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What happened to Bulgaria's golden boys of '93?

Published: Saturday 16 November 2013, 21.00CET
Sunday marked the 20th anniversary of the famous 2-1 win in Paris that sent Bulgaria to the 1994 FIFA World Cup finals; UEFA.com discovers what happened to those heroes.
by Stoyan Georgiev
from Sofia

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Published: Saturday 16 November 2013, 21.00CET

What happened to Bulgaria's golden boys of '93?

Sunday marked the 20th anniversary of the famous 2-1 win in Paris that sent Bulgaria to the 1994 FIFA World Cup finals; UEFA.com discovers what happened to those heroes.

"We've made real asses of ourselves," said Didier Deschamps after France conceded ten seconds from time in Paris to allow Bulgaria to make it to the 1994 FIFA World Cup finals at their expense.

It is a game that French fans would prefer to forget, but the 13 Bulgaria players who took the field for that game became instant legends back at home, not least Emil Kostadinov, who scored both goals. UEFA.com catches up on the golden boys 20 years on.

Borislav Mihaylov
Then: Goalkeeper, AS Mulhouse
Mihaylov would go on to captain Bulgaria as they reached the 1994 World Cup semi-finals, and later played club football for PFC Botev Plovdiv, Reading FC, PFC Slavia Sofia and FC Zürich. He was Bulgaria's most capped player until Stilyan Petrov passed his mark of 102 in UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying.

After retiring, he got involved with the Bulgarian Football Union (BFU), and has been its president since 2005, and since 2011 a member of the UEFA Executive Committee.

Emil Kremenliev
Then: Right-back, PFC Levski Sofia
The reliable right-back collected the ball from David Ginola's wayward cross in Paris, launching the attack that led to Kostadinov's winner. He later played for Olympiacos FC and became one of the select band of players to represent PFC CSKA Sofia as well as their rivals Levski.

"I don't know why Ginola was cast as the main culprit in France for the defeat," he recalled. "He put in a high cross and there was nobody from the hosts to get it. There was no pressure on us, but we were also a very strong team."

Trifon Ivanov
Then: Defender, Real Betis Balompié
The intimidating defender was 28 at the time of the France game, and was one of the unlikely faces of the 1994 World Cup. He later represented the likes of Neuchâtel Xamax FC, CSKA Sofia, SK Rapid Wien and FK Austria Wien, and in September 1997 scored the goal against Russia that sent Bulgaria to their most recent World Cup finals, France '98. He is now enjoying life in his home town, Veliko Turnovo.

Petar Hubchev
Then: Defender, PFC Levski Sofia
One of the best readers of the game in Bulgarian football, his international performances helped persuade Hamburger SV and then Eintracht Frankfurt to sign him. He is one of the few members of the class of '93 who went into coaching, leading the likes of Slavia Sofia, PFC Chernomorets Burgas, PFC Botev Plovdiv and now PFC Beroe Stara Zagora, who he led to Bulgarian Cup triumph in 2013.

Tsanko Tsvetanov
Then: Left back, PFC Levski Sofia
The reliable full-back also tried his luck in Germany with SV Waldhof Mannheim before a spell in Scotland with Aberdeen FC from 1996-98 and then three seasons with FC Energie Cottbus. Spells with Levski and hometown club PFC Etar Veliko Turnovo preceded his retirement, and since then he has been assistant to Stanimir Stoilov at Levski, PFC Litex Lovech, the national team and now Botev Plovdiv.

Zlatko Yankov
Then: Defensive midfielder, Levski Sofia
Yankov later played in Germany for KFC Uerdingen and in Turkey with Beşiktaş JK, Adanaspor, Vanspor and Gençlerbirliği SK, before returning to Bulgaria to end his career. He has recently been working as a sporting director with his hometown club Chernomorets.

Krasimir Balakov
Then: Midfielder, Sporting Clube de Portugal
One of the best playmakers in Europe in the 1990s, Balakov was a fans' favourite with Sporting and later at VfB Stuttgart. After hanging up his boots, he coached Grasshopper Club, FC St Gallen, Chernomorets, HNK Hajduk Split and most recently 1. FC Kaiserslautern.

"We believed there could be a miracle until the last seconds," he recalled. "God was with us in that game, but fortune favours the brave. France were a top, top side – they had some phenomenal players – but there were some phenomenal players lined up against them. That was the most important game of our generation."

Yordan Lechkov
Then: Midfielder, Hamburger SV
The bald-headed maestro's flying header in the quarter-final against Germany in the United States remains an all-time World Cup highlight, and Lechkov's career took him to Olympique de Marseille, Beşiktaş and CSKA Sofia before he headed back to his hometown side, PFC Sliven. He has since been Sliven's mayor and vice-president of the BFU.

"Fate," he said as he looked back to his famous night in Paris. "Of course, we were lucky because Israel surprisingly beat France before our game and that gave us a chance. We were a team that never surrendered."

Emil Kostadinov
Position: Right winger, FC Porto
Kostadinov might have missed the game, having forgotten his passport; he was reportedly smuggled across the border from Germany for the match with the help of former team-mate Georgi Georgiev. He later played for RC Deportivo La Coruña, won the UEFA Cup with FC Bayern München in 1996, and took on management positions with CSKA Sofia and the BFU.

"It was a one-in-a-thousand strike," he remembered of his winner in Paris. "No, one in a million. There still moments I can't recall from after the goal. I only realised what had happened when we got back to the dressing room."

Hristo Stoichkov
Position: Left winger, FC Barcelona
A stunningly gifted player, Stoichkov became the only Bulgarian to date to win the Ballon d'Or in 1994. A European Champion Clubs' Cup winner with Barcelona in 1992, he would end his second spell with the club with five Spanish titles and a winners' medal from the 1996/97 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup.

In 2004, he became coach of Bulgaria, and subsequently took charge of RC Celta de Vigo and Litex Lovech among others.

Luboslav Penev
Then: Striker, Valencia CF
Bulgaria's current coach, Penev set up Kostadinov for the winner against France only to miss the World Cup finals with a serious illness. Winning a Spanish double in 1995/96 with Club Atlético de Madrid was some consolation: he scored 32 goals in all competitions in that campaign.

After returning home to Bulgaria, he moved from the pitch to the coaching dugout, first coaching his old side CSKA Sofia before title success with Litex in 2011 prompted his move to the national team.

Substitutes
Daniel Borimirov
Then: Midfielder, PFC Levski Sofia
The tigerish Borimirov spent nine years in Germany with TSV 1860 München, and did not retire until his late 30s, after a second substantial spell at Levski. That long career enabled him to be the only Bulgarian to feature at two UEFA European Championships – EURO '96 and UEFA EURO 2004. After retiring, he enjoyed a spell as Levski's sporting director.

Petar Alexandrov
Then: Forward, FC Aarau
A prolific striker, Alexandrov was in his 30s when he featured in Paris, and kept on playing for several more years, with Levski, FC Lucerne and FC Aarau among others. He was subsequently assistant coach at PAOK FC, FC St Gallen, Grasshoppers and with Bulgaria, under Plamen Markov.

Coach
Dimitar Penev
A tremendous central defender, capped 90 times, Penev is Mr Football in Bulgaria, having enjoyed long-term success as a player and a coach. Always on hand to help and advise clubs and national teams, he has a great reputation for inspiring and uniting sides. He will do that once more as his boys of '93 meet up to mark the 20th anniversary of the France win.

Last updated: 03/12/13 19.42CET

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