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A short history of World Cup hat-tricks: from Patenaude to Ramos | World Cup 2022

Gonçalo Ramos received immediate, global acclaim when he scored the first hat-trick of the World Cup in Qatar. Having replaced Cristiano Ronaldo in the Portugal starting lineup, the 21-year-old had already caused quite a stir and the eyes of the world were trained on the Benfica striker against Switzerland. He joined an illustrious list of players to have scored on their full World Cup debut, which started with the Argentina striker Guillermo Stabile, who achieved the feat in the inaugural tournament in 1930, up to Miroslav Klose in 2002, the most recent to do so before Ramos’s treble.

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 work out that way. In the first World Cup in 1930, USA faced Paraguay in a group match. Patenaude opened the scoring for USA in the 10th minute and swiftly added a second five minutes later. The centre-forward scored a third just after half-time and his claim to the match ball seemed to be complete.

However, there was a twist. Fifa officials credited his second goal to his teammate Tom Florie while others listed it as an own goal, denying Patenaude his moment of glory. There was little 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 layer of obfuscation. Two days later, on his international debut, Stabile scored his own treble for Argentina in a 6-3 win over Mexico and that became the official, original World Cup hat-trick.

Goncalo Ramos after scoring a sensational hat-trick for Portugal against Switzerland.
Gonçalo Ramos after scoring a sensational hat-trick for Portugal against Switzerland. Photograph: Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

Even by the fairly pedestrian and arcane standards of football authorities, 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 more than 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 at the age 65, but at least he is now enshrined in the record books for perpetuity.

Not only was his the first World Cup hat-trick but it was also only one scored by a player from the United States. In total, there have been 53 hat-tricks in the 22 World Cup tournaments. Germany have the most with seven, well clear of the next most prolific countries, 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 against Portugal in 2014.

Gerd Müller scored all three goals for West Germany in their 4-3 defeat to Italy in the semi-finals in 1970.
Gerd Müller scored all three goals for West Germany in their 4-3 defeat to Italy in the semi-finals in 1970. Photograph: Sueddeutsche Zeitung Photo/Alamy

Gerd Müller, who Brian Glanville described as “that astonishing opportunist”, is one of only four players to have scored more than one World Cup 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 three days later. Müller is not the only player to have scored two hat-tricks in the space of three days; the Hungary striker Sandor Kocsis had done the same thing 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 an 8-3 victory over West Germany on 20 June. A few weeks later, though, West Germany had their revenge, when they overcame Hungary 3-2 in the final.

Four years after Kocsis’s pair of hat-tricks, Just Fontaine scored two hat-tricks at the World Cup in Sweden while setting the record for the most goals at a tournament with 13. Fontaine scored his first hat-trick in France’s opening match, against Paraguay, and his second in France’s last match of the tournament, rattling in four against West Germany in the third-place playoff.

Of the four players with multiple World Cup hat-tricks, Gabriel Batistuta is the only one who has done it across two tournaments. The Argentina forward scored his first on 21 June 1994 against Greece and, exactly four years later, he hit his second treble against Jamaica at the Parc des Princes. By scoring his second hat-trick in the space of 10 minutes, Batistuta recorded the second quickest in World Cup history.

Gabriel Batistuta celebrates his treble against Greece in 1994.
Gabriel Batistuta celebrates his treble against Greece in 1994. Photograph: Reuters

The quickest came in Hungary’s 10-1 demolition of El Salvador in 1982, when it took Laszlo Kiss seven minutes to score three goals. Having come on as a substitute in the 55th minute after Hungary’s fifth goal, Kiss scored his first in the 69th minute, his second in the 72nd minute and completed his quickfire hat-trick in the 76th minute. He remains the only substitute to have scored a hat-trick at the World Cup.

Of the 956 matches at World Cups, only three have featured two hat-tricks – and two of them were at the 1938 tournament. 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 with multiple hat-tricks was a more one-sided affair, with Sweden beating 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. Unsurprisingly 1954 set the record for the most hat-tricks in a single tournament. There were eight in total. 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. Theodor Wagner scored three for the victors, while Switzerland forwardJosef Hügi became the second player in history to score a hat-trick and end up on the losing side.

Four players went to Qatar having already scored World Cup hat-tricks: Harry Kane, Müller, Ronaldo and Xherdan Shaqiri. Ramos’s treble against Switzerland means he joins Kane and the man he replaced in the Portugal team as the only players left in the tournament with trebles to their name. If any of them scores another in Qatar they will not have to wait as long as Patenaude did to have their place in World Cup history confirmed.

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