Bulgaria
Shirt badge/Association crest
Nickname(s)Лъвовете / Lavovete
(The Lions)
Трикольорите / Trikolyorite
(The Tricolours)
AssociationBulgarian Football Union (BFU)
ConfederationUEFA (Europe)
Head coachIlian Iliev
CaptainKiril Despodov
Most capsStiliyan Petrov (105)
Top scorerDimitar Berbatov
Hristo Bonev (48)
Home stadiumVarious
FIFA codeBUL
First colours
Second colours
FIFA ranking
Current 83 Decrease 2 (15 February 2024)[1]
Highest8 (June 1995)
Lowest96 (May 2012)
First international
 Austria 6–0 Bulgaria 
(Vienna, Austria; 21 May 1924)
Biggest win
 Singapore 2–10 Bulgaria 
(Singapore; 13 December 1956)
Biggest defeat
 Spain 13–0 Bulgaria 
(Madrid, Spain; 21 May 1933)
World Cup
Appearances7 (first in 1962)
Best resultFourth place (1994)
European Championship
Appearances2 (first in 1996)
Best resultGroup stage (1996, 2004)

The Bulgaria national football team (Bulgarian: Български национален отбор по футбол, romanizedBǎlgarski natsionalen otbor po futbol) represents Bulgaria in men's international football, and is administered by the Bulgarian Football Union, a member association of UEFA.

Bulgaria's best achievements are reaching the final at the 1968 Summer Olympics and the fourth-place finish at the FIFA World Cup in 1994. Bulgaria have competed at a total of seven World Cups, debuting in 1962 and last appearing in 1998. In addition, they have participated in two European Championships, in 1996 and 2004. The team has also competed at the Balkan Cup, winning three titles. However, Bulgaria have failed to qualify for any major tournament since UEFA Euro 2004.

History

1922–1945: early history

The Bulgaria national football team was formed in 1922. In 1923, the Bulgarian Football Union was formed and the team's first match was held in Vienna on 21 May 1924, which resulted in a 6–0 defeat against Austria.[5] Bulgaria also participated in the 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris a few days later.

After being unable to compete in the 1930 World Cup, the Bulgarian side did not qualify for any major tournament for nearly 30 years, narrowly falling short of qualification on numerous occasions. The national team had gone on a streak of finishing 2nd or 3rd in their qualifying groups along with proceeding to the play-offs, but in the end, failing to qualify. Despite their qualifying problems, the national team did manage to defeat many elite teams during memorable international friendlies during those years. It also seemed as if the only tournaments they managed to qualify for were smaller tournaments, such as the Balkan Cup, which they won three times (1931, 1932 and 1973–76), thus being the competition's second most successful team only behind Romania with four titles.

1960s and 1970s

Bulgaria vs. Sweden 0–0, 1974 FIFA World Cup

Bulgaria qualified for the World Cup for the first time in its history in 1962 and followed that up with consecutive appearances in 1966, 1970 and 1974. The team, however, did not have much success and finished in third place in their group two out of the four times.

Bulgaria took part in qualifiers for the European Championship in 1968 and went on to win their group with impressive wins over Norway, Sweden, and Portugal. Although they would go on to lose to the eventual champions and hosts Italy in a two-legged qualifying play-off.

At the 1968 Summer Olympics, the team won the silver medal. They finished first in Group D by defeating Thailand 7–0, Guatemala 2–1, and drawing 2–2 against Czechoslovakia. They advanced to the quarter-finals by defeating Israel and then the semi-finals by defeating favored hosts Mexico. In the Olympic Final, the team was defeated by Hungary, in what many would say was a hard-fought match for both sides.

Despite winning the Balkan Cup twice in 1931 and 1932, the Bulgaria national team added two more trophies to their case as they went on to win the tournament in 1973 and 1976. In both 1973 and 1976, Bulgaria had used their previous World Cup experience to create a very tactical team. This paid off quite well, as they had many decisive victories over Hungary, Greece, Turkey, Yugoslavia, Poland, Albania and Romania. In fact, the team won the 1976 Balkan Cup by beating Romania in the two-legged final 1–0 and 3–2.

Bulgaria finally qualified for their first World Cup in 1962. Bulgaria was drawn in a tough group with elite opponents in England, powerhouse Argentina and Hungary. Bulgaria opened up their campaign with a narrow 0–1 loss to Argentina. Later on, Bulgaria would lose their second group match by a 6–1 score to Hungary. Bulgaria's hopes of qualifying were over, but the national team impressively drew with future 1966 World Cup champions England 0–0 and finished fourth in the group with only one point.

Bulgaria qualified for their second straight World Cup, drawn into an even tougher group compared to the previous World Cup. They were placed in the group of death with superpowers Hungary, Portugal and Brazil, with Pelé at the helm. Bulgaria opened their campaign match with a 0–2 loss to Brazil thanks to two free kick goals by Pelé and Garrincha. In their second match Bulgaria loss 0–3 to Eusebio's Portugal. Finally, Bulgaria with no chance of advancing to the next round, finished their last match with a 1–3 loss to Hungary. Bulgaria once again finished fourth with zero points in the group.

After their poor World Cup performance, Bulgaria was determined to redeem themselves. Bulgaria was drawn in a very tough group for qualifying, with Norway and Sweden, along with Eusebio's Portugal. Bulgaria started off with a 4–2 win over Norway. They would add to their winning streak with a 2–0 victory against Sweden. In their next two matches Bulgaria would draw 0–0 against Norway, and dominate Sweden 3–0. In their final two group fixtures Bulgaria played Portugal to a 1–0 victory at home and an 0–0 draw on the road, but it was enough to advance to the two-legged qualifying play-off. There Bulgaria were drawn against eventual Euro 1968 host Italy. Italy were defeated in the first leg 3–2, but won the second by a 0–2 score to advance 4–3 on aggregate. Italy would win the playoff and go on to win the tournament, while Bulgaria was eliminated from reaching the finals.

