bulgaria would defeat Guatemala 2–1 and win their first round Olympic group. They would pass on to the Quarterfinals to face underdogs Israel. That game would remain 1–1 for most of the match until a drawing of lots would determine who would go to the semi-finals of the tournament. Bulgaria would with the draw and advance to play Mexico. They would have a hard fought match, but overtime they would come out on top with a 3–2 victory. Bulgaria would advance to the finals for the first time in their Olympic history. They were determined to win the gold medal, but would fall short badly with a 1–4 loss to Hungary. Bulgaria won the silver medal in the end. It was a good performance but not enough for the final and most important game of the tournament.
1970 World Cup
Bulgaria qualified for their third-straight World Cup in 1970, held in Mexico. They were drawn in a medially tough group with Wester Germany, Peru and Morocco. Playing their first match against Peru, Bulgaria were leading 2–0 until near the end when the Peruvians came back to win Peru 2–3. In the second match, Bulgaria would fall to West Germany 5–2, ensuring Bulgaria would need to at least defeat Morocco to progress to the next round. A 1–1 draw, however, resulted in a third-place group finish and elimination from the tournament.
1974 World Cup
Four years later, in Germany, Bulgaria would qualify for their fourth-straight World Cup. They were drawn in a decently tough group, with the Netherlands, Sweden and Uruguay. Bulgaria would start off with Sweden and after 90 minutes the game would remain goalless in a 0–0 draw. Although no goals, Bulgaria were down set from the disallowed goal they scored, that was ruled offside by the side ref. Later on though Bulgaria would tie with Uruguay 1–1 after a hard fought match. Bulgaria remained in good qualifying contention; all they needed to do was tie against the Netherlands. As the final match came, Bulgaria would fall by a 1–4 score. The ironic thing though was that Netherlands scored all the goals including an own goal for Bulgaria. Bulgaria would remain in 3rd place in the group and sadly fall short of the next round once again. The good thing was that this was their best performance at a world cup since 1930; with 2 draws and 1 loss. Though, their best performances were soon to come.
1986 World Cup: The knockout rounds
Bulgaria qualified for the World Cup in Mexico by finishing second in Group Four, behind France with 11 points, but worse goal difference, ahead of the teams of Yugoslavia, East Germany, and Luxembourg. This was their fifth World Cup appearance. They were drawn in Group A with Italy, Argentina, and South Korea. In the opening match of the World Cup, the Bulgarians held the defending champions Italy to a 1–1 draw. Alessandro Altobelli gave the Italians the lead, but an 85th minute equalizer by Nasko Sirakov gave the Bulgarians the point. The next match was another 1–1 draw against South Korea with the goal for Bulgaria coming from Plamen Getov in the 11th minute. They lost the final match of the group 2–0 against Argentina, who ended up winning the tournament. Despite not recording a win, the Bulgarians advanced to the knockout stage by being the third-best third placed team. That way, Bulgaria and also Uruguay became the first nations to qualify for the knockout stage without winning a game in the first round. In the Round of 16, they faced World Cup hosts Mexico and lost the match 2–0. Ivan Vutsov was the manager of the team.
