Familiar faces back in business

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The Independent Online
1 Borislav Mikhailov Reading

The goalkeeper with the wig has often been injured since joining Reading last August (Age 33, 93 caps).

2 Radostin Kishishev Neftochimik Bourgas

A defender promoted from the youth team after making his mark on a tour of Malaysia last summer (21, 7).

3 Trifon Ivanov Rapid Vienna

Very hairy and scary defender. World Cup veteran. The tournament's best werewolf impersonator (30, 60).

4 Ilian Kiriakov Aberdeen

Another tough World Cup defender who has just joined the Dons after a spell in Cyprus (28, 55).

5 Petar Hubchev Hamburg

Calm and cool and the core of the defence. Recovered his fitness after an ankle operation (32, 31).

6 Zlatko Yankov Bayer Uerdingen

A defensive midfielder who is a key component of the team. Experience in Spain with Valladolid (29, 50).

7 Emil Kostadinov Bayern Munich

Striker who scored last-minute goal in Paris that took his country to the 1994 World Cup (29, 51).

8 Hristo Stoichkov Parma

Striker, established as Bulgaria's outstanding player, although his hot temper has blighted his career (30, 60).

9 Luboslav Penev Atletico Madrid

Nephew of the coach, he missed the World Cup finals due to treatment for testicular cancer (29, 49).

10 Krasimir Balakov VfB Stuttgart

World-class attacking midfielder and star of USA 94, Bulgarian Footballer of the Year in 1995 (30, 72).

11 Yordan Lechkov Hamburg

Balding midfielder whose goal beat Germany at USA 94, has had a season out of favour at Hamburg (28, 34).

12 Dimitar Popov CSKA Sofia

Tall goalkeeper with good reflexes who tends not to dominate the penalty area as much as he should (26, 14).

13 Boncho Genchev Luton Town

Former Ipswich midfielder who is still in the squad despite not playing in any of the qualifiers (31, 10).

14 Nasko Sirakov Slavia Sofia

Veteran striker who has played club football in Spain and France. Appeared in '86 and '94 World Cups (34, 80).

15 Ivailo Yordanov Sporting Lisbon

Midfielder, out for almost a year with injuries suffered in a car crash, but has regained fitness and form (27, 23).

16 Daniel Borimirov 1860 Munich

Left-sided midfielder who is unlikely to make the starting line-up despite a good season in Germany (26, 22).

17 Emil Kremenliev Olympiakos Piraeus

Right-back, in tears when sent off against Mexico at USA 94, missed quarter-final win over Germany (26, 25).

18 Tsanko Tsvetanov Waldhof Mannheim

Left-sided defender who has suffered a curtailed season due to injury but is a vital player when fit (26, 34).

19 Gosho Ginchev Denizlispor

Defender who plays club football in Turkey, made debut in last qualifier against Germany (27, 4).

20 Georgi Donkov CSKA Sofia

Versatile striker who made his debut against Macedonia in a friendly last month (26, 1).

21 Ivo Georgiev Spartak Varna

Forward, late addition to the squad, also made his debut against Macedonia last month (23, 1).

22 Zdravko Zdravkov Slavia Sofia

Was named the best goalkeeper in this season's Bulgarian championship after Slavia won the title (25, 1).


The team

They surprised the world at USA 94 by beating the Germans and reaching the last four. That team is virtually intact but some, including Stoichkov and Lechkov, may be past their prime. If they click into gear, though, they can still be ranked among the world's best. Balakov is one of the most accomplished midfielders in Europe and, having overcome the testicular cancer which kept him out of the World Cup, much is expected of Luboslav Penev, the coach's nephew, up front.

The coach

Dimitar Penev was a top-class centre-half, winning 90 caps and playing in the 1966, 1970 and 1974 World Cups. As a coach he took CSKA Sofia to five league titles and succeeded Ivan Vutsov as national coach in 1991.

The fact file

Previous appearances in finals: 1968 (quarter-finals).

Qualifying record: W7, D1, L2 (Group Seven runners-up).

Top scorer in qualifiers: 10 Stoichkov.

Most appearances in qualifiers: 10 Penev, Balakov, Stoichkov, Lechkov, Tsvetanov.

Population 8.9m. Registered clubs 23,000. Registered players 441,000. Professional players 600.