A month and a half after the European Championship qualifying 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 started off with a 7–0 thrashing of Thailand. They later went on and drew with Czechoslovakia 2–2 to increase their point standards. Their final match once again determined if they would carry on to the quarter-finals. Needing a decisive win, Bulgaria went on to defeat Guatemala 2–1 and win their Olympic group. They qualified directly to the quarter-finals facing underdogs, Israel. The game remained 1–1 for most of the match until a drawing of lots determined who would go on to the semi-finals of the tournament. Winning the draw Bulgaria advanced to the semi-finals against Mexico. After a very hard-fought match, Bulgaria proved stronger as they came out on top with a 3–2 victory. Bulgaria advanced to the finals for the first time in their Olympic history. They were determined to win the gold medal, but fell short with a 1–4 loss to Hungary. Although battling hard, Bulgaria came out with the silver medal.

Bulgaria qualified for their third straight World Cup, held in Mexico, just like the 1968 Olympics. They were drawn in a very tricky group with Germany, Peru and Morocco. Bulgaria played their first match against Peru, losing 3–2. Germany won Bulgaria's second match, 5–2. The last group stage match ended 1–1; Bulgaria ended up in 3rd place.

The 1974 World Cup was held in West Germany. They were drawn in a decently tough group, with the Netherlands, Sweden and Uruguay. Bulgaria started off with a goalless draw with Sweden. They drew again, this time 1–1 with Uruguay. As the final match came, Bulgaria fell by a 4–1 score. Bulgaria remained in third place in the group stages.

1986–2000

Bulgaria qualified for the 1986 World Cup in Mexico by finishing second in Group Four, behind France with 11 points, but ahead of powerful rivals Yugoslavia and East Germany. 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 an impressive 1–1 draw. Alessandro Altobelli gave the Italians the lead, but an 85th-minute equalizer by Nasko Sirakov gave the Bulgarians the point they needed. 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 eventually won the tournament. Despite not recording a win, the Bulgarians advanced to the knockout stage by being the third-best third-placed team. By doing so, Bulgaria along with 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, who were looking for revenge due to their previous home Olympic semi-final loss to Bulgaria in Mexico City in 1968. The match was hard-fought from both sides of the scale but ultimately, Mexico came away with the 2–0 win.

Bulgarian players celebrate victory over world champions Germany in the quarter-finals of the 1994 World Cup at Giants Stadium
Hristo Stoichkov won the Ballon D'Or, World and European Golden Boots in 1994. He led Bulgaria to the semi-finals of the 1994 World Cup, along with leading Barcelona to their first ever UEFA Champions League title in 1992.

Certainly one of the most important dates in Bulgarian football history is 17 November 1993, a date on which Emil Kostadinov scored a deciding goal in the 90th minute to beat France in Paris, allowing Bulgaria to qualify for the World Cup in the United States in 1994. Under the management of Dimitar Penev, the Bulgarians, led by players such as Hristo Stoichkov, Yordan Lechkov, and Krasimir Balakov, along with a multitude of other talented players remembered in Bulgaria as the "Golden Generation", made a strong impression by surprisingly reaching the semi-finals. They entered a very tough Group D with 1990 World Cup runners-up Argentina with Diego Maradona at the helm, African Nations Cup champions Nigeria, and Balkan rivals Greece. The first match ended with a 3–0 defeat to Nigeria. Despite the bad start, the team made quite a huge statement by winning 4–0 against their Greece and increasing their goal difference. Their third and final match came against Argentina. The powerful Bulgarian side came away with a shocking 2–0 victory. Going into injury-time, Argentina was leading the group. A 91st-minute strike from Nasko Sirakov, however, meant that they'd drop two places and finish third.

Bulgaria continued to the round of 16, where they faced Mexico. Stoichkov opened the scoring in the sixth minute with an incredible strike off a break away from outside the box, tallying his fourth goal. The match ended 1–1 and after no goals were scored in extra time, penalties decided which team would go through. Team captain Borislav Mihaylov saved the first three penalty kicks in a row, breaking the World Cup record. Bulgaria won 3–1 on penalties. In the quarter-finals, Bulgaria faced the defending world champions Germany. At the start of the match held in Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, the Bulgarians dominated impressively, hitting the post twice in the process, but eventually found themselves behind after Lothar Matthäus scored the opening goal for the Germans. The Bulgarians, however, managed to turn the game over with a swerving free kick by Hristo Stoichkov and a flying header by Yordan Lechkov, giving them a 2–1 win. In the semi-finals, they controversially lost 2–1 to Italy. Stoichkov scored Bulgaria's only goal in the first half to tally his seventh goal, which led the tournament. In the second half, Bulgaria were waved off on a non-penalty call in which an Italian defender had clearly committed a handball in the box, off a Kostadinov cross. Instead of playing in the final, it became a third place play-off. Bulgaria lost against Sweden 4–0, but the fourth-place finish was Bulgaria's best performance in history to that point.

Hristo Stoichkov was awarded the Golden Boot shared with Oleg Salenko as the top scorer in the tournament with his six goals. Krasimir Balakov was named in the 1994 World Cup Dream Team along with Stoichkov. Later on in December, Stoichkov was awarded the FIFA Ballon D'Or trophy for his great skill and leadership, becoming the first Bulgarian and third Barcelona player to win it in history.[citation needed]

In 1996, the team qualified for the European Football Championship for the first time. They were drawn in Group B with France, Spain, and Romania. Bulgaria started with a 1–1 draw against the Spain. Stoichkov scored his second goal with a wonderful volley, ruled offside. Bulgaria defeated Romania 1–0 in the next group stage match. Stoichkov scored in the third minute. In the final group match, the Bulgarian side lost 3–1 against France; Stoichkov scored a free kick to give Bulgaria their only goal of the game, along with their only loss. At the same time, Spain defeated Romania 2–1, and Bulgaria were eliminated.

