Although not favourites, Bulgaria were no doubt in the mix for progressing from Group 1 of the 1990 World Cup qualification. Bulgaria had last time qualified for the World Cup in 1986, when they had been eliminated in the 1/8 finals against hosts Mexico. Perhaps they had been a bit underwhelming in the tournament itself, but they had been very solid in the qualifiers that time around, and remained a feared opponent throughout Europe.

Also the qualification campaign for the 1988 Euros under Hristo Mladenov had been decent, when they only were denied a place in the Euros by a late goal in the last match. They then finished just behind the Republic of Ireland, ahead of nations like Belgium and Scotland. Despite this respectable effort, Mladenov resigned as manager and left the managerial position open for the 1990 qualification. U19 manager Boris Angelov was appointed as his successor in early 1988, and had led the team to some impressive results in the start of his reign, corroborating the Bulgarians’ reputation as a difficult opponent. Read more . . .


Qualifier 1: Bulgaria 1-3 Romania
19.10.1988, Vasil Levski (Sofia)
Goal: Kolev
Line-up (4-3-3): Mihaylov (c) – Nikolov, Rakov, Iliev, Vasev (Kiryakov 54) – Yordanov, Sadakov, Getov – Aleksandrov (Kolev 31), Penev, Stoichkov
Romania look the superior side as Bulgaria start their qualifiers with a home loss. Angelov had gone out in an attacking 4-3-3 formation, but needed to make a tactical substitution already after 30 mins, bringing on midfielder Kolev for attacker Alexandrov. This is not a very impressive display by the home side, who mostly had to rely on free-kicks to produce any goal scoring opportunities.

Qualifier 2: Denmark 1-1 Bulgaria
02.11.1988, Parken (Copenhagen)
Goal: Sadakov
Line-up (5-3-2): Valov – Bezinski, Dochev, Iliev (c), Ivanov, Kiryakov – Kirov, Sadakov, Yordanov (Rakov 86) – Penev, Stoichkov (Balakov 89)
Heroic, defensive battle secures one point for Bulgaria in Copenhagen. The Bulgarians do not have a lot to offer in the attacking department, but do just enough to draw. Angelov had reverted to 5-3-2 and successfully managed to close off the Danish midfield. The Danes had enough chances to score the winner, but the guests can take encouragement from this performance.

Friendly: United Arab Emirates 0-1 Bulgaria
Goal: Kostadinov
Line-up: Donev – Kiryakov, Dochev, Iliev (c), Bezinski (Ivanov h-t) – Sadakov (Rakov 80), D Mladenov, Kirov (Balakov h-t) – Kostadinov, Penev (Yordanov 75), Stoichkov

Friendly: Bulgaria 1-2 Soviet Union
21.02.1989, Vasil Levski (Sofia)
Goal: Kostadinov
Line-up (4-3-3): Valov – Bezinski, Dochev, Iliev (c), Kiryakov – Sadakov (Todorov 65), Ivanov, Balakov (Yordanov 62) – Kostadinov, Penev, Stoichkov
Bulgaria gave a decent account of themselves after going ahead through a Kostadinov header midway through the first half. Game played at fine pace until a host of second half substitutions saw quality deteriorate.

Friendly: Bulgaria 1-2 West Germany
22.03.1989, Vasil Levski (Sofia)
Goal: Iliev
Line-up (4-3-3): Valov (Donev h-t) – Kiryakov (Ivanov 74), Dochev, Iliev (c), Bezinski – Sadakov, Kirov (Todorov 59), Balakov (Metkov 74) – Kostadinov, Penev, Stoichkov
Two losses, although against quality opposition. The most interesting thing with these two fixtures was the inclusion of Emil Kostadinov and Krasimir Balakov in the team. Both players were to be more involved in the qualification in 1989.

Qualifier 3: Bulgaria 0-2 Denmark
26.04.1989, Vasil Levski (Sofia)
Line-up (5-3-2): Valov (Donev 54) – Kiryakov, Rakov, Iliev (c), Dochev, Bezinski – Kirov, Getov, Sadakov (Simeonov h-t) – Mihtarski, Stoichkov
Another home loss, this time against a regalvanized Denmark, means that Bulgaria already are out of contention for Italy’90.

Team news
In the aftermath of the loss against Denmark, Boris Angelov was sacked. Bulgaria had lost both their home matches so far and were in reality now without chance to qualify for Italia’90. In his place, the Bulgarian Federation appointed two interim managers: Dimitar Penev (CFKA Sredets) and Georgi Vasilev (Etar). These were probably the two most exciting coaches in the Bulgarian A-league at the time.

Qualifier 4: Romania 1-0 Bulgaria
17.05.1989, Stadionul Steaua (Bucharest)
Line-up (4-3-3): Valov (Donev h-t) – Dochev, D Mladenov, Ivanov, Vasev – M Bakalov, Tinchev, K Balakov – Kostadinov, S Mladenov (c), Stoichkov
An improved performance by Bulgaria, who look better away from home.

