What is a Brace and a Hat Trick in Football?

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A footballer shooting

You might have heard of a brace of pheasant, grouse, or ducks, and you will also be familiar with the expression of a magician’s hat trick whereby he or she produces a rabbit from a top hat. But how did these expressions come to be adopted by the football fraternity, and what they mean?

The Meaning of Scoring a Brace in Football

When a football pundit, player or fan talks about a brace, they are referring to the scoring of two goals in one match. So, for example, when Edinson Cavani scored his two goals against Southampton recently, you could say that he scored a brace.

It doesn’t matter in what sequence the goals come. They could be the first and third, the second and third, the second and fourth, whatever. What it boils down to is that they do not have to have been score one after the other, in other words, consecutively.

“Brace,” the word itself, has its roots in Old English. It was used by hunters when they shot down a pair of something. Scoring a brace of goals is not particularly special, except of course to the player, him or herself. If you search for records of braces, you’ll be hard-pressed to find any. But that is not the case when it comes to hat tricks.

The Origins of the Term "Hat Trick"

Any football fan will tell you that a hat trick means scoring three goals in a single game. However, if asked the question, most football fans wouldn’t be able to tell you where the origins of the term “hat-trick” come from. If you are one of the uninformed, we are about to lighten your darkness.

The First and Last Cricket Hat-Tricks

The phrase, hat-trick,” did not originate in football. In fact, it originated in cricket. It was used when a bowler collected three different wickets from three consecutive deliveries. The first-ever recorded cricket hat-trick is credited to HH Stephenson, a British cricketer in 1859. After his achievement, fans held a collection and bought him a hat to commemorate the achievement – hemce the term “hat-trick.”

When it comes to test cricket, it is a feat that has only been achieved 45 times. The first test cricket hat-trick was on 2 January 1879. Fred Spofforth, the Australian pace bowler, nicknamed the “Demon Bowler,” bowled out three English batsmen with three consecutive deliveries  – the Reverend Vernon Royle, Francis MacKinnon and Thomas Emmett.

The most recent cricket hat-trick, according to the Bleacher Report, was Naseem Sha, the Pakistani fast bowler. He took the wickets of three Bangladeshi cricketers. In February 2020, and at the age of 16, he became not only the most recent bowler but also the youngest bowler ever to record a cricket hat-trick.

Football Hat-Tricks

A footballer with his foot on the ball

Nowadays, in football, the term “hat-trick,” doesn’t have to mean three consecutive goals scored in one game by one player. There can be other goals scored by different players too; either before, after or in amongst the three goals  scored by the “hat-tricker.”

The First and Most Recent Hat-Trickers

The very first football hat-tricker was John McDougall. In 1878 he netted three times when Scotland beat England by 7 goals to 2. More recently, the player with the most hat-tricks, according to BeSoccer is Cristiano Ronaldo with 54. One behind in 2nd is… you guessed it… Lionel Messi with 53. Then a way back in 3rd, 4th and 5th are Luis Suarez, Robert Lewandoski and Sergio Aguero respectively.

Pele - the Black Pearl - Leading World Scorer of Hat-Tricks

The most hat-tricks of all time are credited to Pele. During his career, in which he was a World Cup Winner three times, he amassed an incredible 92 career hat-tricks. Admittedly, some happened in friendly games, but nonetheless, his tally is recorded in the Guinness World Records.

It all began for the Brazillian in 1957 when his first hat-trick came against Edson Arantes do Nascimiento. Over the course of an amazing career, Pele scored 1,283 goals, and at the age of 17, he became the first player to score a World Cup hat-trick in 1958 against France.

Hat-Tricks in the Premier League

The Top-8 hat-trick scorers in the Premier League are shown in the table below.

  1. Sergio Aguero 12
  2. Alan Shearer 11
  3. Robbie Fowler 9
  4. Thierry Henry 8
  5. Harry Kane 8
  6. Michael Owen 8
  7. Wayne Rooney 7
  8. Luis Suarez 6

Then there is a raft of players each with five hat-tricks. They are Dimitar Berbatov, Andy Cole, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Robin van Persie and Ian Wright.

Players who have scored a hat-trick this season, are Patrick Bamford of Leeds United, Ollie Watkins of Aston Villa, Jamie Vardy of Leicester City, Son Heung-min of Tottenham Hotspur, Dominic Calvert-Lewin of Everton, and  Mohamed Salah of Liverpool. Of this list, only Salah and Vardy have previously chalked up hat tricks in the Premiership.

With only around ten games played so far this season, the hat-trick tally is already nearing half of the total scored in the whole of last season, so it looks on target to finish higher. It might even end up breaking the record set in the 2011-2012 season of 19, in 38 matches.





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