Bulgaria qualified for the 1998 World Cup in France by finishing first in Group 5, with decisive wins over Russia. They entered the competition with new manager Hristo Bonev. Bulgaria drew Spain, Nigeria, and Paraguay in Group D. The first match ended decently, in a goalless draw against eventual group runners up Paraguay. In the second match, the Bulgarians lost 1–0 for a second-straight World Cup to Nigeria. The final match ended with a 6–1 defeat to Spain. Following the bad results, Bulgaria finished fourth in the group, with only one point. This was the last World Cup appearance for Bulgaria.

Bulgaria was drawn in a tough qualifying group with teams England, Sweden, and Poland. The campaign started slow 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 match for Stoichkov before his international retirement. Bulgaria finished fourth with eight points and failed to make the final stages of Euro 2000.

Early 21st century

Bulgaria was once again drawn into a tough group with Denmark and Czech Republic. The group was also the debut of Bulgaria's top scoring legend Dimitar Berbatov. Bulgaria won the matches against the weaker teams, but lost once and drew once with both Denmark and the Czech Republic. Bulgaria finished third with 17 points, 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 with wins over Croatia and Belgium. They drew Sweden, Italy, and Denmark in Group C. All three group stage matches ended up in losses for Bulgaria, with Martin Petrov being the team's lone scorer in the country's 1–2 loss to Italy.

Bulgaria failed to qualify for the World Cup in Germany after a run of poor results. They tied with Sweden and Croatia the first run but lost the other meetings to the two sides. Although Berbatov scored many goals in the qualifiers including a last-minute equalizer against Croatia, Bulgaria still finished third in qualifying with 15 points.

Bulgaria found themselves in a minor tournament in Japan known as the Kirin Cup. They started off well with a 2–1 victory over the hosts Japan. However, Bulgaria lost 5–1 to Scotland, the eventual cup champions. Bulgaria finished as the runners-up and received the silver medal.

Group G of Euro 2008 qualification had Netherlands, Romania, and Bulgaria attempting to qualify for Euro 2008, hosted by Switzerland and Austria. Bulgaria performed well after a run of good results against Romania which gave them the first place. Bulgaria finished third in the group falling short on one point behind the Netherlands.

Bulgaria in 2010

Bulgaria were drawn against Italy and Ireland in qualifying in Group 8. Bulgaria started the campaign with a series of draws. Manager Plamen Markov was replaced by Stanimir Stoilov in January 2009. The Bulgarians then recorded their first wins of the group over Cyprus, Montenegro and Georgia. They finished in third place with 14 points, therefore failing to qualify to a play-off spot.

The national team in 2012

Bulgaria were drawn in Group G along with England, Switzerland, Wales, and Montenegro. Bulgaria finished in last place in the group.

In the qualification phase for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, 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 some noteworthy performances in friendly matches before the start of the qualifying, including a 2–1 victory over 2010 World Cup runners-up Netherlands in Amsterdam. The qualifying began with a 2–2 draw against Euro 2012 runners-up Italy. Bulgaria then edged a tight match against Armenia, which ended 1–0. Next, Bulgaria drew 1–1 against Denmark. Four days later, Bulgaria earned a hard-fought 0–0 draw away to the Czech Republic. As a result, the team climbed from 96th in the FIFA World Rankings, their lowest position in history, to 40th in November 2012.

Penev's players hosted and defeated Malta 6–0 under heavy snowfall. Four days later, Bulgaria drew Denmark 1–1 in Copenhagen. This result left Bulgaria second in the group with 10 points, still undefeated. Bulgaria traveled to Italy, losing 1–0. After a series of poor results, Bulgaria ended up failing to qualify for Brazil 2014.

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, following another 2–1 defeat to Norway. To make it worse, Bulgaria drew with Malta 1–1 at home, which would cost manager Lyuboslav Penev his position. He was replaced by Ludogorets Razgrad manager Ivaylo Petev.

On his debut match, Petev's squad drew Romania 0-0; this later led to a 2–2 draw with Italy, which Bulgaria led until a last-minute Italian equalizer. Bulgaria defeated Malta 1–0 to edge two points ever closer to the third place playoff position. After a series of losses, Bulgaria failed to qualify for Euro 2016 in France despite a 2–0 defeat of Azerbaijan.

Bulgaria were drawn in a strong World Cup qualification group with the Netherlands, France, Sweden, Belarus and Luxembourg. They began with a 4–3 win against Luxembourg at home.[6] This was followed by heavy losses to France (4–1) and Sweden (3–0).[7][8] In November 2016, the Lions beat Belarus in Sofia 1–0,[9] and then put up one of their best performances in recent years, beating the Netherlands 2–0 to move into third place in the group.[10] Bulgaria then beat the group leaders Sweden 3–2 in Sofia to move one point behind their opponents in the table.[11] However, they lost the match against the Netherlands at the Amsterdam Arena 3–1. A 1–0 defeat at home to France and a 1–1 draw in Luxembourg ended their chances of qualifying.[12]

2018–present

Bulgaria were drawn in UEFA Nations League C with Norway, Slovenia and Cyprus. Bulgaria opened up the campaign with a 2–1 win over Slovenia and a clean sheet against Norway. The Norwegians eventually avenged their loss to Bulgaria, resulting in a tie for first place. Bulgaria eventually closed out the second round of games with two 1–1 draws against Slovenia and Cyprus, resulting in a second-place finish.

Bulgaria was drawn in Group A with England, Czech Republic, Montenegro and Kosovo. The team began the qualifying campaign with a 1–1 home draw against Montenegro and a 1–1 away draw to Kosovo while losing three major players due to injuries.[13] They later carried on with two more losses which sparked the end of their group campaign. Despite finishing in fourth place, the national side had one more opportunity to qualify for the Euros thanks to the good performance in the Nations League. It sent Bulgaria to the Path A qualifying play-offs, which also included Hungary, Iceland and Romania.

