The 10 Greatest One-Hit Wonders in Soccer History

Karl Matchett@@karlmatchettFeatured ColumnistAugust 22, 2012

The 10 Greatest One-Hit Wonders in Soccer History

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    The football one-hit wonder: we love them.

    They turn up unannounced and with the world at large unprepared, and have a generation-transcending effect in the space of a minute or a match by scoring an amazing goal, playing the game of their lives or having a trophy-winning impact.

    Moments later, they are gone again, never to be heard of or seen again.

    Well, sometimes they are seen again, but they certainly fade to their previous obscurity with much more rapidity than their heroics would suggest likely.

    Here are the top 10 footballing equivalents of Chumbawumba in recent memory.

Saeed Al-Owairan, THAT Saudi Arabia Goal in the World Cup

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    Let's get off to a flyer!

    It's Saudi Arabia's own Saeed Al-Owairan, who in the 1994 World Cup blazed his own personal trail of glory to leave a stream of Belgian defenders in his wake en-route to scoring one of the most memorable finals goals of all time.

    You know the goal, but did you remember the name?

    Probably not, because he did nothing outside of his home country in the sport. Oh, but he was suspended from the game for a year and imprisoned for drinking alcohol, which is prohibited in Saudi Arabia.

Oleg Salenko, World Cup Record Holder

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    Now this is what we call a one-hit wonder.

    Oleg Salenko went into the World Cup with Russia in 1994 having never scored an international goal, and had a solitary cap for his country to his name prior to that year.

    Into the tournament he went, scored against Sweden, and then put five goals past Cameroon in a 6-1 drubbing, a record in the tournament group stage and which made him joint-winner of the Golden Boot despite Russia not progressing past the groups.

    What's even more remarkable is that, following that five-goal haul, Salenko was never picked to play for Russia again.


Greece 2004

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    The entire team, nation indeed, of Greece in Euro 2004 caused nothing short of a sporting miracle by winning the European Championships.

    Having previously only ever qualified for one Championships in their entire history—24 years previously when they failed to win a single match—they did the unthinkable by disposing of all in their path en-route to glory in Portugal.

    In fact, before Euro 2004 Greece had never won any kind of match at a tournament finals, having lost all three matches in their only World Cup appearance ever, in 1994.

    From that, to winners. Epic.

    Of course, since then they have won precisely two matches in tournament finals, in eight years and four tournament attempts.

Karel Poborsky for the Czech Republic

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    Let's ignore his club career for the purposes of this slide, which was actually pretty decent and comprised playing with Lazio, Benfica and Manchester United as well as Slavia and Sparta Prague in his home country.

    At the international level, however, Poborsky played well over 100 times for his country, the Czech Republic, but scored just eight goals.

    And here's to betting you can only name one of them: the "Poborsky lob" performed in Euro 1996 against Portugal.

Mario Stanic at Chelsea

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    Chelsea started splashing out money on players for Gianluca Vialli, then the manager, in 2000 and Mario Stanic was brought in from Parma.

    A two-goal debut later, one of which was a long-range volley, and he was the talk of London immediately.

    Four years later, Stanic left Chelsea having never again reached those early heights. He played just 58 more league games in those four years, scoring only five more goals.

    A one-hit wonder, but it was a fine hit alright.

Notti Magiche Di Toto Schillaci!

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    He's one-of-a-kind, he's an Italian legend, and he's Salvatore "Toto" Schillaci, hero of World Cup Italia 1990.

    On the back of an impressive 15-goal haul for Juventus, Schillaci started off on the bench for Italy at the tournament, but soon found himself in the team where he and his wild eyes hit six goals, winning the Golden Boot in the process.

    Quite an impressive "one hit", but it certainly was one strike and you're out—Schillaci only ever scored a single extra goal for Italy after the tournament, and in the following four seasons in Italian league football, he scored five, six, six and five goals in each entire campaign.

    He ended up with Jubilo Iwata in Japan for the rest of his career, scoring just a total of seven goals for his country.

Roy Essendoh, the Teletext Hero

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    How many have heard, or can remember the name Roy Essandoh?

    An out-of-contract forward, he answered an S.O.S. call from Wycombe Wanderers who were lacking players for an FA Cup quarter final, and so advertised their need for players on English TV's Ceefax service.

    Essandoh got his chance off the bench...and bagged the winning goal.

    Dream stuff.

    For the uninitiated, Ceefax in the UK is essentially a news, sports, TV listings guide and other information service which is/was accessible through terrestrial channels in a very basic "digital text" manner. It will become obsolete soon with the advent of advanced digital services.

Goalkeepers in General as Goalscoring Heroes

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    A brief ode here to that most rare of goalscoring creatures: the goalkeeper.

    By its very nature, a goalkeeper going up for a free kick or corner is an act of desperation late, late in the match; why else would they be in the opposite penalty area?

    And when it comes off, emotions and adrenaline run understandably high.

    Jimmy Glass of Carlisle scoring the goal which kept the team in the entire professional footballing league, Brad Friedel of Blackburn Rovers who rescued a late point—or so he thought—,Sinan Bolat of Standard Liege who sealed Europa League football with moments to spare and others too numerous to mention.

    Well done lads, and keep them coming.

Salif Diao, One of Senegal's World Cup 2002 Heroes

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    Powerful, energetic, boundless enthusiasm and a box-to-box heart which would carry a team.

    That's what Salif Diao seemed to promise when he ran France ragged for Senegal in the 2002 World Cup, scoring a goal and getting a red card against Denmark.

    Liverpool boss Gerard Houllier had been convinced, and shelled out a significant sum to bring the powerhouse midfielder to the club.

    Such was his ineptitude at the top-level that in five years at the club Diao featured just 61 times and was loaned out to three different clubs before being released on a free transfer.

    The World Cup was as good as it got for Diao.

Ali Dia, the Ultimate Conman and One-Hit Wonder

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    Some are one-hit wonders for their goals, some for their saves, for winning a trophy or contributing to a good cause; Ali Dia is a one-hit wonder for his 53 minute substitute appearance for Southampton.

    Having apparently conned manager Graeme Souness into thinking he was the legendary George Weah's cousin, Dia replaced Matthew Le Tissier who came off injured.

    What followed was perhaps the most bemusingly bad "professional" football appearance ever witnessed in England's top flight, as Dia missed an open goal and generally gave off the impression that he didn't have a clue what he was doing.

    Which he probably didn't.

    A one-hit wonder, but really the only wonder was that it took so long for Souness to realize his mistake and substitute the substitute.