Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Guardian sport

Which footballer has played against the most international teams?

Sergio Ramos fails to pull off a dramatic goal against Honduras at the 2010 World Cup
Sergio Ramos fails to pull off a dramatic goal against Honduras at the 2010 World Cup, one of scores of international sides he lined up against. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian

The Spin claims that Mohammed Nabi has played against 43 international teams. There are a lot more international football teams than cricket teams, so who has played against the most?” asks Mark Jones.

Like all the best stories, this one starts with a decorated Estonia midfielder. “In the men’s game Martin Reim will take some beating,” writes Mick McMenemie. “He played against 65 different countries. If anyone else can beat that then fair play to them.”

Well, if we’re talking oneupmanship there’s only one man to consider.

He has indeed, with Luxembourg (11 goals), Lithuania and Sweden (seven apiece) his favourite opponents. In total, we think Cristiano Ronaldo has played against 70 different countries since making his debut against Kazakhstan in August 2003.

But this is one niche record that he can’t claim, at least not yet. “This is not exhaustive, because, you know, I have a life and a job and that,” begins Dara O’Reilly, “but I did a quick rundown of the 10 most-capped international men’s players. Sergio Ramos appears to have played against the most different opponents – 78.” We made it 77 nations, but let’s not split hairs.

If we look at both the men’s and women’s game we thought Canada’s Christine Sinclair would be in contention, given she has 328 caps to her name, but those many appearances have come against only 48 different nations.

Christine Sinclair signs autographs for fans following her final appearance for Canada, against Brazil, on 28 October.
Christine Sinclair signs autographs for fans following her final appearance for Canada, against Brazil, on 28 October. Photograph: Christinne Muschi/AP

If anyone can beat Ramos’ total, let us know – Email us or tweet @TheKnowledge_GU.

A new coach for each cap

“Pascal Gross made just his third appearance for Germany this week in consecutive matches under three different managers. Have any other players had international records like this?” asked David Williams a few weeks ago.

Nick Kaye was one of a few readers to suggest Andy Cole. “He earned his first four England caps under four different managers, making his debut against Uruguay under Terry Venables in 1995. His next game was against Italy under Glenn Hoddle at Le Tournoi in 1997. His third appearance came against France under caretaker Howard Wilkinson in 1999. Finally, his fourth cap and first start was earned against Poland under the new manager, Kevin Keegan, a few weeks later.”

Cole’s England career continued in this staccato fashion until 2002, when he retired from international duty after missing out on the World Cup squad under a fifth manager, Sven Göran Eriksson. Despite scoring 187 Premier League goals, Cole won just 15 caps, scoring once against Albania in a World Cup qualifier in 2001.

Andy Cole and his fourth England manager, Kevin Keegan, in training.
Andy Cole and his fourth England manager, Kevin Keegan, in training. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian

Levelling up while trebling up

“In Walsall’s recent 3-3 draw at Newport, Freddie Draper scored a hat-trick in which all three goals were equalisers,” notes Graham Doe. “Are there previous examples of this happening?”

Peter Abram flags the memorable Middlesbrough debut of Fabrizio Ravanelli against Liverpool in 1996, which fits the bill – one of those who managed a hat-trick on the opening weekend of Premier League seasons.

Bradley Wright-Phillips repeated the feat for NY Red Bulls against DC United in 2018, reports Dan Ryazansky. Some fella called Rooney had made it 2-1 to DC.

Bradley Wright-Phillips celebrates scoring against DC United in July 2018
Bradley Wright-Phillips celebrates scoring against DC United in July 2018 – two months later he managed three against the same opposition. Photograph: Nick Wass/AP

Knowledge archive

“Today in the Norwegian league, Jone Samuelsen scored for Odd against Tromso,” began Jostein Nygard in 2011. “In a last, desperate attempt to equalise the Tromso keeper joined in the attack during a corner. To put a short story shorter, the ball was thumped upfield by Odd, then headed back into Odd’s half by a Tromso defender. Samuelsen, who was standing a couple of yards within his own half, headed the ball back towards one of his players, but missed. Instead the ball rolled into an empty net. So my question is: what is the greatest distance someone has headed a ball into the goal?”

We have looked at this question before – well sort of – but that was seven years ago (seven years ago on Thursday to be precise) so it’s about time for an update. First, to Jone Samuelsen:

It is an extraordinary effort, with the midfielder standing fully five yards inside his own half. Given a pitch can be anything between 100 and 130 yards long, a rough estimate would put Samuelsen’s effort at somewhere between 55 and 70 yards, most likely, given what we can see on the footage, at the top end of that range.

And despite a trawl through the archives we can’t find a headed goal scored from longer range. It certainly eclipses the best efforts from back in 2004 – Maradona for Napoli against Milan in 1988, Steve Nicol’s 25-yard effort for Liverpool against Arsenal and (not the greatest in terms of distance but possibly in terms of skill) Marco van Basten for Milan against Gothenburg.

Samuelsen’s goal probably takes the crown off Martín Palermo, who scored from close to the centre circle for Boca Juniors in 2009.

Update: since then, as Russell Connor and others pointed out, Stefan Galinski has scored this long-range header for Basford United against FC United in 2019. “Extra marks, surely,” writes Russell, “for bouncing five times before it went in.” This no-bounce header from Bologna’s Lorenzo De Silvestri, mentioned by Bogan Kotarlic last week, is also worth a watch.

Can you help?

“It’s November and Fenerbahçe still have a perfect record in all competitions: 19 matches played, 19 wins,” writes Dirk Maas. “Has any team had a longer winning run at the start of the season?”

“Leeds’ 39-pass sequence against Southampton in 1972 was lauded as a great achievement but in these days of far more teams playing keep ball what is the longest sequence of passes without the opposition touching the ball?” asks Rob Weeks.

“Before Sunday, Manchester City played 32 games at Old Trafford without being awarded a penalty, going back to Keith Curle’s goal on 7 April 1992. Is that a record for an away team on a particular ground?” asks Gareth Hume.

“Notts County and Wrexham currently occupy two of the three automatic promotion spots in League Two, having both been promoted from the National League. Have two teams ever achieved back-to-back promotions together?” asks Connor Fryer.

Mail us your questions or tweet @TheKnowledge_GU.

Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Already a member? Sign in here
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.