Team news
Shortly after the defeat in Bucharest, and in time for the two final fixtures, the Bulgarian Federation re-appointed Ivan Vutsov as the new manager for the national team. Vutsov had the same position between 1982 and 1986, leading Bulgaria through their impressive qualification for the 1986 World Cup (and the underwhelming performance they delivered in Mexico). It looks like he combined this responsibility with the job as a manager for Slavia Sofia.

Friendly: East Germany 1-1 Bulgaria
Goal: Yordanov
Line-up: Valov – Ginchev (Georgiev h-t), Dochev, Ivanov, Bankov, Vasev – Petkov (Todorov 85), Yordanov, K Balakov – Kostadinov (Mihtarski 59), Stoichkov (Simeonov 76)

Friendly: Italy 4-0 Bulgaria
20.09.1989, Stadio Dino Manuzzi (Cesena)
Line-up (4-4-2): Valov – Dimitrov, Iliev, Ivanov, Dochev – Petkov (Simeonov 84), Bankov, Yordanov (Kostadinov h-t), K Balakov – Stoichkov (c), Penev

Qualifier 5: Bulgaria 4-0 Greece
11.10.1989, Yuri Gagarin Stadion (Varna)
Goals: Ivanov, Bankov, Iskrenov, Stoichkov
Line-up (4-3-3): Valov – Dimitrov, Ivanov, Bankov, Tinchev – Georgiev, Yordanov (Lechkov 85), K Balakov – Kostadinov (Penev 64), Stoichkov (c), Iskrenov
Ill-tempered match with four goals and four red cards as Bulgaria finally get their first win of 1989. The match is played in atrocious conditions on a rapidly deteriorating pitch, and it is the home side that are least affected as they romp to victory with a collection of late goals. The margin of win flatters Bulgaria, but indisciplined visitors deserve what they get. Good games from Yordanov, Stoichkov and Iskrenov, and there’s a debut for Lechkov late on.

Qualifier 6: Greece 1-0 Bulgaria
15.11.1989, Olympiakó Stádio (Athens)
Line-up: Valov – Dimitrov, Dochev (Stoyanov 74), Ivanov, Bankov, Tinchev – Yanchev, Yordanov, K Balakov – Iskrenov (Kostadinov 52), Stoichkov
Small crowd sees Greece and Bulgaria end their forgettable qualification campaigns, and the visitors ought to be feeling disappointed to prop up the final table having won by that big margin against the same opponent recently.


A disappointing qualification for Bulgaria. This was in fact by far the worst campaign they had had for years, and also compared with the years to come.

But there were also positives to take with them. The campaign saw the introduction of several players from a golden generation who would bring Bulgaria into the success of the 90s. Trifon Ivanov, Krasimir Balakov, Yordan Lechkov, Emil Kostadinov.

Final position: 4 (out of 4)
Total record: 6 1 1 4 6-8 3
Home record: 3 1 0 2 5-5 2
Away record: 3 0 1 2 1-3 1

Player statistics

Number of players used: 34
Number of players including unused substitutes: 36
Ever-presents (540 mins): 0
Leading goalscorer: Six players with one goal each
Yellow/red cards: 11/2

– overview

Aleksandrov, Petar11131
Bakalov, Marin1190
Balakov, Krasimir4311271
Bankov, Kalin2218011/0
Bezinski, Krasimir22180
Dimitrov, Emil221180
Dochev, Pavel442344
Donev, Nikolay22381
Georgiev, Georgi111520/1
Getov, Plamen22180
Iliev, Nikolay33270
Iskrenov, Bozhidar22014211/0
Ivanov, Trifon44135112/1
Kirov, Ivaylo2211801/0
Kiryakov, Iliyan321216
Kolev, Hristo11591
Kostadinov, Emil32111921/0
Lechkov, Yordan1115
Mihaylov, Borislav1190
Mikhtarski, Petar1190
Mladenov, Dimitar1190
Mladenov, Nedyalko1
Mladenov, Stoycho1190
Nikolov, Plamen1190
Penev, Lyuboslav3212061/0
Rakov, Zapryan3211841/0
Sadakov, Ayan3322511/0
Simeonov, Plamen11145
Stoichkov, Hristo6653911/0
Stoyanov, Vlado1116
Tinchev, Vasil332701/0
Valov, Iliya551369
Vasev, Dimitar22144
Voynov, Iliya2
Yanchev, Kostadin1190
Yordanov, Georgi44351

– game by game

PlayerRom (h)Den (a)Den (h) Rom (a)Gre (h) Gre (a)AppsMins
IvanovR81 (s.o.)9090904351
Mladenov, D90190
Mladenov, S90190
Mladenov, NR
GeorgievR52 (s.o.)152

– ratings

PosPlayerAverage ratingNumber of rated games
1Ivanov 6,963
7Sadakov 6,603
Explanation to table: Total number of rated games: 5. A player needs to have obtained a rating from three or more games in order to feature.


05.05.1990 Brazil 2-1 Bulgaria
Goal: Kostadinov
Line-up: Valov – Dimitrov (Dochev h-t), Ivanov, Bankov, Vasev (Lechkov 67) – Yanchev, Todorov (Georgiev 62), Yordanov, K Balakov – Kostadinov (Mihtarski h-t), Stoichkov (c) (Panchev 86)