The draw put Bulgaria against Hungary in their first play-off match on their quest to qualify for a major competition since 2004. However, in front of limited number of home fans, Bulgaria fell 1–3 to Hungary, and was eliminated from the tournament.[14][15]

After appointing Georgi Dermendzhiev as their new head coach, Bulgaria began their brief promotion in League B. Being drawn into Group 4 with Wales, Finland and Republic of Ireland, Bulgaria played its first match against Ireland. A near victory for the Bulgarians until a 90th minute injury time equalizer sealed the draw for the Irish.[16] Bulgaria would then play away to Wales, where they held the hosts leveled 0–0 until another 90th minute injury time goal that resulted in 0–1 loss. The problems would continue with another set of narrow losses to Finland and Wales, forcing Bulgaria to miss out on promotion to League A. With two more matches left, Bulgaria finished winless against Finland and Ireland, relegating the Lions to League C.

Yasen Petrov was hired as the coach prior to the qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup. Bulgaria began the campaign horribly, losing at home 1–3 to Switzerland and 0–2 to Italy. The team somewhat improved in the next two games, drawing away at Northern Ireland and Italy, the reigning European champions. Bulgaria then beat Lithuania 1–0 at home, but lost 1–3 away against the same team, ending their hopes for qualification. A 2–1 home win against Northern Ireland was only a brief moment of rejoice before a heavy 0–4 defeat to Switzerland ended a largely miserable attempt for qualifying.

Bulgaria was allocated to League C for the League of Nations season, after relegation from the previous edition. Bulgaria's opponents were drawn to be North Macedonia, Georgia and Gibraltar. The campaign began with a 1–1 draw against North Macedonia at home, followed by a heavy 2–5 loss against Georgia at home. Yasen Petrov handed his resignation following the game. Georgi Ivanov was appointed as interim manager for the next two games against Gibraltar and Georgia. Another shameful performance followed, when the Lions drew 1–1 in Gibraltar, which was one of only few times that the Gibraltar national team had not lost a competitive game in its history. In Georgia, Bulgaria drew 0–0, extending the winless streak to four games. During the one month pause of the tournament, Serbian Mladen Krstajić was appointed as manager. Under his reins, Bulgaria recorded two wins against Gibraltar at home and North Macedonia away, eventually finishing second in the group. The game against North Macedonia was particularly intense, due to rising political tensions between the two countries at that time. The Bulgarian national anthem was heavily booed, followed by multiple provocations from both Macedonian fans and players aimed at the Bulgarian team.

Team image

Bulgaria's traditional colours are white, green and red, taken from the colours of the country's flag. This tricolour is reflected through the use of white shirts, green shorts, and red socks. The team's away kits have usually been red.

Their nickname is The Lions, in tribute of the lions represented in the coat of arms of Bulgaria.

Ultras and controversy

See also: Racism in association football

In recent years, ultras of the Bulgarian team have developed a reputation for racism. After racist chanting and monkey noises directed at Ashley Young, Ashley Cole and Theo Walcott during a qualifier for Euro 2012, the Bulgarian Football Union was fined €40,000 by UEFA.[17] The BFU denied that racism would be an issue during Euro 2020 qualifiers, claiming that the issue was worse in England.[18] Nevertheless, Bulgarian ultras were accused of racist chants during their matches against Czech Republic, Kosovo and England. As a result, part of the Bulgarian stadium was closed off for the match against England (October 2019), and officials twice halted the game under the UEFA anti-racism protocol.[19] In the following days since the match took place, Bulgarian police identified 15 fans they suspected were responsible for subjecting black English players including Raheem Sterling, Marcus Rashford and Tyrone Mings to racist abuse, arresting six of them.[20]

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin condemned the alleged abuse calling on the "football family and governments" to "wage war on the racists".[21] Disciplinary proceedings have been launched against both Bulgaria and England.[22]

Home stadium

Traditionally, the Bulgaria national football team's home stadium is the Vasil Levski National Stadium with a capacity of 44,000. Vasil Levski was officially opened in 1953 and reconstructed in 1966 and 2002. It is the second largest stadium in Bulgaria, behind the Plovdiv Stadium with a capacity of 55,000. During the 2006–07 UEFA Champions League, the stadium was used for Levski Sofia matches with Barcelona, Chelsea, and Werder Bremen. Similarly, Ludogorets Razgrad used it as their main home venue for their European matches until the 2017–18 season. The Bulgaria national team's home matches and the Bulgarian Cup finals are held at the venue, as well as athletics competitions.

Lately, the national team is playing its home matches at the Huvepharma Arena in Razgrad, home of 11-time Bulgarian champions Ludogorets Razgrad. Opened in 1954 and renovated in 2011, the stadium has a capacity of 10,422.

Results and fixtures

Main article: Bulgaria national football team results (2020–present)

The following is a list of match results in the last 12 months, as well as any future matches that have been scheduled.

  Win   Draw   Loss   Fixture

2023

24 March UEFA Euro 2024 qualifying Bulgaria  0–1  Montenegro Razgrad, Bulgaria
19:00 UTC+2 Report
  • Krstović 70'
Stadium: Huvepharma Arena
Attendance: 9,180
Referee: Aliyar Aghayev (Azerbaijan)
27 March UEFA Euro 2024 qualifying Hungary  3–0  Bulgaria Budapest, Hungary
21:45 UTC+2 Report Stadium: Puskás Aréna
Attendance: 53,000
Referee: Halil Umut Meler (Turkey)
17 June UEFA Euro 2024 qualifying Lithuania  1–1  Bulgaria Kaunas, Lithuania
16:00 UTC+3 Report Stadium: Darius and Girėnas Stadium
Attendance: 14,230
Referee: Jakob Alexander Sundberg (Denmark)
20 June UEFA Euro 2024 qualifying Bulgaria  1–1  Serbia Razgrad, Bulgaria
21:45 UTC+3 Report
Stadium: Huvepharma Arena
Attendance: 6,700
Referee: Craig Pawson (England)
7 September Friendly Bulgaria  0–1  Iran Plovdiv, Bulgaria
19:00 UTC+3 Report
Stadium: Stadion Hristo Botev
Attendance: 9,500
Referee: Lazar Lukić (Serbia)
10 September UEFA Euro 2024 qualifying Montenegro  2–1  Bulgaria Podgorica, Montenegro
19:00 UTC+3
Report
Stadium: Podgorica City Stadium
Attendance: 4,232
Referee: Harm Osmers (Germany)
14 October UEFA Euro 2024 qualifying Bulgaria  0–2  Lithuania Sofia, Bulgaria
19:00 UTC+3 Report
Stadium: Vasil Levski National Stadium
Attendance: 6,916
Referee: Giorgi Kruashvili (Georgia)
17 October Friendly Albania  2–0  Bulgaria Tirana, Albania
18:00 UTC+2
Report Stadium: Arena Kombëtare
Attendance: 17,232
Referee: Mervan Bejtullahu (Kosovo)
16 November UEFA Euro 2024 qualifying Bulgaria  2–2  Hungary Sofia, Bulgaria
19:00 UTC+2
Report
Stadium: Vasil Levski National Stadium
Attendance: 230
Referee: Daniel Stefański (Poland)
19 November UEFA Euro 2024 qualifying Serbia  2–2  Bulgaria Leskovac, Serbia
15:00 UTC+1 Report
Stadium: Dubočica Stadium
Attendance: 7,325
Referee: Erik Lambrechts (Belgium)

