Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (vs Nottingham Forest, 1999)
We begin with the blue-eyed boy himself.
Solskjaer’s strike rate as a substitute for Manchester United at Nottingham Forest was quite something. The Norwegian only had 18 minutes on the field after being introduced as a late substitute at the City Ground in 1999, but that was enough for him to score four times past poor Dave Beasant as United triumphed 8-1.
Fergie’s mob went on to win the Treble and Forest were, perhaps unsurprisingly, relegated. The East Midlanders’ team that finished the game for them that day included the likes of Hugo Porfirio and Jesper Mattsson (remember them? Nope, us neither).
Denis Law (vs Luton, 1961)
It wasn’t Law’s lucky day on January 28, 1961. The Manchester City striker scored six times in an FA Cup tie at Luton Town, only for the game to be abandoned after 69 minutes because of a waterlogged pitch.
Not only were Law’s goals wiped from the records but City then lost the rearranged fixture, having led 6-2 when the original match was halted. Law’s double hat-trick would have been an FA Cup record, and George Best repeated the feat for Manchester United at Northampton Town nine years later. That time, the six goals stood.
But the record was broken again in 1971 by Bournemouth’s Ted MacDougall, who scored nine times against Margate and the world’s unluckiest goalkeeper. Chic Brodie once found a hand grenade in his goalkeeping cap ahead of a game, then almost had his leg broken by a pitch-invading Jack Russell, before a crossbar broke and fell on his head in another match. Give him a break.
Panagiotis Pontikos (vs Ayios Athanasios, 2007)
Australia’s Archie Thompson (more on him later) holds the world record for a full international match, but he can only dream of being as prolific as Olympos Xylofagou striker Pontikos.
In a Cypriot third division match in 2007, the brilliantly named Xylofagou – after some sort of xylophone-influenced cigarette, presumably – thrashed SEK Ayios Athanasios 24-3.
Much of that was down to the finishing of Pontikos, who netted 16. He’d only scored four by half-time but 12 more followed after the interval, with the second-half goals coming in the 47th, 50th, 55th, 56th, 58th, 61st, 68th, 75th, 76th, 83rd, 86th and 87th minutes. We suspect heads went down in the Athanasios defence.
That was still only enough for Pontikos to equal the world record at club level, though, after Stephan Staniso also hit 16 for Racing Club in a French Cup match against Aubry Asturies in 1942.
Robert Lewandowski (vs Real Madrid, Georgia, Wolfsburg)
Lewandowski gets three entries in this list, having plundered for fun with Borussia Dortmund, Bayern Munich and Poland. Take your pick, really: first there were the four goals he scored for Borussia Dortmund in a Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid in 2013.
Incredibly, he’s scored a four-minute hat-trick twice in the space of just three months. The Pole struck three times in three minutes and 59 seconds against Georgia in June, then shaved 40 seconds off that personal best as his first three of five goals against Wolfsburg – as a half-time substitute – came within three minutes and 19 seconds. Not surprisingly, his speedy treble earned him a Bundesliga record.
Dieter Muller (vs Werder Bremen, 1977)
Lewandowski’s goal spree was one short of the Bundesliga record set by Muller in 1977. He scored six for Cologne against Werder Bremen, netting in the 12th, 23rd, 32nd, 52nd, 73rd and 85th minutes.
We’ll have to take his word for it, though: there’s no video footage of the match because the cameramen were on strike. That fourth goal, an overhead kick from 110 yards, was particularly special. As for the fifth, a backheel assist from the octopus that jumped down from the terraces? Well, that was just incredible…
Archie Thompson (vs American Samoa, 2001)
Thompson scored 28 goals in 54 games for Australia, with 13 of them coming in the same 2001 game. He scored so many that the bloke operating the scoreboard lost count, initially crediting him with 14 goals.
Only 3,000 people were present in Coffs Harbour to witness international history as American Samoa were thrashed 31-0. Reports suggested they were “no match for Australia”, in possibly one of the understatements of the century (indeed, eligibility problems hampered the minnows even further).
Thompson started steadily, opening his account in the 12th minute and not bagging his second until the 23rd. But then more goals rained in the 27th, 29th, 33rd, 37th, 42nd and 45th minutes to give him eight by half-time. He struck further goals in the 56th, 60th and 65th minutes, presumably went to eat his lunch for a bit, and came back to round off his 13-goal haul in the 85th and 88th minutes.
“You have to look at the teams we’re playing and start asking questions. We don’t need to play these games,” grumbled the world-record-breaking striker. No pleasing some.
Joe Payne (vs Bristol Rovers, 1936)
Things were getting silly in the Football League during the 1935/36 season. First there was Ted Drake, who scored all seven goals for Arsenal in a 7-1 win at Aston Villa. He’s still the last man to score seven in a top-flight match. Then Robert ‘Bunny’ Bell became the only person to score nine in the Football League as Tranmere Rovers beat Oldham Athletic 13-4, in what was described as ankle-deep mud.
He could have had 10, but he missed a penalty. Payne made no such mistake when he smashed double figures past Bristol Rovers as Luton Town won 12-0 – and he wasn’t even a centre forward.
The utility player had played only four matches for Luton that season, all of them at right-half, and had never played up front for the club. Surprisingly picked as a stand-in striker for his first appearance in seven months, he scored 10 times. Less surprisingly, he didn’t return to right half after that.
Oleg Salenko (vs Cameroon, 1994)
There weren’t too many things that were notable about Salenko’s career, which produced steady but unspectacular goal returns for the likes of Zenit, Dynamo Kiev, Valencia and Rangers.
But then there was that day at the 1994 World Cup when, almost out of nowhere, he scored five times for Russia against Cameroon. That bizarre afternoon, coupled with a penalty against Sweden, helped Salenko share the Golden Boot with Hristo Stoichkov – even though Russia went out in the group stage.
Salenko had never scored for his country before that tournament, and never scored for them again. Underwhelmed by his spell at Rangers, which he described as “very boring”, he later became manager of the Ukrainian beach football team.
Jose Luis Chilavert (vs Ferro Carril Oeste, 1999)
Three goals in a game may not be startlingly prolific, but for the fact that they were scored by a goalkeeper. The Paraguayan eccentric nicknamed El Buldog (no prizes) scored 67 goals during his career thanks to his skills as a free-kick and penalty specialist.
In 1999, while appearing for Argentine club Velez Sarsfield against Ferro Carril Oeste, he netted three penalties in the same game in a 6-1 win.
Chilavert was known for his rather feisty approach to the game and his Wikipedia page asserts that “he has thrown punches at the likes of Faustino Asprillia and Diego Maradona”, as if he were working through a to-do list of legends to tonk. “I’ve had a lot of fights on the pitch, but what did people expect? With the face I’ve got I have to play the bad guy,” Chilavert reasoned.
Magnus Arvidsson (vs Landskrona, 1995)
If you want a quickfire hat-trick, don’t bother with Lewandowski – Arvidsson is your man. In a 1995 Swedish second division match, he struck three times in just 89 seconds for Hassleholm against Landskrona. “There was hardly time to kick off between the goals,” he admitted afterwards.
The goals helped Hassleholm come from behind to win 5-3 and avoid relegation. Arvidsson later moved to Germany with Hansa Rostock before earning two caps for Sweden, which delivered no goals. Disappointing.