Which World Cup match featured the most players born in one country? | World Cup 2022

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“During France’s match with Tunisia, there were 15 French-born players on the field at kick-off,” observes Chai in Atalanta. “France had nine (everyone apart from Steve Mandanda and Eduardo Camavinga), Tunisia had six (Nader Ghandri, Montassar Talbi, Wajdi Kechrida, Ellyes Skhiri, Aïssa Laïdouni and Wahbi Khazri). Is this a record for the number of players born in the same country for an international match?”

It can actually be matched at the 2022 World Cup, Chai – look no further than Wales v England in Group B. “All of the English starting XI were born in England, as well as Ethan Ampadu (born in Exeter), Chris Mepham (Harrow), Kieffer Moore (Torquay) and Dan James (Kingston upon Hull) for Wales – a total of 15,” writes Rob Morgan. It’s also worth noting that Joe Morrell (born in Ipswich) and Brennan Johnson (Nottingham) came on during the game, replacing Ben Davies and Gareth Bale and taking the total of English-born players on the pitch to 17.

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Going back through the archives, Mark van Dijk can match that starting figure of 15 in another World Cup match. “England v Ireland at Italia 90: the Republic had six (Mick McCarthy, Paul McGrath, Chris Morris, Andy Townsend, John Aldridge and Tony Cascarino) starters born in England, while England had nine (all but the Jamaica-born John Barnes and Singapore-born Terry Butcher).”

Those same two teams can top those figures in games outside the World Cup, as Diarmuid Daly points out. “For the Euro 92 qualifier at Lansdowne Road in November 1990, 10 of England’s starting 11 were English-born and they were supplemented by Morris, McGrath, Aldridge, Townsend and David O’Leary (born in London) – a total of 15. Tony Cascarino and Alan McLoughlin replaced Niall Quinn and Ronnie Whelan in the second half, bringing that number up to 17.”

“Ireland’s 1-0 win over England at Euro 88 had 16 English-born players in the starting XIs,” notes Darragh Smith. “Ten from England (everyone except Barnes) and six from Ireland (Morris, McGrath, Aldridge, McCarthy, Chris Hughton and Tony Galvin).

Tony Galvin, who was born in Huddersfield, in action for the Republic of Ireland against England at Euro ‘88
Tony Galvin, who was born in Huddersfield, in action for the Republic of Ireland against England at Euro ‘88. Photograph: Getty Images

Things get murkier when you include countries affected by the redrawing of Europe’s borders in the 20th century, mind …

“By my calculation 18 of the 25 players who played in the East Germany v West Germany match at the 1974 World Cup were born in Germany before 1949, ie before its formal partition,” mails Jonathan Wray. “These two nations also played a qualifier for the 1964 Olympic Games when presumably all players would have been born in the pre-1949 Germany. If not, then the qualifier for the 1954 World Cup between Saarland and West Germany must hold the record for the same reason. Incidentally Helmut Schön was the Saarland manager then, proving the adage that if you can’t beat them, join them, which Saarland did in 1957.”

Darragh Smyth points out that “all 22 players that started the 1998 World Cup qualifier between the Czech Republic and Slovakia in Bratislava in 1997 were born in Czechoslovakia. There are presumably more examples from matches between former constituent parts of the USSR or Yugoslavia. The only example I can find of this in a major tournament is the quarter-final between Hungary and Austria in 1934, where all 22 players were born in pre-WWI Austria-Hungary (as conceivably were the 22 players that started the R16 match between Romania and Czechoslovakia at the same tournament).”

Golden Boot in fewest games

“What’s the fewest games a player has played in a World Cup and been top scorer?” tweets James.

Oleg Salenko is the only man to win (or in this case share) the Golden Boot after his team were knocked out at the group stage. He played three games for Russia at USA 94 and scored six goals – five of them in the final match, a dead rubber against Cameroon. He shared the prize with Hristo Stoichkov, who took Bulgaria to the semi-finals.

Salenko will have to share this particular record, too. Hungary’s Florian Albert was one of six players to score four goals at the 1962 World Cup. Unlike all the others, he played only three games. Although Hungary reached the quarter-finals, Albert missed their final group match against Argentina. But if you want a tiebreaker, Salenko wins by virtue of the fact he played fewer minutes. He was a substitute in the first game against Brazil, so was on the field for 201 minutes to Albert’s 270.

Salenko aside, it was generally easier to win the Golden Boot in fewer matches in the early days, mainly because there were fewer matches. Six players have won it in less than five matches. Salenko is the only one to do so in the last 60 years.

Here’s the full list of how many matches it took each player to win the Golden Boot:

Quick Guide

Golden Boot winners’ goals per game


1930 Guillermo Stábile (Argentina) eight in four

1934 Oldrich Nejedly (Czechoslovakia) five in four

1938 Leônidas (Brazil) seven in four

1950 Ademir (Brazil) eight in six

1954 Sandor Kocsis (Hungary) 11 in five

1958 Just Fontaine (France) 13 in six

1962 Leonel Sánchez (Chile) four in six, Florian Albert (Hungary) four in three (270 minutes), Valentin Ivanov (USSR) four in four, Garrincha (Brazil) four in six, Vavá (Brazil) four in six, Drazan Jerkovic (Yugoslavia) four in six

1966 Eusébio (Portugal) nine in six

1970 Gerd Müller (West Germany) 10 in six

1974 Grzegorz Lato (Poland) seven in seven

1978 Mario Kempes (Argentina) six in seven

1982 Paolo Rossi (Italy) six in seven

1986 Gary Lineker (England) six in five

1990 Salvatore Schillaci (Italy) six in seven (five starts)

1994 Hristo Stoichkov (Bulgaria) six in seven

Oleg Salenko (Russia) six in three (216 minutes)

1998 Davor Suker (Croatia) six in seven

2002 Ronaldo (Brazil) eight in seven

2006 Miroslav Klose (Germany) five in seven

2010 Thomas Müller (Germany) five in six. Wesley Sneijder (Netherlands), Diego Forlán (Uruguay) and David Villa (Spain) also scored five goals, but Müller won the Golden Boot by virtue of having more assists. Sneijder, Forlán and Villa all played seven games.

