Bulgaria\'s greatest ever achievement was finishing third at the 1994 FIFA World Cup finals, with a team which revolved around the brilliance of Hristo Stoitchkov.
The golden boys of USA \'94 are all but gone now, but with a bright young side who cruised to Portugal as winners of qualifying Group 8, edging out Croatia, Belgium and Estonia in the process, Plamen Markov\'s men are hoping they have the skills necessary to challenge again.
Just as the 1994 side were held together by the brilliance of Stoitchkov, the modern Bulgarian side owes much to their young captain, Celtic FC midfield player Stilian Petrov. A crafty playmaker who leads by example, his work-rate and eye for a telling ball drive Bulgaria through the middle of the field.
The retirement of two of the last veterans of the 1994 campaign during the qualification for UEFA EURO 2004?, defender Radostin Kishishev and inspirational captain Krassimir Balakov, left Bulgaria reeling for a while, but under Petrov\'s guidance, they have recovered their composure.
The captain is ably supported by winger Martin Petrov - not a blood relation of Stilian Petrov but sufficiently in tune with his team-mate\'s thoughts to pass for one. A tireless worker, the VfL Wolfsburg player has also proved to be a consistent goalscorer.
Forward Dimitar Berbatov is another player who caught the eye in the Bulgarian qualifying campaign. Tall and strong, he may not have the slick touches that mark out the world\'s greatest strikers, but he has long since proved that he has the power and finishing ability to intimidate any defence.
Those three players mark out Bulgaria\'s biggest hopes for the future, but an able supporting cast of players, most notably Portsmouth FC youngster Svetoslav Todorov and Serbo-Montenegrin striker Zoran Jankovic, who took Bulgarian citizenship to join Markov\'s side, give them a tangible threat going forward.
In defence, solidity is the key, with plenty of experience from the likes of Predrag Pazin and Ivailo Petkov, but overall, Markov\'s Bulgaria are far more than just the sum of their parts. They play together and have discipline and maturity that belies the youth of so many of their players.
Stoitchkov himself saw echoes of past glories in the current crop. 'They have a good side with much promise, and, most importantly, good spirit,' he told uefa.com. 'It\'s great news for Bulgaria, because they are all still quite young and will play together for many years to come. These really are exciting times for the fans.'
It is all a far cry from the final game of their 2002 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign - a humiliating 6-0 mauling at the hands of the Czech Republic which spelled the end for Markov\'s predecessor Stoytcho Mladenov. However, having made a break with their glorious past, the new side have much to offer.
Some in Bulgaria think that the finals of EURO 2004? may have come a little too early for Markov\'s side, and that they will be an even more impressive outfit in a few years\' time. That may be the case, but their opponents in Portugal would be very unwise indeed to underestimate what Bulgaria can do.