Whether you play soccer, watch soccer or best of all, do both, you have almost certainly heard the term ‘hat trick’ either from another player or from the commentator. If you are unsure what the phrase hat-trick means in soccer, then in simple terms it occurs when a player scores three goals in a match.
However, its meaning can be extended to lots of other feats in soccer. There are different types of hat-tricks, and its origin comes from a completely different sport altogether. By the time you have finished reading this article, we promise you will know everything there is to know about what a hat trick is. What we can't promise is that you will be better able to score one!
Origins of Hat-Trick
While we now know that a hat-trick is in soccer is scoring three goals, the term did not originate from soccer. It was originally used in a sport that is normally a lot more gentile than soccer. The sport we are talking about is cricket.
Cricket is a sport that dates back to 16th-century England and is not only still very popular there, but it is also a major sport in the Caribbean, India. Pakistan, Australia and New Zealand, to name but a few. You might not be aware, but the USA also has a cricket team, which played its first match as long ago as the 1840s.
It wasn't long after that date when the first use of the term hat-trick occurred when a bowler called Heathfield Harman (HH) Stephenson took wickets with three consecutive deliveries. The match took place in Sheffield, England in 1858, and as recognition of what he had done, Stephenson was awarded a hat, which had been bought with the proceeds of a collection made to honor the feat.
It is doubtful that H.H. Stephenson or those who contributed to buying him the hat would have any inclination that they were creating a phrase that would be become so synonymous with sport, and soccer in particular, for the next 150 plus years.
As we mentioned in the introduction, a hat-trick in soccer occurs when a player scores three goals in the same match. However, unlike a hat-trick in cricket, where an event happens three times consecutively (a wicket being taken), the goals do not need to be consecutive. In other words, if a team scores four goals or more in a match and the first two were scored by Player A, the third by Player B, and the fourth by Player A again, then that still counts.
If one or more of the goals scored by a player is a penalty kick, then that also counts as a hat-trick. However, it does not apply to a penalty shoot-out which is used to determine the winners of matches which are even at the end of extra-time. For example, if a player scores two goals during the game, and a penalty during the shoot-out, that does not count as a hat-trick. However, if they score two goals during the game, and a further goal during extra-time, it is classified as a hat-trick.
While the tradition of receiving a hat no longer applies in cricket, and never did in soccer, when a player does score a hat-trick, they normally get to keep the ball. Obviously, this applies more at the professional level than it does at the amateur level where giving the ball away might not be in the budget.
The first hat-trick scored in international soccer was in a match between soccer’s oldest international rivals, Scotland and England. The scorer was called John McDougall whose three goals helped Scotland to an emphatic 7-2 victory.
The honor of the first player to score a hat-trick in a World Cup match is held by an American called Bert Patenaude. He scored all three goals in a 3-0 victory over Paraguay, which confirmed the USA's qualification to the semi-final of the inaugural event in 1930.
As for the fastest recorded hat-tricks in history, the current record stands at 70 seconds which is how long it took Alex Torr to score three goals in a Sunday league match in 2013.
Famous Soccer Hat Tricks
While soccer hat-tricks are rare, they are even less common in major tournaments, so whenever one occurs, they are bound to be historic events. Perhaps the most famous of all was scored by Geoff Hurst in the 1966 World Cup final. His three goals at Wembley in London helped England beat West Germany 4-2 to record their first, and only, World Cup win. Not only was it a hat-trick good enough to win the World Cup, but it was also a 'perfect' hat-trick, which we'll discuss further on.
Another player who scored a hat-trick in a World Cup final is Carli Lloyd of the USA. In the 2015 Women's World Cup final in Vancouver, Canada, she scored three goals between the third and the sixteenth minute which helped the USA beat Japan 5-2. Apart from the obvious distinction of scoring a hat-trick in a World cup final, Carli's is also the fastest hat-trick ever in a World Cup match scored by either a male or female player.
The Perfect Soccer Hat Trick
If it wasn't enough that scoring a hat-trick is a pretty difficult feat to achieve, then an even harder task is to score a perfect hat-trick. For a hat-trick to be considered perfect, the three goals need to be scored by three different parts of the body, which are the left foot, the right foot, and a header.
While most players would be happy to score one goal, and some might be good enough to score a hat-trick, the chances of being able to score each goal in the manner described are very low, but it has been achieved by some of the world's top players.
Geoff Hurst's hat-trick, which we have already mentioned, was the perfect hat-trick in more ways than one as it also helped win the World Cup. Although not in the final, while en route to winning the 1984 European Championships, French soccer legend Michel Platini scored a perfect hat-trick against Yugoslavia.
One of the best ever seen in the English Premiership was by Jimmy Floyd Hasselback for Chelsea in a 4-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur. It included a header sandwiched between two spectacular long-range goals from either foot. More recently, soccer superstar Christiano Ronaldo scored a perfect hat-trick in a 10-minute period when he was playing for Real Madrid.