A hat-trick is the most glorious individual achievement in soccer. It’s when one player scores three goals in a single game and, when it comes in a World Cup game with the entire globe watching, you multiply that glory by a factor of billions. There have been two so far at World Cup 2014: Germany’s lead attacking-midfielder, and 2010 World Cup Golden Boot winner, Thomas Müller delivered the 49th recorded hat-trick in World Cup history during Germany’s 4-0 beat down of Portugal, then Switzerland’s Xherdan Shaqiri earned lucky No. 50, scoring all three goals in Switzerland’s 3-0 victory over Honduras. To celebrate the big five-oh, here are the 10 best hat-tricks in World Cup history.
In 2002, a 24-year-old Miroslav Klose made his World Cup debut for Germany and became one of only two players to ever score a World Cup hat-trick off headers alone. The goals came from the striker during Germany’s 8-0 thrashing of Saudi Arabia in the group stage. After heading in two exquisite crosses from Germany’s mastermind midfielder Michael Ballack in the first half, Klose completed his hat-trick by heading in a cross from Germany’s Bernd Schneider in the 69th minute. Klose set another record that year by becoming the first player to score five headed-goals in a single World Cup campaign. With hos goal against Brazil in this year’s World Cup semi-final, Klose now holds the World Cup record for goals by a single player, with 16. And it all started here:
9. Gonzalo Higuaín, Argentina vs. South Korea, 2010
In the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, Gonzalo Higuaín joined Guillermo Stábile and Gabriel Batistuta (no. 6 on our list) as the third Argentinian to score a hat-trick in a World Cup. This is a poacher’s hat-tick, with Higuain being in the right place at the right time, every time. When you do that three times in a World Cup, there’s a lot more than just luck at play. The first goal, and Higuaín’s first World Cup finals goal, came as the result of a floating cross from Maxi Rodríguez outside the box and into the penalty area. The ball was headed on once more by Nicolás Burdisso, and there was Higuaín waiting at the far post. Higuaín’s second goal arrived as the result of a sensational run by Messi from the halfway line. A quick, one-two pass between Messi and Sergio Agüero at the top of the box, led to a shot from Messi bouncing off the post and Higuaín was there, once again, to make sure with a simple tap-in. Higuaín’s third and final goal came from subsequent chips between Messi and Agüero in the box, with Higuaín ready and waiting at the far post for an easy header.
The 1958 World Cup was when we all learned Pele’s name. Not only did the 17-year-old become the youngest player to ever play in the World Cup finals, he also became the youngest player to ever score a hat-trick in a World Cup match. The mighty triad came during Brazil’s semi-final match against France, with Pelé scoring his hat-trick in a mere 23 minutes. Pelé’s first goal came after French goalkeeper Claude Abbes mishandled a cross inside the penalty area and gifted Pelé with an open shot in front of goal. His second goal arrived in similar fashion, after a French defender failed to properly clear a pass by Pelé to his teammate, leaving Pelé open to blast the ball into the side-netting. Pelé scored his third and final goal with a brilliant, self-serving volley from the top of the box. The game would end in a 5-2 win for Brazil, the same score of Brazil’s victory over Sweden in the final match.
The 1954 tournament (which featured no fewer than eight hat-tricks!) was held in Switzerland, with the host nation making it all the way to the quarter-finals before losing to European neighbors Austria. That match featured a total of 12 goals, with Austria outscoring the Swiss 7-5. Three of Switzerland’s goals came from Josef Hügi, who then became one of the few players to ever score a World Cup hat-trick for a losing side. The first goal from Hügi came off a simple touch inside the box from the striker to put Switerland up 2-0. Hügi’s second goal was an unstoppable laser-strike directly in front of goal, preventing Austrian keeper Kurt Schmied from having any chance at making a save. After Switzerland scored an impressive three goals in three minutes, Austria came back and scored an astounding five goals in nine minutes, bringing the game to 5-3. Hügi closed the gap with his third goal in the 39th minute, but the Swiss would ultimately fall to the Austrians in a 7-5 defeat. With a total of six goals, Hügi remains as the all-time leading World Cup goalscorer for Switzerland, though Shaqiri may have one eye on that record in 2018.
Gabriel Batistuta’s first World Cup hat-trick came against Greece in 1994. That would be enough for most men, but not for Batigol, who scored his second World Cup hat-trick in a 1998 group match against Jamaica. He blasted one into the bottom corner from the top of the 18-yard box, did the same again from almost exactly the same spot, and put a bow on it by scoring from the spot in the 82nd minute. In doing so, Batistuta became the first and only player to ever score hat-tricks in back-to-back World Cups, and only the fourth player to ever score hat-tricks in multiple World Cups. Not only that, but the hat-tricks came exactly four years apart, both being scored on June 21.
Russia’s Oleg Salenko is the only player in World Cup history to ever score five goals in a single World Cup game. That’s right. The ferocious striker almost scored two hat-tricks in a single game. A double-treble? The onslaught from Salenko came during Russia’s group-stage match against Cameroon. Salenko opened up the scoring in the 15th minute, finishing a seated ball in front of goal leftover from a vicious tackle inside the box. The second came from a two-on-one between the Russian forwards and goalkeeper Jacques Songoo, with Salenko easily maneuvering around the keeper. Salenko achieved his hat-trick after referee Jamal Al Sharif made a controversial penalty call, but Salenko added some flair to his fourth goal of the game, smashing in a first-touch rocket off his right foot. Salenko’s fifth, and final of the match came in the 75th minute after the Russian striker expertly chipped a diving Songoo inside the penalty area. Russia would fail to make it into the Round of 16, but Salenko would go on to share the Golden Boot with Bulgaria’s Hristo Stoichkov.
4. Geoff Hurst, England vs. West Germany, 1966
Sir Geoffrey Hurst delivered England’s one and only World Cup trophy in 1966 by scoring the World Cup final’s one and only hat-trick. The final was played against West Germany on England’s home turf at Wembley Stadium, and Hurst entered English folklore by scoring three of the four goals in a famous 4-2 win. Hurst’s first was a beaming header inside the box, after he connected with a soaring free-kick from skipper Bobby Moore. His second, in the 101st minute, was a strike off the crossbar and down on to the line, which the linesman and referee ruled a goal, to put England ahead in extra time. Hurst’s hat-trick sealed the deal in the 120th minute. The referee had put the whistle to his mouth, causing most of the players and many fans to assume the game was over. However, he allowed for one more run from the English, giving Hurst a chance to score his third and final goal by smashing one into the top of the net. Over the years, soccer scholars everywhere have debated whether Hurst’s second goal actually crossed the goal-line. Either way, the record book says it did, meaning Hurst is still the only player to ever score three goals in a World Cup final.
3. Paolo Rossi, Italy vs. Brazil, 1982
Paolo Rossi turned out to be Italy’s World Cup savior during the 1982 tournament in Spain. For two years leading up to the World Cup, Rossi was banned from playing professionally for his (alleged) involvement in the infamous Totonero match-fixing scandal. Rossi has always defended himself and denied the claims that he was ever involved, but after two years without a single minute of professional play, Rossi’s return to the international stage seemed a certain failure. This assumption was quickly proved wrong as Rossi became the tournament’s top goal-scorer with six total goals. Rossi scored his World Cup hat-trick in an epic 3-2 victory against the mighty Brazil, heading in a beautiful cross from Antonio Cabrini with just five minutes gone, picking off a pass in the Brazilian backfield and slotting in a goal from the top of the box for his second. and grabbing his hat-trick, and the game winner, by finishing off a shot by Marco Tardelli in the 74th minute. Rossi also bagged the opening goal in Italy’s 3-1 victory over West Germany in the final.
Currently ranked as the third, all-time leading World Cup goalscorer, behind Klose and Ronaldo, Gerd Müller scored hat-tricks in back-to-back matches for West Germany at the 1970 World Cup. No relation to current hat-trick hero Thomas Müller, Gerd became only the third player to ever achieve two hat-tricks in one World Cup. The hat-tricks came during Germany’s group match against Bulgaria, and then three days later in a match against Peru. Müller showed off his entire skill set that year, scoring mostly off crosses from outside the box. The most impressive batch came during West Germany’s match against Peru. Müller scored an impressive first goal by settling a cross off his chest and striking it past goalkeeper Luis Rubinos. His third goal was scored in a similar fashion, with Müller delivering a soaring header over Rubinos inside the box. Müller would leave the tournament with a total of 10 goals, a World Cup record at the time.
No. 1 on our list is Bert Patenaude, holding the ball in the image below. Patenaude is an American soccer legend who is virtually unknown to the majority of soccer fans around the world. Why is he a legend? Initially accredited to another player, FIFA has since determined that Patenaude was the first player to ever score a hat-trick in a World Cup game, scoring all three goals in the USA’s 3-0 win over Paraguay at the 1930 inaugural FIFA World Cup. During his professional career, Patenaude played for a number of clubs in the American Soccer League, like the Newark Americans and a team called the St. Louis Central Breweries (excellent team name). Patenaude scored an additional goal for the United States in the opener against Belgium that year. With a total of four World Cup goals, Patenaude remained the USA’s all-time leading World Cup goalscorer for 80 years, before Landon Donovan surpassed him in the 2010 World Cup.