2024

22 March 2024 FIFA World Series Bulgaria  v  Tanzania Baku, Azerbaijan
Stadium: Baku Olympic Stadium
25 March 2024 FIFA World Series Azerbaijan  v  Bulgaria Baku, Azerbaijan
Stadium: Baku Olympic Stadium
4 June Friendly Romania  v  Bulgaria Bucharest, Romania
Stadium: Stadionul Steaua
8 June Friendly Slovenia  v  Bulgaria Ljubljana, Slovenia
Stadium: Stožice Stadium
5 September UEFA Nations League C Belarus  v  Bulgaria TBA
Stadium: TBA
8 September UEFA Nations League C Bulgaria  v  Northern Ireland Bulgaria
Stadium: TBA
12 October UEFA Nations League C Bulgaria  v  Luxembourg Bulgaria
Stadium: TBA
15 October UEFA Nations League C Northern Ireland  v  Bulgaria Belfast, Northern Ireland
Stadium: Windsor Park
15 November UEFA Nations League C Luxembourg  v  Bulgaria Luxembourg City, Luxembourg
Stadium: Stade de Luxembourg
18 November UEFA Nations League C Bulgaria  v  Belarus Bulgaria
Stadium: TBA

Coaching staff

Role Name
Head Coach Bulgaria Ilian Iliev
Assistant Coach Bulgaria Petar Kostadinov
Assistant Coach Bulgaria Georgi Donkov
Goalkeeping Coach Bulgaria Zdravko Zdravkov
Analyst Bulgaria Atanas Ribarski
Fitness Coach Bulgaria Yasen Lyubenov
Recovery Coach Bulgaria Nikola Izpoldzhiyski
GPS Analyst Bulgaria Alex Mihalev
Doctor Bulgaria Zdravko Taralov

Coaching history

Players

Current squad

The following players were called up for the UEFA Euro 2024 qualifying games against Hungary and Serbia on 16 and 19 November 2023.[23]

Caps and goals as of 19 November 2023, after the match against Serbia.[24][25]

No. Pos. Player Date of birth (age) Caps Goals Club
1 1GK Daniel Naumov (1998-03-29) 29 March 1998 (age 25) 10 0 Bulgaria CSKA 1948
12 1GK Dimitar Mitov (1997-01-22) 22 January 1997 (age 27) 2 0 Scotland St Johnstone
23 1GK Ivan Dyulgerov (1999-07-15) 15 July 1999 (age 24) 4 0 Bulgaria Cherno More

2 2DF Viktor Popov (2000-03-05) 5 March 2000 (age 23) 13 0 Bulgaria Cherno More
3 2DF Simeon Petrov (2000-01-12) 12 January 2000 (age 24) 3 0 Poland Śląsk Wrocław
5 2DF Aleks Petkov (1999-07-25) 25 July 1999 (age 24) 6 0 Poland Śląsk Wrocław
15 2DF Zhivko Atanasov (1991-02-03) 3 February 1991 (age 33) 2 0 Bulgaria Cherno More
16 2DF Angel Lyaskov (1998-03-16) 16 March 1998 (age 25) 1 0 Bulgaria Lokomotiv Plovdiv
19 2DF Ivan Turitsov (1999-07-18) 18 July 1999 (age 24) 18 0 Bulgaria CSKA Sofia
2DF Kristian Dimitrov (1997-02-27) 27 February 1997 (age 26) 17 1 Bulgaria Levski Sofia

4 3MF Ilia Gruev (2000-05-06) 6 May 2000 (age 23) 14 0 England Leeds United
6 3MF Svetoslav Kovachev (1998-03-14) 14 March 1998 (age 25) 5 0 Russia Akhmat Grozny
8 3MF Andrian Kraev (1999-02-14) 14 February 1999 (age 25) 8 0 Bulgaria Levski Sofia
10 3MF Dominik Yankov (2000-07-28) 28 July 2000 (age 23) 17 0 Canada CF Montréal
18 3MF Ivaylo Chochev (1993-02-18) 18 February 1993 (age 31) 42 4 Bulgaria Ludogorets Razgrad
20 3MF Filip Krastev (2001-10-15) 15 October 2001 (age 22) 13 0 Netherlands PEC Zwolle
22 3MF Ilian Iliev Jr. (1999-08-20) 20 August 1999 (age 24) 12 0 Greece Kifisia
3MF Hristo Ivanov (2000-12-16) 16 December 2000 (age 23) 2 0 Bulgaria Lokomotiv Plovdiv

7 4FW Georgi Rusev (1998-07-02) 2 July 1998 (age 25) 14 1 Switzerland Sion
9 4FW Spas Delev (1989-09-22) 22 September 1989 (age 34) 47 5 Bulgaria Ludogorets Razgrad
11 4FW Kiril Despodov (captain) (1996-11-11) 11 November 1996 (age 27) 45 12 Greece PAOK
13 4FW Stanislav Ivanov (1999-04-16) 16 April 1999 (age 24) 2 0 Bulgaria Arda
14 4FW Preslav Borukov (2000-04-23) 23 April 2000 (age 23) 4 1 Portugal Marítimo
17 4FW Aleksandar Kolev (1992-12-08) 8 December 1992 (age 31) 2 0 Bulgaria Krumovgrad
21 4FW Martin Minchev (2001-04-22) 22 April 2001 (age 22) 15 0 Turkey Çaykur Rizespor

Recent call-ups

The following players have also been called up to the Bulgarian squad within the last 12 months and are still available for selection.

Pos. Player Date of birth (age) Caps Goals Club Latest call-up
GK Plamen Andreev (2004-12-15) 15 December 2004 (age 19) 0 0 Bulgaria Levski Sofia v.  Serbia, 20 June 2023
GK Svetoslav Vutsov (2002-07-09) 9 July 2002 (age 21) 4 0 Bulgaria Slavia Sofia v.  Hungary, 27 March 2023

DF Anton Nedyalkov (1993-04-30) 30 April 1993 (age 30) 29 0 Bulgaria Ludogorets Razgrad v.  Serbia, 19 November 2023INJ
DF Valentin Antov (2000-11-09) 9 November 2000 (age 23) 24 1 Italy Cremonese v.  Serbia, 19 November 2023SUS
DF Patrik-Gabriel Galchev (2001-04-14) 14 April 2001 (age 22) 3 0 Bulgaria Levski Sofia v.  Albania, 17 October 2023
DF Dimo Krastev (2003-02-10) 10 February 2003 (age 21) 3 0 Italy Feralpisalò v.  Lithuania, 14 October 2023INJ
DF Petko Hristov (1999-03-01) 1 March 1999 (age 24) 19 0 Italy Spezia v.  Iran, 7 September 2023INJ
DF Hristiyan Petrov (2002-06-24) 24 June 2002 (age 21) 2 0 Bulgaria CSKA Sofia v.  Serbia, 20 June 2023
DF Plamen Galabov (1995-11-02) 2 November 1995 (age 28) 5 0 Israel Maccabi Netanya v.  Hungary, 27 March 2023
DF Ivaylo Markov (1997-06-05) 5 June 1997 (age 26) 1 0 Unattached v.  Hungary, 27 March 2023

MF Marin Petkov (2003-10-02) 2 October 2003 (age 20) 10 2 Bulgaria Levski Sofia v.  Albania, 17 October 2023
MF Yoni Stoyanov (2001-05-22) 22 May 2001 (age 22) 8 0 Israel Hapoel Be'er Sheva v.  Albania, 17 October 2023
MF Lukas Petkov (2000-11-01) 1 November 2000 (age 23) 4 0 Germany Greuther Fürth v.  Albania, 17 October 2023
MF Ivan Yordanov (2000-11-07) 7 November 2000 (age 23) 4 0 Bulgaria Ludogorets Razgrad v.  Lithuania, 14 October 2023INJ
MF Nikola Iliev (2004-06-06) 6 June 2004 (age 19) 8 0 Bulgaria CSKA 1948 v.  Iran, 7 September 2023U21
MF Iliyan Stefanov (1998-09-20) 20 September 1998 (age 25) 8 2 Bulgaria Levski Sofia v.  Serbia, 20 June 2023
MF Stanislav Shopov (2002-02-23) 23 February 2002 (age 21) 2 0 Bulgaria CSKA Sofia v.  Serbia, 20 June 2023
MF Yanis Karabelyov (1996-01-23) 23 January 1996 (age 28) 12 0 Bulgaria Botev Plovdiv v.  Hungary, 27 March 2023

FW Radoslav Kirilov (1992-06-29) 29 June 1992 (age 31) 12 2 Bulgaria CSKA 1948 v.  Hungary, 27 March 2023

Notes
  • INJ = Player withdrew from the current squad due to injury.
  • COVID = Player withdrew from the current squad due to testing positively for COVID-19 or having to self-isolate because of it.
  • U21 = Not part of the squad due to U-21 call up.
  • PRE = Preliminary squad.
  • RET = Player had announced retirement from international football.
  • SUS = Player is serving a suspension.
  • PRV = Player absent due to private circumstances.
  • WD = Withdrawn.

Player records

As of 20 June 2023[26]
Players in bold text are still active with Bulgaria.

Most appearances

Stiliyan Petrov is Bulgaria's most capped player with 105 appearances
Rank Player Caps Goals Career
1 Stiliyan Petrov 105 8 1998–2011
2 Borislav Mihaylov 102 0 1983–1998
3 Hristo Bonev 96 48 1967–1979
4 Krasimir Balakov 92 16 1988–2003
5 Dimitar Penev 90 2 1965–1974
Martin Petrov 90 19 1999–2011
Ivelin Popov 90 18 2007–2019
8 Radostin Kishishev 88 1 1996–2009
9 Hristo Stoichkov 83 37 1986–1999
10 Nasko Sirakov 81 23 1983–1996

Top goalscorers

Dimitar Berbatov is Bulgaria's joint all-time top scorer with 48 goals.
Rank Player Goals Caps Average Career
1 Dimitar Berbatov 48 78 0.62 1999–2010
Hristo Bonev 48 96 0.5 1967–1979
3 Hristo Stoichkov 37 83 0.45 1987–1999
4 Emil Kostadinov 27 70 0.39 1988–1998
5 Lyubomir Angelov 26 44 0.59 1931–1940
6 Petar Zhekov 25 44 0.57 1963–1972
Ivan Kolev 25 75 0.33 1950–1963
8 Atanas Mihaylov 23 45 0.51 1970–1981
Nasko Sirakov 23 81 0.28 1983–1996
10 Dimitar Milanov 19 39 0.49 1948–1959
Georgi Asparuhov 19 49 0.39 1962–1970
Dinko Dermendzhiev 19 58 0.33 1966–1977
Martin Petrov 19 90 0.21 1999–2011

