World Cup Nuggets – A hatful of hat-tricks

7th December 2022

In scoring the first hat-trick of the 2022 World Cup Gonçalo Ramos received immediate, global acclaim. Having replaced Cristiano Ronaldo in the Portuguese starting line-up the 21-year-old had already caused quite a stir and the eyes of the world were trained on the Benfica striker. He joined an illustrious list of players to have scored on their full World Cup debut that started with Argentinian Guillermo Stabile who achieved the feat in the inaugural tournament in 1930 up to Miroslav Klose in 2002, the most recent before Ramos.

The honour of scoring the first hat-trick at a World Cup Finals should be a treasured memory and the pinnacle of a footballer’s career. Unfortunately for Bert Patenaude, it did not quite work out that way. In the very first World Cup in 1930 on 17 July USA faced Paraguay in a group match. Patenaude scored the opening goal in the 10th minute, followed swiftly by a second five minutes later. Just after half-time the American centre forward scored a third and Patenaude’s claim to the match ball seemed to be complete.

There was however a twist, as FIFA officials credited the second of the goals to teammate Tom Florie, while others listed it as an own goal, thus denying Patenaude his moment of glory. There was little or no support from the American press as they barely covered their team’s progress to the semi-finals and the absence of any televised evidence added a further lay of obfuscation. Just two days later, on his international debut, Guillermo Stabile notched his own treble in a 6-3 win over Mexico and that became the official, original World Cup hat-trick. 

Even by the fairly pedestrian and arcane standards of football authorities, and in particular FIFA, the resolution was a long time coming. It was not until 2006 that the issue was finally settled when FIFA acknowledged the legitimacy of Patenaude’s treble. It took over a decade of lobbying by Colin Jose, an American football historian, to provide the evidence to confirm the hat-trick. Jose took up Patenaude’s case in the 1990s as he started to conduct his own research among surviving members of the USA team. Unfortunately Patenaude was not alive to enjoy the official affirmation of his achievement, as he died in 1974, aged 65, but at least he is now enshrined in the record books for perpetuity. 

Not only was this the first World Cup hat-trick but also it is the only one scored by an American. In total, there have been 53 hat-tricks in the 22 World Cup tournaments, of which Germany has the most with seven, well clear of the next most prolific countries of Argentina and Hungary, who have four each. Six different Germans have scored hat-tricks from Edmund Conen’s quickfire treble in the space of 21 minutes against Belgium in 1934 through to Thomas Müller’s in 2014 against Portugal.

Gerd Müller, who Brian Glanville described as ‘that astonishing opportunist’, is one of only four players to score more than one hat-trick and he achieved his feat in consecutive matches in the 1970 tournament. On 7 June he scored three of West Germany’s five goals against Bulgaria, and then repeated the trick in a 3-0 win over Peru just three days later. Der Bomber is not the only player to score hat-tricks in the space of three days, Hungary’s Sandor Kocsis did so 16 years earlier. The Hungarian went one better, after scoring three in the 9-0 demolition of South Korea on 17 June 1954, he scored four in a 8-3 victory over West Germany on 20 June. A few weeks later the Germans did exact revenge when they overcame Hungary 3-2 in the final.

Four years after Kocsis’ pair of hat-tricks, France’s Just Fontaine did so while setting the individual goal-scoring tally for a tournament with 13 goals in Sweden. Fontaine scored his first in France’s opening match against Paraguay and then in France’s last match fo the tournament he rattled in four against West Germany in the third place play-off. The only one of the quartet with multiple hat-tricks to score in two different tournaments is Gabriel Batistuta. The Argentine forward scored his first on 21 June 1994 against Greece, and exactly four years later secured his second treble against Jamaica at the Parc des Princes. 

Additionally, in scoring his second hat-trick in the space of ten second-half minutes Batistuta recorded the second quickest in World Cup history. The quickest came in Hungary’s 10-1 demolition of El Salvador in 1982 when it took László Kiss only seven minutes. Having come on as a substitute in the 55th minute after Hungary’s fifth goal, Kiss scored his first on the 69th minute with his second three minutes later. He completed his quickfire hat-trick in the 76th minute and became the only substitute to score a hat-trick at the World Cup. 

Of the 956 World Cup matches, there have been three which have featured two hat-tricks. In the 1938 tournament there were four hat-tricks and they came in just two matches. The first was Poland’s debut game which ended in a 6-5 loss to Brazil, for whom Leonidas scored three. The unfortunate Ernest Wilimowski marked his country’s first-ever match at the World Cup Finals with four goals but still ended up on the losing side. The second match in which two hat-tricks were scored was a slightly more one-sided affair when Sweden beat Cuba 8-0 in the quarter-finals, courtesy of two hat-tricks from Gustav Wetterstrom and Harry Andersson. 

The third match to feature two hat-tricks came in the 1954 tournament in Switzerland, which was blessed with a cavalcade of goals. There were 140 scored in 26 matches at an average 5.4 per game, the highest of any World Cup and unsurprisingly 1954 set the record for the most hat-tricks in a single tournament. There were eight in total, twice more than the next highest. In the quarter-final between Switzerland and Austria the record for the highest aggregate score in a match was set when the hosts lost 7-5.  Of the dozen goals Theodor Wagner got three for the victors while the Swiss Josef Hügi became the second player to score a hat-trick and end up on the losing side.  

Ramos’ notable achievement means he joins Harry Kane and the man he replaced in the Portuguese team as the only players left in the World Cup to have scored a hat-trick. If any of them manage to score another in Qatar they will certainly not have to wait for over seven decades to have their place in World Cup history confirmed as Patenaude did.

Have a listen to the World Cup Nuggets Group round-up podcast with special guest Kate Mason right here –

You can pick up a copy of the World Cup Nuggets book directly from the publishers, Halcyon or via Amazon – the choice is yours…

Published by richardfoster60

Author, broadcaster, historian, journalist. A regular contributor to the Guardian, Sky Sports and talkSPORT, my latest book is highly acclaimed Premier League Nuggets - "brilliantly written" - Darren Fletcher, "I love Premier League Nuggets" - Guy Mowbray, "the book is a labour of love" - Peter Drury.

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