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Top 5 surprise teams at the World Cup

Robin Bairner
SENIOR ANALYST
Top 5 / Top 10
Timeless

Bulgaria (1994)

BULGARIA V GERMANY
BULGARIA V GERMANY

Bulgaria produced a remarkable effort to finish fourth at World Cup 1994, particularly when it is considered how close they were to failing to reach the competition in the USA at all.

They secured qualification at the expense of France with a stunning 2-1 victory at Parc des Princes when their hosts needed only to win, having days earlier blown the opportunity of qualification against Israel.

The competition could not have started much worse for them, as they were thumped 3-0 by Nigeria in Dallas. However, they recovered to beat Greece, the whipping boys of the group 4-0.

Despite this, they needed to overcome Diego Maradona’s Argentina if they were to assure themselves of a place in the knockout stages. This was achieved thanks to a 2-0 success, despite playing the last quarter down to 10 men.

Mexico were knocked out in the round of 16, then came a clash against defending champions Germany, which was famously won by a diving Yordan Letchkov header three minutes after star man Hristo Stoichkov had drawn them level.

Italy proved too good in the semi-finals and by the time they faced Sweden in the third-place playoff, they were burned out, but it was a run for the ages.

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