Youngest debutants

As of 15 November 2021.
Results list Bulgaria's goal tally first.
Rank Player Age on debut Opponent Result Year
1 Vladimir Todorov 15 years 08 months 14 days  Romania 2–3 1929
2 Aleksandar Belokapov 15 years 10 months 11 days  Germany 1–2 1939
3 Georgi Sokolov 16 years 10 months 24 days  Netherlands 3–2 1959
4 Radoslav Maznikov 17 years 02 months 12 days  Romania 0–3 1929
5 Nikola Staykov 17 years 07 months 28 days  Yugoslavia 1–3 1926
6 Nikolay Mihaylov 17 years 10 months 13 days  Scotland 1–5 2006
7 Martin Minchev 17 years 11 months 00 days  Montenegro 1–1 2019
8 Hristo Minkovski 17 years 11 months 17 days  Romania 0–3 1929
9 Nikola Savov 18 years 01 month 10 days  Hungary 1–4 1934
10 Krasimir Chomakov 18 years 01 month 12 days  Uzbekistan 0–0 1995

Competitive record

FIFA World Cup

Main article: Bulgaria at the FIFA World Cup

  Champions    Runners-up    Third place    Fourth place  

FIFA World Cup record Qualification record
Year Result Position Pld W D* L GF GA Squad Pld W D L GF GA
Uruguay 1930 Did not enter Declined invitation
Italy 1934 Did not qualify 3 0 0 3 3 14
France 1938 2 0 1 1 1 7
Brazil 1950 Did not enter Declined participation
Switzerland 1954 Did not qualify 4 0 1 3 3 7
Sweden 1958 4 2 0 2 11 7
Chile 1962 Group stage 15th 3 0 1 2 1 7 Squad 5 4 0 1 7 4
England 1966 15th 3 0 0 3 1 8 Squad 5 4 0 1 11 7
Mexico 1970 13th 3 0 1 2 5 9 Squad 6 4 1 1 12 7
West Germany 1974 12th 3 0 2 1 2 5 Squad 6 4 2 0 13 3
Argentina 1978 Did not qualify 4 1 2 1 5 6
Spain 1982 8 4 1 3 11 10
Mexico 1986 Round of 16 15th 4 0 2 2 2 6 Squad 8 5 1 2 13 5
Italy 1990 Did not qualify 6 1 1 4 6 8
United States 1994 Fourth place 4th 7 3 1 3 10 11 Squad 10 6 2 2 19 10
France 1998 Group stage 29th 3 0 1 2 1 7 Squad 8 6 0 2 18 9
South Korea Japan 2002 Did not qualify 10 5 2 3 14 15
Germany 2006 10 4 3 3 17 17
South Africa 2010 10 3 5 2 17 13
Brazil 2014 10 3 4 3 14 9
Russia 2018 10 4 1 5 14 19
Qatar 2022 8 2 2 4 6 14
Canada Mexico United States 2026 To be determined To be determined
Morocco Portugal Spain 2030
Saudi Arabia 2034
Total Fourth place 7/22 26 3 8 15 22 53 137 62 29 46 215 191
*Draws include knockout matches decided on penalty kicks.

UEFA European Championship

Main article: Bulgaria at the UEFA European Championship

UEFA European Championship record Qualifying record
Year Result Position Pld W D* L GF GA Squad Pld W D L GF GA
France 1960 Did not qualify 2 0 1 1 1 3
Spain 1964 5 3 0 2 7 7
Italy 1968 8 5 2 1 13 4
Belgium 1972 6 3 1 2 11 7
Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia 1976 6 2 2 2 12 7
Italy 1980 8 2 1 5 6 14
France 1984 6 2 1 3 7 8
West Germany 1988 8 4 2 2 12 6
Sweden 1992 8 3 3 2 15 8
England 1996 Group stage 11th 3 1 1 1 3 4 Squad 10 7 1 2 24 10
Belgium Netherlands 2000 Did not qualify 8 2 2 4 6 8
Portugal 2004 Group stage 16th 3 0 0 3 1 9 Squad 8 5 2 1 13 4
Austria Switzerland 2008 Did not qualify 12 7 4 1 18 7
Poland Ukraine 2012 8 1 2 5 3 13
France 2016 10 3 2 5 9 12
Europe 2020 9 1 3 5 7 20
Germany 2024 8 0 4 4 7 14
United Kingdom Republic of Ireland 2028 To be determined To be determined
Italy Turkey 2032
Total Group stage 2/17 6 1 1 4 4 13 130 50 33 47 171 154
*Draws include knockout matches decided on penalty kicks.

UEFA Nations League

UEFA Nations League record
Season Division Group Pld W D* L GF GA P/R RK
2018–19 C 3 6 3 2 1 7 5 Rise 29th
2020–21 B 4 6 0 2 4 2 7 Fall 31st
2022–23 C 4 6 2 3 1 10 8 Same position 40th
2024–25 C 3 To be determined
Total 18 5 7 6 19 20 29th
*Draws include knockout matches decided on penalty kicks.

Olympic Games

Olympic Games record
Year Result Position Pld W D L GF GA Squad
United Kingdom 1908 Did not enter
Sweden 1912
Belgium 1920
France 1924 Round of 16 12th 1 0 0 1 0 1 Squad
Netherlands 1928 Did not enter
Nazi Germany 1936
United Kingdom 1948
Finland 1952 Round of 16 13th 1 0 0 1 1 2 Squad
Australia 1956 Bronze medal 3rd 3 2 0 1 10 3 Squad
Italy 1960 Group stage 5th 3 2 1 0 8 3 Squad
Japan 1964 Did not qualify
Mexico 1968 Silver medal 2nd 6 3 2 1 16 10 Squad
West Germany 1972 Did not qualify
Canada 1976
Soviet Union 1980
United States 1984
South Korea 1988
Since 1992 Olympic football has been an under-23 tournament
Total 1 Silver medal 5/17 14 7 3 4 35 19

Balkan Cup

Balkan Cup record
Year Result Position Pld W D L GF GA
1929–31 Fourth place 4th 6 2 0 4 10 19
Bulgaria 1931 Champions 1st 2 2 0 0 8 3
Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia 1932 Champions 1st 3 3 0 0 7 2
Romania 1933 Third place 3rd 3 1 0 2 2 11
Greece 1934–35 Fourth place 4th 3 1 0 2 7 8
Bulgaria 1935 Runners-up 2nd 3 2 1 0 12 5
Romania 1936 Runners-up 2nd 2 1 0 1 6 8
Albania 1946 Fourth place 4th 3 0 1 2 4 7
1947 Fourth place 4th 4 1 0 3 5 14
1948* Group stage 3rd 5 2 1 2 6 7
1973–76 Champions 1st 4 2 0 2 10 9
1977–80 Group stage 3rd 4 1 1 2 4 6
Total 3 Titles 12/12 42 18 4 20 81 99
*Competition abandoned with Bulgaria in third place.