1994 World Cup: Semi-final triumph
One of the most important dates in Bulgarian football history is 17 November 1993, when Emil Kostadinov scored two goals to beat France in Paris, thus allowing Bulgaria to qualify for the World Cup in the United States in 1994, and disallowing France to qualify for that tournament. Under the management of Dimitar Penev, the team led by players such as Hristo Stoichkov, Yordan Lechkov and Krasimir Balakov was referred to as the "Golden Generation". They entered Group D with Argentina, Nigeria and Greece. Prior to 1994, the Bulgarians had not won a single match in the previous five World Cup finals appearances. The first match ended with a 3–0 defeat by Nigeria in Dallas. Despite the bad start, the team won 4–0 against World Cup-debuting Greece in Chicago and 2–0 against Argentina in Dallas. Bulgaria continued to the next round, where they faced Mexico at Giants Stadium just outside New York City. The match ended 1–1 and after no goals were scored in extra time, penalties would decide which team would go through. Team captain Borislav Mihaylov saved two penalty kicks and Bulgaria won 3–1 on penalties. In their quarter-final match again in New York City, Bulgaria faced defending World Cup champions Germany. Lothar Matthäus scored from a penalty. The Bulgarians, however, managed to turn the game over with two goals by Stoichkov and Yordan Lechkov, giving them a 2–1 win. Millions of Bulgarians celebrated this win in the Bulgarian capital city of Sofia and other Bulgarian cities. Having reached the semi-finals, this was the best Bulgarian performance in the World Cup. In their semi-final match again in New York, they lost 2–1 to Italy. Bulgaria then traveled across the country and three time zones to the Pasadena Rose Bowl just outside Los Angeles to play Sweden, who did not have to travel because their and semi-final match against Brazil was held in the Rose Bowl. Sweden beat Bulgaria 4–0, so the team finished the tournament in 4th place. Stoichkov was awarded the Golden Boot (along with Russia's Oleg Salenko) for scoring six goals and finishing as joint top goal scorer of the tournament. Later in December, Stoitchkov was awarded the FIFA Ballon d'Or, becoming the first ever Bulgarian to win it. Krasimir Balakov was named in the all-star team along with Stoichkov.
Euro 1996: Group stage
In 1996, the team qualified for the European Football Championship for the first time, after some good results in the qualifying group, including a stunning 3–2 turnaround win against future Euro 1996 champions Germany. They were drawn in Group B with France, Spain and Romania. Bulgaria started with a 1–1 draw against the Spanish. They would score a second with a volley by Stoitchkov but it would be ruled offsides even though the cameras showed it clearly was not. After losing against Spain, Bulgaria went on to a 1–0 win against Romania. Stoitchkov scoring in the third minute adding a second goal to the list. In the final group match, they lost 3–1 against France, Stoitchkov scoring from an freekick to give Bulgaria there only goal of the game. At the same time, Spain defeated Romania 2–1 with the winner coming in the 84th minute, and the Bulgarians subsequently failed to qualify and robbed of the quarter-finals.
1998 World Cup: The last stand of the "Golden Team"
Bulgaria qualified for the World Cup in France by finishing first in the Group 5, followed by Russia. They entered the competition with a new manager Hristo Bonev. Bulgaria drew Spain, Nigeria and Paraguay in Group D. The first match ended in a 0–0 goalless draw against Paraguay. In the second match, the Bulgarians lost 1–0 for a second-straight World Cup to Nigeria. The final match ended with a disappointing 6–1 defeat to Spain, even though two offside goals were ruled out. Following the bad results, Bulgaria finished fourth in the group, with only one point, and didn't go through the next round. This was the last major appearance at World Cup level for Bulgaria.
2000 Euro Cup qualification: The end of a legendary era
Bulgaria was drawn in a tough qualifying group with teams like England, Sweden and Poland. The campaign started bad with a draw and a defeat by Poland and Sweden. The most memorable match for Bulgaria in the group was the 1–1 draw against England, which was also the last one for Bulgarian legend Hristo Stoichkov before his international retirement. Bulgaria finished third with eight points and failed to make the final stages of Euro 2000.
2002 World Cup qualification: Beginning of a drought
Bulgaria, Denmark, and Czech Republic were among the main contenders for the qualifying spots. This is also the debut of Bulgaria's top scoring legend Dimitar Berbatov. Bulgaria won the matches against the weaker teams, but lost 2–0 to Denmark and one match with the Czech Republic. That way, Bulgaria finished third with 17 points and three points behind second-placed Czech Republic, thus failing to make the World Cup in South Korea and Japan.
