The Bulgarian National Football Team currently find themselves sitting in 73rd place in FIFA’s World Rankings, and by their own standards have not had the best of starts to their UEFA Nations League C Group 4 campaign.
A 1-1 draw at home to North Macedonia last week in Matchday 1 on paper may not have been as bad as the result suggested, given North Macedonia’s recent successes against Italy and in the Euro 2020 finals. However, after going 1-0 up they will have undoubtedly been frustrated at being held to a 1-1 draw at home.
Matchday 2 was far worse as they conceded 5, at home once again, to the team of the group so far – Georgia. When Atanas Iliev pulled one back in the 50th minute, to make it 2-1 on the night, Bulgaria could have not imagined that they would let in a further three goals to a rampant Georgian side, before Iliyan Stefanov scored a second which ended up as mere consolation goal.
They may be a long way from the Hristo Stoichkov Golden Generation of Bulgarian football which featured a team littered with household names such as Emil Kostadinov, Yordan Letchkov, Krasimir Balakov and Stoichkov himself. At the peak of their powers, they reached the semi-finals of the 1994 World Cup in the USA beating Argentina, Mexico and Germany before falling 2-1 to Italy in acrimonious circumstances. Stoichkov went on to score 6 times and shared the USA’94 Golden Boot, being named alongside Kostadinov in the team of the tournament.
Euro 1996 followed and France 1998 was the last dance for the golden generation as they were eliminated in the Group stages before failing to qualify for Euro 2000 when national hero Stoichkov retired.
Despite the recent big-name players like Stiliyan & Martin Petrov and Dimitar Berbatov, Bulgaria have failed to qualify for a major tournament since Euro 2004 in Portugal and were recently relegated from League B of the UEFA Nations League.
Gibraltar and Bulgaria have met once before in an official international – on November 11 2020 at the Vasil Levski National Stadium where Bulgaria ran out 3-0 winners.
Bulgaria at present is on a poor run of form, and are coming to the Victoria Stadium with only one thing on their minds – taking home the 3 points which will end their run of 6 internationals without a win and get their League C campaign truly up and running.