Head-to-head record

As of 19 November 2023 after the match against  Serbia.[27]

  Positive Record   Neutral Record   Negative Record

  1. ^ Includes matches against  Czechoslovakia.
  2. ^ Includes matches against  West Germany.
  3. ^ Includes matches against  Soviet Union.
  4. ^ Includes matches against  Yugoslavia and  Serbia and Montenegro.

Ranking history

See also: FIFA World Rankings

Rank Date
Best Rank 8 June 1995
Current Rank 81 December 2023
Worst Rank 96 May 2012
Graphs are unavailable due to technical issues. There is more info on Phabricator and on MediaWiki.org.
As of 21 December 2023

Honours

This is a list of honours for the senior Bulgaria national team

Major

Other

See also

Notes

References

  1. ^ "The FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking". FIFA. 15 February 2024. Retrieved 15 February 2024.
  2. ^ "Överraskningen: Bulgarien fick också brons vid VM 1994". 15 May 2020. Archived from the original on 29 November 2022. Retrieved 29 November 2022.
  3. ^ In the 1994 World Cup, the fourth-placed team also received bronze medals.[2]
  4. ^ Elo rankings change compared to one year ago. "World Football Elo Ratings". eloratings.net. 15 February 2024. Retrieved 15 February 2024.
  5. ^ "1924 friendly Austria v Bulgaria". worldfootball.net. Archived from the original on 5 April 2023. Retrieved 22 October 2019.
  6. ^ "Bulgaria-Luxembourg - European Qualifiers". UEFA.com. Archived from the original on 15 June 2019. Retrieved 22 July 2019.
  7. ^ "France-Bulgaria - European Qualifiers". UEFA.com. Archived from the original on 9 September 2019. Retrieved 22 July 2019.
  8. ^ "Sweden-Bulgaria - European Qualifiers". UEFA.com. Archived from the original on 2 April 2019. Retrieved 22 July 2019.
  9. ^ "Bulgaria-Belarus - European Qualifiers". UEFA.com. Archived from the original on 2 April 2019. Retrieved 22 July 2019.
  10. ^ "Bulgaria-Netherlands - European Qualifiers". UEFA.com. Archived from the original on 17 June 2019. Retrieved 22 July 2019.
  11. ^ "Bulgaria-Sweden - European Qualifiers". UEFA.com. Archived from the original on 12 June 2019. Retrieved 22 July 2019.
  12. ^ "Netherlands-Bulgaria - European Qualifiers". UEFA.com. Archived from the original on 15 June 2019. Retrieved 22 July 2019.
  13. ^ "Bulgaria-Montenegro - European Qualifiers". UEFA.com. Archived from the original on 3 December 2018. Retrieved 4 December 2018.
  14. ^ "Bulgaria-Hungary - Euro 2020 Qualifying Play-off Semi-final". Archived from the original on 5 October 2020. Retrieved 8 October 2020.
  15. ^ https://armymedia.bg/archives/191684[dead link]
  16. ^ "Bulgaria-Republic of Ireland - 2020-21 Nations League B". Archived from the original on 21 September 2020. Retrieved 3 September 2020.
  17. ^ Fifield, Dominic (18 November 2011). "Bulgaria fined by Uefa after racist chanting against England". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 15 October 2019. Retrieved 15 October 2019.
  18. ^ Aarons, Ed (13 October 2019). "Bulgaria's Krasimir Balakov says English game has more of an issue with racism". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 15 October 2019. Retrieved 15 October 2019.
  19. ^ "Bulgaria v England: Euro 2020 qualifier halted twice due to racist behaviour from fans". BBC News. 15 October 2019. Archived from the original on 15 October 2019. Retrieved 15 October 2019.
  20. ^ "Bulgaria v England: Police arrest six following racist abuse at Euro qualifier". 16 October 2019. Archived from the original on 25 October 2019. Retrieved 17 October 2019.
  21. ^ "Bulgaria v England: 'Football family' must 'wage war on the racists' says Uefa president". 15 October 2019. Archived from the original on 25 October 2019. Retrieved 17 October 2019.
  22. ^ "Bulgaria v England: 'Football family' must 'wage war on the racists' says Uefa president". 15 October 2019. Archived from the original on 25 October 2019. Retrieved 17 October 2019.
  23. ^ "Bulgaria squad for the European qualification games against Hungary and Serbia". Bulgarian Football Union. 2 November 2023. Retrieved 2 November 2023.
  24. ^ "Bulgaria-Gibraltar | European Qualifiers 2022 | UEFA.com". UEFA. Archived from the original on 16 November 2022. Retrieved 16 November 2022.
  25. ^ "Most Bulgaria Caps - EU-Football.info". eu-football.info. Archived from the original on 9 June 2022. Retrieved 9 June 2022.
  26. ^ Mamrud, Roberto. "Bulgaria - Record International Players". RSSSF. Archived from the original on 1 December 2022. Retrieved 23 October 2023.
  27. ^ "World Football Elo Ratings: Bulgaria".
  28. ^ "FIFA-ranking yearly averages for Bulgaria". FIFA.com. Archived from the original on 19 September 2020. Retrieved 30 September 2020.