The World Cup is an all-action tournament that takes place every four years. The next edition in 2026 is shared between Mexico, Canada and the United States, now with 48 qualifying teams trying to make it to the final. It is common to see many goals scored during a World Cup but we expect more than ever for the next tournament.
Some footballers have built their fame and fortune on the performance given at the competition. Yet there are those who go above and beyond the measure of scoring goals. Some footballers score several times, and not only during the whole tournament. There are those who manage to score a hat-trick within a single match.
Of course, this relates to a player scoring three goals, or more, in one match. Often, different players will come through with scoring the goals for their team. Yet there have been several instances where a single player has scored three or more. As it happens, the World Cup tournament has seen 54 hat-tricks scored up to 2022.
Some of them have been more memorable than others, without a doubt. Of course, all hat-tricks bring their own special something to the fore. Here, we’re going to take a look at some of the very best hat-tricks in World Cup history. Join us for some facts surrounding these hat-tricks.
Going Above and Beyond with Salenko
In 1994, the World Cup took place in the United States of America. Brazil was the winner of that tournament when the team beat Italy in the final. Yet it was a Russian player who received much of the attention. On June 28, Russia took part in a Group B stage match against Cameroon. That match finished with a 6-1 victory for Russia. Neither of those countries advanced beyond the group stage, but Russia left its mark. Or at least, Oleg Salenko did.
The Russian-Ukrainian player still holds the record for his skills in that match. During it, he claimed five of the six goals that allowed Russia to finish in third position of Group B. He scored in the 15th, 41st, 44th, 72nd and 75th minutes. One of those goals (at the 44th minute) came from a penalty. It was then left for Dmitri Radchenko to fire in the sixth and final goal for Russia.
Cameroon’s Roger Milla scored the team’s only goal, becoming the oldest player to do so at the World Cup. Yet Salenko’s five-goal flurry overshadowed this feat. The goals were enough to earn him the Golden Boot award that year.
It’s interesting to note that Salenko never played for Russia again after the ’94 World Cup. They were the only international goals he claimed for his team. His football career ended early at the age of 31 for health reasons stemming from injuries.
Quick-Fire Hat-Tricks for Austria and Hungary
Some football players had no interest in hanging around to pick up their hat-tricks. That was the case in 1954 for Erich Probst. Hosted in Switzerland, it featured 16 teams in total. The group stage featured four groups of four teams. Probst’s home nation of Austria was in Group 3 and took on Czechoslovakia on June 19.
That game finished with a 5-0 win for Austria. Probst would score hat-trick in that game, with all goals occurring within the first 24 minutes! His first of the three came at the four-minute mark. The next two came at the 21st and 24th minutes. Ernst Stojaspal claimed the other two for Austria at 3 minutes and 65 minutes.
Probst doesn’t hold the record for the quickest hat-trick, though. Instead, that goes to László Kiss of Hungary in the 1982 World Cup. Spain hosted the tournament, and in Group 3, Hungary took on El Salvador on June 15. That match finished with an astonishing 10-1 victory to Hungary.
Yet Kiss didn’t begin his hat-trick run until the 69th minute. That’s because he was a substitute who came on in the second half. He would then hit the ball into the back of the net at the 69th, 72nd and 76th minutes. That’s right, it only took him seven minutes to secure his hat-trick. It still remains as the only time a substitute has garnered a hat-trick, too.
Pelé Does It for the Young
In 1958, the World Cup took place in Sweden between June 8 and 29. It served as the first time the tournament occurred in a Nordic country. Brazil would win the trophy, beating out the host nation in the final 5-2. Yet it was special for so much more. One of the primary features of the tournament was the debut of 17-year-old Pelé.
During the Brazilian team’s game against France in the semi-finals, he made an impact. He scored a hat-trick with goals in the 52nd, 64th and 75th minutes. That made him the youngest player to ever achieve such – a record still held by him today. He would then go on to score two of the five goals in the final game against Sweden.
To contrast that, Cristiano Ronaldo is the oldest player to have scored a hat-trick in the World Cup. He was 33 years old when he fired the ball into the net three times for Portugal in 2018. That marked the 51st hat-trick ever scored in the World Cup tournament. Before Ronaldo, Rob Rensenbrink of the Netherlands held the record for 30 years. His hat-trick came in the 1978 World Cup against Iran when he was 30.
Who Has Scored the Most Hat-Tricks at World Cups?
There are three footballers who have scored a hat-trick in two separate matches during a World Cup. They are Just Fontaine of France, Sándor Kocsis of Hungary and Gerd Müller of Germany. In the 1958 World Cup, Fontaine first secured a treble against Paraguay. This saw him net the ball in the 24th, 30th and 67th minutes. Then, in the third-place play-off game against West Germany, he went one better. The 6-3 win for France saw Fontaine secure goals at the 16th, 36th, 78th and 89th minutes. In total, during that World Cup, Fontaine achieved 13 goals.
Four years before, at the 1954 World Cup in Switzerland, Kocsis achieved his hat-tricks. The first came in a Group 2 match against South Korea. That match ended in a 9-0 victory for Hungary. Three of the goals came from Kocsis at the 24th, 36th and 50th minutes. Three days later, when Hungary met West Germany, Kocsis scored four goals. This assisted the team in hitting an 8-3 victory over their opponents. In the end, West Germany won the World Cup final, defeating Hungary 3-2.
Müller’s back-to-back hat-tricks occurred at the 1970 World Cup in Mexico. West Germany played in Group 4, with the team’s first victory coming against Morocco in a 2-1 finish. Four days later, they played Bulgaria, and this is where Müller first made his mark. He scored in the 27th, 52nd and 88th minutes. Only three days later, West Germany faced Peru in their group stage match. Müller was the only one to score for his team, but it was another hat-trick. That left the final score at 3-1. Germany secured a third-place finish in the tournament that year, after beating Uruguay.
Hat-Tricks of the Earlier World Cup Years Stand Out
From all the World Cups, 54 hat-tricks have occurred. The first half of these all came from the opening eight tournaments. The remaining 28 spanned out across the proceeding 14 World Cups. That’s despite the latter ones featuring more matches. It seems as though the earlier World Cup tournaments made it easier for hat-tricks to occur.
A little over 15% of the World Cup hat-tricks came in the 1958 tournament. Since then, no World Cup has experienced as many hat-tricks. It’s also strange to note that there has been a single World Cup that has not had any take place. That was the 2006 World Cup in Germany.
Several possible explanations exist for the higher number of hat-tricks in earlier years. The rules were kinder to attacking players at that time. Therefore, it meant they had a bit more free rein to charge in and secure the goals. At the same time, there was a bigger difference between all the competing nations. It goes to show that even though a larger number of nations qualify now, it doesn’t mean hat-tricks will happen.
Two Instances of a Hat-Trick in a World Cup Final
The World Cup final is always an exciting event to watch. After all, it determines the team that will receive the trophy and all the glory. Many teams have made it to the final over the years of the World Cup being active. Yet up until 2022 there was only one final that has borne witness to a hat-trick taking place. This occurred during the 1966 World Cup final between England and West Germany.
Geoff Hurst is the player who holds the record for scoring the first hat-trick in a World Cup final. Playing for England, Hurst and his teammates had been strong throughout the tournament. Yet so had their opponents in West Germany. Both teams had won two and drawn a single match during their group stages. England didn’t concede a goal until their semi-final game against Portugal that year. Things didn’t look good in the initial stages either, considering Germany scored first. Helmut Haller took the 12-minute opening goal. Hurst wasn’t about to let that be the way the match went, though.
At the 18-minute mark, he benefitted from a Bobby Moore free kick. The ball came soaring into the West German area. Hurst rose, unchallenged, smacking a header into the net to equal the score. By half-time, the 1-1 score remained in place. A corner at the 77th minute worked in England’s favour, with Martin Peters finding the net. Wolfgang Weber would then equalise for Germany at the 89th minute. This forced the game into extra time.
Hurst secured his hat-trick within that timeframe. His second goal occurred at the 101-minute mark after much deliberation by the ref. The ball had hit the underside of the crossbar and then bounced down. It was cleared after this, but referee Gottfried Dienst was unsure if it had crossed the line. After a consultation with linesman Tofiq Bahramov, Hurst had his second goal awarded. That goal has remained controversial ever since.
England would then get their fourth goal (and Hurst’s third) at the 120-minute mark. While West Germany pushed forward to try and get an equaliser, England denied it. Moore took possession of the ball again and passed it to Hurst. He carried it forward, but spectators had started flooding the pitch in Wembley. Hurst tried to fire the ball as far as he could into the Wembley stands as a way of wasting time. Yet it was a mishit and it went straight into the top corner of Hans Tilkowski’s net.
That record stood on its own for a long time until 2022 where we saw possibly the best final ever between Argentina and France in Qatar. Argentina dominated the first half going two goals up thanks to a Messi penalty and a Di Maria goal. The game seemed to be ebbing away from France before in the 80th minute France won a penalty that was cleanly dispatched by Kylian Mbappe.
Mbappe went on to score a minute later to force the game into extra time. In extra-time Messi scored to make it 3-2 and then with just over 1 minute left France won another penalty that was put away by Mbappe to force a shoot-out and earn him the accolade of being on the second player ever to score a hat-trick in a final. Mbappe scored is penalty in the shoot out but France went on to lose 4-2 on penalties, although he did get a nice consolation by winning the golden boot.
Further World Cup Hat-Trick Accolades
We have highlighted some of the more prolific hat-tricks of World Cups already. Yet a few other incredible instances of these have occurred. Of the 52 instances of hat-tricks taking place at World Cups, here are some of the others:
Earliest World Cup Hat-Tricks. 1930 World Cup, Uruguay.
|Bert Patenaude||United States of America||Paraguay|
Year Most World Cup Hat-Tricks Occurred. 1954 World Cup, Switzerland.
|Sándor Kocsis||Hungary||North Korea|
|Burhan Sargun||Turkey||North Korea|
Most Recent World Cup Hat-Tricks. 2022 World Cup, Qatar.
Instances of Hat-Tricks Being Scored but the Team Losing:
Other Hat-Trick Trivia
- Player to Score Hat-Tricks in More Than One World Cup: Gabriel Batistuta for Argentina. (1994 World Cup, USA. Versus Greece.) (1998 World Cup, France. Versus Jamaica).
- Day Most Hat-Tricks Have Been Scored on During World Cup: Sunday. (23 Hat-Tricks)