Bulgaria managed to qualify for the Euro 2004 in Portugal by finishing first in the group ahead of teams like Croatia and Belgium with 17 points. They drew Sweden, Italy and Denmark in Group C. They started off with a disappointing defeat to Sweden, followed by a 2–0 defeat to Denmark. The last match against Italy was a reasonable 2–1 defeat. The match was looking to end 1–1 after goals from Bulgarian winger Martin Petrov and Simone Perrotta, but a last minute goal by Antonio Cassano gave the Italians the win. They finished fourth with zero points and were sent home without reaching the knockout round.
2006 World Cup qualification: Failure
Bulgaria failed to qualify for the World Cup in Germany after a run of poor results. They started off good with a win over Hungary and "weaker" teams in the group. They tied with Sweden and Croatia the first run but lost the other meetings to the two sides. Although Berbatov scored many key goals in the qualifier including a last minute equaliser against Croatia, Bulgaria still finished third in Group Eight, behind Sweden and Croatia with 15 points.
2006 Kirin Cup
Although not making it to the 2006 FIFA World Cup, Bulgaria found themselves in a minor tournament in Japan. Known as the Kirin Cup, Bulgaria entered for the first time. They started off well with a 2–1 victory over the hosts Japan. Later on though, things went downhill as they lost 5–1 to Scotland, the eventual champions of the Kirin Cup. Bulgaria became the Runners Up and received the silver medal.
2008 European qualification: Near miss
Group G had Netherlands, Romania, and Bulgaria as the main contestants for a qualifying spot for the Euro 2008 in Switzerland and Austria. Bulgaria performed well after a run of good results from Romania that gave them the first place. Bulgaria would go on to the playoffs but draw the first match 1–1 with a goal by Petrov in the tenth minute and lose the second 2–0. Bulgaria failed to qualify to the competition, finishing with 25 points, after Romania and the Netherlands, with only one lost match against the Dutch.
2010 World Cup qualification: Close call
Bulgaria were drawn against Italy and the Republic of Ireland in qualifying Group Eight. Bulgaria started the campaign with a series of draws in the 2010 qualifiers. After the unconvincing start, the manager Plamen Markov was replaced by Stanimir Stoilov in January 2009. The Bulgarians then recorded their first win in the group against Cyprus, and also won against Montenegro and Georgia. They finished in third place in the group with 14 points, therefore failing to qualify directly or for a play-off place. Bulgarian top scorer Berbatov resigned from the national side after this result.
2012 European qualification: Upset
Bulgaria were drawn in Group G along with England, Switzerland, Wales and Montenegro. Bulgaria started off horribly with an opening away loss to England. They later on drew level with Switzerland along with defeating Wales and Montenegro. However, Bulgaria finished fifth in their group reaching their nadir in their football history, marking the fourth instance during 2000s that the nation had failed to finish in third (or better).
2014 World Cup Qualification: World Cup near miss
In the qualification phase for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Bulgaria were placed in Group B together with the teams of Italy, Denmark, Czech Republic, Armenia and Malta. Under the guidance of former player Lyuboslav Penev as head coach, Bulgaria enjoyed a revival and put up an incredible performance in many friendly matches before the start of the qualification stage, most notably a 2–1 victory over 2010 World Cup runners-up Netherlands in Amsterdam. The qualifications started with a well-earned 2–2 draw against the Euro 2012 runners-up Italy. Bulgaria then edged a tight match against Armenia, which ended 1–0. Later on Bulgaria narrowly drew 1–1 against Denmark. Another good performance followed four days later, Bulgaria earning a hard-fought 0–0 draw away to the Czech Republic. As a result of these performances, the team climbed from 96th in the FIFA Ranking, their lowest position in history, to 40th in November 2012, earning FIFA best mover of the year. Nevertheless, Penev's players hosted and defeated Malta 6–0 under heavy snowfall. Four days later, Bulgaria once again set a draw with Denmark 1–1 in Copenhagen. This result left Bulgaria second in the group with ten points and still undefeated. Bulgaria traveled to Italy, a game where they narrowly lost 1–0. Further on, the lions secured three more points with a 2–0 away win against Malta, leaving them hopeful of securing their second place in the group and a spot in the play-offs. However, after Bulgaria was defeated by Armenia 2–1 and the Czech Republic 1–0 at home.
2016 Euro Cup Qualification: Continuation of the drought
Bulgaria were placed in a group with Italy, Croatia, Norway, Azerbaijan and Malta. Bulgaria opened up their first match with a 2–1 victory over Azerbaijan. They were defeated 1–0 by Croatia, which was followed by a 2–1 defeat to Norway. Bulgaria then drew with Malta 1–1 at home, but this cost Head Coach Lyuboslav Penev his position and he was replaced by former Ludogorets Razgrad Coach Ivaylo Petev. In his debut match in February 2015, Petev's squad drew Romania 0–0 in a friendly, which was then followed at the end of March by a 2–2 qualifier match draw with Italy, a match which Bulgaria had led till the 84th minute. In June, Bulgaria defeated Malta 1–0 to move within 2 points of the third place playoff position. They then, however, lost their next three matches against Norway, Italy and Croatia before winning their final match 2–0 over Azerbaijan, thus failing to qualify for the finals tournament.
2018 World Cup qualification
Bulgaria have been drawn in a World Cup qualification group with Netherlands, France and Sweden, Belarus and Luxembourg. Bulgaria has already had a recent meeting with the Netherlands within the year 2013 in which Bulgaria came out on top with a 2–1 victory. Bulgaria has also had a 100 percent record history against Luxembourg while recently defeating Belarus 2–1 in a friendly in 2014. To add to this aspect, the last time Bulgaria was drawn within a world cup qualification group with Sweden and France was in 1994. Bulgaria drew level with Sweden once, and defeated France twice, decisively, to reach the 1994 World Cup in the U.S. where Bulgaria reached its all-time high of going to the Semi-finals. Bulgaria has luckily drawn Luxembourg at home for their first match in September. This will give them the brief opportunity to re-group hoping to earn an early victory. This can lead the team on to starting off their qualifying campaign on a very positive level at the top of the group while building momentum overtime for when the time comes to face the stronger and tougher opponents. In the beginning, Bulgaria earned a hard-fought 4-3 win against Luxembourg at home, a frustrating scoreline despite the victory. It was followed by two heavy 1-4 and 0-3 losses to France and Sweden, respectively. In November 2016, the Lions secured the three points against Belarus in Sofia with a narrow 1-0 win. Currently, Bulgaria is 4th in the group, just a point away from the 2nd place and 4 points ahead of 5th placed Belarus.
Traditionally the Bulgarian squad plays at home entirely in the colours of the Bulgarian tricolore. Their nickname is The Lions, in tribute of the lions represented in the Bulgarian coat of arms.
Throughout the nation's football history, the national players wore the following color patterns of white, green or red signifying the Bulgarian flag on their kits.
The Bulgaria national football team's traditional home ground has been the multi-purpose Vasil Levski National Stadium in Sofia, which has a capacity of 43,230 people. The venue was officially opened in 1953 and was reconstructed in 1966 and 2002, with its most recent renovation dating back to 2015. A principle host of the Bulgarian Cup final match, the stadium was also used by Levski Sofia for their domestic group stage matches during the 2006–07 UEFA Champions League season. Ludogorets Razgrad also used the stadium for their Champions League campaigns in 2014 and 2016. The Bulgarian national football team's home matches have been held regularly at the venue since its reconstruction in 2002, as well as athletics competitions and major concerts. The stadium also offers judo, artistic gymnastics, basketball, boxing, aerobics, fencing and table tennis halls, as well as a general physical training hall, two conference halls, and three restaurants.
Champions Runners-up Third place Fourth place Other Top Results
The following players were called-up for the preliminary squad against Belarus on November 13, 2016.
Caps and goals updated as of 13 November 2016 after the match against Belarus.
The following players have also been called up to the Bulgarian squad within the last 12 months and are still available for selection.