Everyone in Bulgaria knows the story of how it qualified for the 1994 World Cup in the United States and eliminated France on Emil Kostadinov's last-second goal on a pass from Luboslav Penevafter French star David Ginola's ill-fated decision to throw in one last cross instead of killing the clock. But no one until now knew how Kostadinov and Penev had to sneak into France at an illegal border crossing to get to the game.
“This story sounds like a legend now but it’s true,” teammate Zlatko Yankov, capped by Bulgaria 80 times, said. “They had visa problems and they needed help from our keeper Borislav Mihaylov and former Bulgaria midfielder Georgi Georgiev, who were playing for the French club Mulhouse at that time, to join us in Paris. Kostadinov and Penev sneaked across the border between Germany and France in a car driven by Georgiev as the two Mulhouse players deliberately chose a border post with low security.”
Yankov said he and his teammates were convinced their bid for qualification was over. Instead, they won, 2-1, to eliminate the French, who needed only one point from its last two games at home and then also lost to Israel, 2-1, on a last-second goal. Bulgaria went on to finish fourth at USA '94.
“We’re just waiting for the referee to blow the final whistle at that moment,” said Yankov. “We and even our coaching staff on the bench were convinced that it’s over and nothing more can be done. Ginola could’ve done better -- to waste some time and it should’ve been the end of the match. But he probably thought they could win the game."