Who are international football’s ultimate one-goal wonders?

·7-min read

“After a few beers my mates and I wondered if Kieran Trippier is the best ‘one-goal wonder’ in international football or has a player scored his only international goal in the World Cup final?” tweets Andy Brook.

Trippier’s memorable free-kick against Croatia in the World Cup semi-final is his only goal so far for England in 29 appearances. But he’s not quite the ultimate one-goal wonder of international football.

First, let’s doff the cap to those who scored their only goal for their country in a World Cup semi-final, like Trippier. Alan Archibald writes in to inform us that Clodoaldo, who is best remembered for his laughing policeman dribble in the final, grabbed the equaliser in Brazil’s 3-1 victory over Uruguay in the semi-finals. That was the only goal of his five-year, 38-match international career.

Related: England’s rare ‘big games’ with no Liverpool, Man Utd or Arsenal players | The Knowledge

A number of you mentioned the France defender Lilian Thuram, who played 142 games for his country and converted in only one of them: the 1998 World Cup semi-final against Croatia in Saint-Denis. Thuram scored both goals as France came from behind to win 2-1. Not technically a one-goal wonder, then, but we couldn’t exactly leave him out, could we. On that note, Jean-François Domergue also deserves a mention – he scored the only two goals of his French career in the semi-final win over Portugal at Euro 84.)

Talking of technicalities, the final game of the 1950 World Cup wasn’t officially the final (the tournament was settled by a second group stage). The last game, Brazil v Uruguay, was a final in all but name, so Albino Friaça Cardoso effectively scored his only goal for Brazil in a World Cup final. Thanks to Seamus McCann for that one. Alas, it is not a moment Friaça remembered too fondly: he gave Brazil the lead, but then the full horror of the Maracanazo unfolded.

And so to 1986, and a man cited by literally a few of you. The Argentina defender José Luis Brown, a direct descendant of a Scottish labourer, opened the scoring against West Germany in the final at the Azteca, a match that Argentina eventually won 3-2. Although Brown was relatively prolific in club football, that was the only time he scored in 36 appearances for his country. He was famous not only for the goal – Brown played most of the second half with a dislocated shoulder. He died in 2019, aged just 62, with Alzheimer’s disease.

And finally …

To view this content, you'll need to update your privacy settings.
Please click here to do so.
To view this content, you'll need to update your privacy settings.
Please click here to do so.

Non-league representing at major tournaments (2)

In last week’s Knowledge, we looked at non-league teams who had a number of ex-players at a major tournament. And we’ve had a couple of excellent follow-ups.

“Yeovil Town can boast four former Glovers at this year’s tournament – Sam Johnstone of England and the Welsh trio of Wayne Hennessey, Connor Roberts and Kieffer Moore,” writes Chris Turner. “Tom Lawrence, excluded from the Welsh squad might count himself unlucky not to have brought the total to five.”

Keith Lerego can top that total by venturing back to Euro 2016. “Sixth-tier Stockport had five ex-players in France,” he notes. “Oddly, three of them were goalkeepers: Hennessey and Owain Fôn Williams of Wales, and Fraser Forster of England. Plus outfield players Ashley Williams (Wales) and Jamie Ward (Northern Ireland).”

Goalkeeper captains

“The captains in the Euro 2020 France-Germany match were both goalkeepers. I’m sure this has happened many times before, but what’s the highest profile game where both teams were captained by their keepers?” asks Julian Heather.

This is an easy one. There’s no bigger game than the World Cup final, and in 1934 both Italy and Czechoslovakia were captained by their goalkeepers. Gianpiero Combi’s Italy beat František Plánička’s Czechoslovakia 2-1.

Since you asked, it also happened in the Euro 2012 final, with Iker Casillas and Gianluigi Buffon wearing the armbands. Casillas kept his gloves clean for the trophy presentation as Spain hammered Italy 4-0.

The Euro 2012 final skippers.
The Euro 2012 final skippers. Photograph: DESK/AFP/Getty Images

Dismal international tournament starters

“For a (supposedly) top-ranked side, England’s record in the opening game of major tournaments is pretty dismal. Of 24 performances at Euros and World Cups, they’ve won six, drawn 11 and lost seven. Of countries that have qualified for more than 20 tournaments, who has a worse win percentage than England’s 25%?” wonders Jeremy Orbell.

Vincent Lacey has gone above and beyond on this one. “I had a hunch South America would be a good place to look, as every Conmebol member automatically qualifies for the Copa América and there are a number of big sharks in that particular part of the world. Sure enough, I wasn’t disappointed.

Ecuador: Two wins from 29 Copa Américas, one win from three World Cups and no wins from one in the Pan-American tournament, which was open to senior men’s teams across the Americas until 1995. That’s a win percentage of 9.09%.

Ecuador’s Piero Hincapie after their opening game against Colombia at the current Copa América. Yes, they lost 1-0.
Ecuador’s Piero Hincapie after their opening game against Colombia at the current Copa América. Yes, they lost 1-0. Photograph: Sebastião Moreira/EPA

Bolivia: Five wins from 28 in the Copa América, none from three in the World Cup, none from one in the Confederations Cup and none from one in the Pan-American, for 15.15%.

Venezuela: Two wins from 19 Copa Américas, none from one in the Olympics and none from three Pan-Americans, for 8.7%. However, with no World Cup qualifications, and ‘only’ 19 Copa América appearances since debuting in 1967, Venezuela don’t quite meet the 20-tournament minimum for Jeremy’s question, so give them a break!”

Knowledge archive

“When Klaus Fischer scored 24 goals for Schalke in the 1976-77 Bundesliga season, an amazing 75% (18 goals) were from headers,” pointed out Graham Clayton in 2016. “Has any other player scored so many headed goals in a top-flight domestic league season?”

“No official figures I’m afraid, but in his last season in Scotland Alan Gilzean scored 52 goals in all competitions for Dundee,” wrote David Warriston. “Gillie was an outstanding header of a ball (he outjumped Gordon Banks to score the Scotland winner that year at Hampden) and since usually over half of his goals came from headers, it is almost certainly the case that he scored more than 18 headers in all. In fact of his 32 league goals it is likely that more than 18 were headers.

“A similar case can be made for Alan Gordon, a player not known much outside Scotland but who played in a similar style to Gilzean. In the 1972-73 season he scored 42 goals for Hibernian, 27 of them in the league. Like Gilzean, most of his goals came from headers; in fact he scored a hat trick of headers in a match against Dundee that season.”

Knowledge archive

Can you help?

“Watching Uruguay v Chile in the Copa América, I noticed that the manager of Chile, Martin Lasarte, was himself Uruguayan. How many times have England played teams managed by an Englishman?” wonders Thom Walsh.

“I have just noticed that the balls used in MLS feature the signature of commissioner, Don Garber, on one of the panels. What brings this about? Is it seen as giving the ball extra legitimacy?” muses Stephen Birch.

To view this content, you'll need to update your privacy settings.
Please click here to do so.

“Which is the highest-ranked team England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have never played?” asks Geraint Morgan.

To view this content, you'll need to update your privacy settings.
Please click here to do so.

Email your questions and answers to knowledge@theguardian.com or tweet @TheKnowledge_GU.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting