Stoichkov: Bulgaria side not fit to carry 94 team's bags

Topics

SOFIA - Hristo Stoichkov, whose goals propelled Bulgaria to the semi-finals of the 1994 World Cup, said the current side were not good enough to carry the bags of the team from his generation.

In a damning assessment of Bulgaria's current struggles Stoichkov, 44, told Israel's Maariv newspaper: "Those who play now would have not even been worthy of carrying our suitcases at the time."

The former Barcelona striker added: "It's so difficult to find players like (Yordan) Lechkov (Yordan) and (Krasimir) Balakov.

"Well, maybe we could've found a place for (now retired striker Dimitar) Berbatov on the bench."

Asked about Aston Villa captain Stilian Petrov, the 1994 European Footballer of the Year replied: "A perfect substitute!"

Bulgaria have made little impact on the world stage since the retirement of Stoichkov's golden generation.

They did qualify for the finals of Euro 2004 but lost all three group games to make an early exit.

Since then a variety of coaches, including Stoichkov himself who had an unsuccessful stint in charge between 2004 and 2007, have been unable to turn around Bulgaria's declining fortunes.

"I was wasting my time as Bulgaria coach," said flamboyant Stoichkov, who was also well known in his playing days for his aggressive manner on the field, often arguing with referees and other players.

"There's a serious problem in Bulgaria. They don't work with the young players and we can't produce top-class players any more."

The current coach is former Germany World Cup-winning captain Lothar Matthaus, who became the first foreign Bulgaria coach since 1966 when he replaced Stanimir Stoilov in September.

Matthaus enjoyed a winning start to his tenure after a 1-0 victory over Wales in a Euro 2012 Group G qualifier on October 8.

Despite the win, Bulgaria are fourth in the five-team group with three points from three games.