2014 James Rodríguez (Colombia) six in five

2018 Harry Kane (England) six in six

2022 Kylian Mbappé (France) eight in seven

Thank you for your feedback.

And since you asked, the Golden Ball, for the tournament’s best player, has only ever been given to players who appeared in six or seven games.

Players winning the World Cup before anything else

“How many footballers can count the World Cup as their first – or only – major trophy?” asks Shamik Das.

During the early days of the tournament, before the concept of “elite clubs” had emerged and national leagues had fully crystallised into haves and have-nots, it was relatively common for players to lift the World Cup before any other trophy. When Uruguay triumphed on home soil in 1930, Ernesto Mascheroni, Pablo Dorado and Santos Iriarte were among those who had never previously won major silverware at club level and who had not been included in the gold medal-winning squads at the 1924 or 1928 Olympics, or Uruguay’s South American Championship-winning sides.

When Italy won their second World Cup in 1938, Aldo Olivieri, their goalkeeper, was playing for lowly Lucchese. Though he had won Serie B with the Tuscan club in 1936, he would never win a major trophy at club level or another international tournament. Despite that, his flamboyant style and spectacular saves still ensured his place among the Azzurri’s most iconic goalkeepers and the affectionate nickname “il Gatto Magico” (“the Magic Cat”). He would go on to win Serie B twice as a manager, but major silverware eluded him even then.

As for more recent examples, Christoph Kramer is perhaps the least-heralded member of Germany’s winning 2014 team. The midfielder was concussed after an early clash with Ezequiel Garay in the decider at the Maracanã and – despite having to ask the referee whether he was playing in the final – belatedly substituted after 32 minutes. Now 31, he has no other major honours to his name. “I can’t really remember much of the game,” he told Die Welt after the match.

Interestingly, the player who replaced Kramer, André Schürrle, also lifted the World Cup before any other major trophy, though he went on to earn a Premier League winner’s medal with Chelsea and win the DFB-Pokal with Wolfsburg and Dortmund. Likewise, neither Benjamin Pavard nor Nabil Fekir had claimed major honours before they won with France in 2018, though the former has since cleaned up with Bayern Munich while the latter won the Copa del Rey with Real Betis last season. That leaves Kramer as the standout answer to the ultimate World Cup pub quiz question. The fact he has little recollection only makes his achievement that much more surreal.

Christoph Kramer receives medical attention during the 2014 World Cup final
Christoph Kramer receives medical attention during the 2014 World Cup final. Photograph: Themba Hadebe/AP

Knowledge archive

“What do footballers get each other at Christmas?” asked Kris K. Surely not that one.

In 1998, Newcastle’s players took Christmas as an opportunity to tell the other members of the squad what they really thought of them. The Italian full-back Alessandro Pistone was given a sheep’s heart, as a sign of his perceived lack of commitment. “I’m sure it was a joke,” he told the Sunday Times in 1999. “The others had some really funny presents too: Temuri Ketsbaia [who is bald] got a hairbrush and Duncan Ferguson a prison shirt [Ferguson had served a three-month jail sentence in 1995 after his headbutt on Raith Rovers’ Jock McStay].”

“Alessandro took his gift surprisingly well,” said Rob Lee at the time. Quite what Dietmar Hamann made of his present remains unknown. The German – brace yourselves folks – unwrapped a copy of Mein Kampf.


Can you help?

“I recently played my testimonial for my local team before I moved abroad. During the match I had the horrible misfortune of breaking my leg. This got me wondering, has there ever been a case of a professional footballer getting a serious injury during their testimonial?” writes Andrew Wilson.

Antoine Griezmann has played in 74 consecutive national team matches, last sitting out an international match in June 2017, and holds the record for France.
Across all national teams, who holds the overall record for consecutive matches played in?

— Ben (@BenJaneson) December 20, 2022

“Manchester City 1-1 Manchester United was just the third draw in 54 WSL games this season,” notes Peter Smyth. “Which league has had the fewest draws in a completed season?”

Following Ally McCoist’s tongue-in-cheek claim that Kylian Mbappe scored “the first World Cup final hat-trick where all three crossed the line”, are there any other examples of footballing firsts or records whose holder is disputed or shrouded in controversy?

— Steve Hyde (@StevenJamesHyde) December 20, 2022

Who was the first black manager in Europe? Didi (1928-2001) took over as Fenerbahçe manager in 1972 so he may have been one of the first black managers in Europe. But perhaps another South American came to Portugal, Spain, France, or Italy before Didi. @TheKnowledge_GU https://t.co/AquyfLaYwn

— Yusuf Nasihi (@yknasihi) December 19, 2022

There’s a picture from the 1934 World Cup final where the Italy coach Vittorio Pozzo is celebrating their equaliser from behind the goal.

When did the dug-out become a thing and what were managers doing before?

— Frank (@fhodg9) December 20, 2022

Mail us your questions or tweet @TheKnowledge_GU. And the Knowledge will be back after a short festive break on 4 January.

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