Germany, having reached the last three World Cup finals and winning it four years earlier, went into the 1994 World Cup as one of the favourites.
Meanwhile, their opponents in the last eight, Bulgaria, were playing in just their sixth World Cup and went through their previous five finals without winning a match.
The Lions had reached USA ’94 by shocking France in Paris. However, their World Cup finals campaign appeared to be going the same way as their previous attempts as African champions Nigeria took them apart with ease in the first game.
Bulgaria managed to bounce back with a victory against a poor Greece side in their next match, which gave them some confidence before their crunch match against Argentina.
The Argentines without Diego Maradona were in disarray, and the Bulgarians took full advantage; winning 2-0 and progressing in 2nd place in the group.
Their second round match against Mexico was ruined by an appalling refereeing performance. Despite being on the wrong end of a controversial sending off and penalty, they deservedly went through on penalties.
The quarter final against Germany appeared to be following a predictable script. Bulgaria put up a decent fight until the Germans won a penalty and then appeared to have killed off the game with seventeen minutes left.
However when Voller netted for 2-0 he was adjudged to be offside – Bulgaria still had hope.
Minutes later the underdogs won a free kick just outside the area. Up stepped national icon Hristo Stoichkov to curl home and shock the World Champions.
With the Germans still reeling from Bulgaria’s equaliser, three minutes later the Eastern Europeans had turned it around completely…
What Happpened Next?
Bulgaria played Italy in the semi-finals and were undone by the excellence of Roberto Baggio. They have struggled to reach these heights again.
Germany recovered from this to qualify and win the European Championships in England two years later, but would suffer again at the quarter final stage against Eastern European opposition in France in 1998.
Fantasy Football League – Phoenix From The Flames
Stoichkov piece for FIFA TV