Players Who Scored the Most Hat-Tricks for a National Team

Josip Brajkovic
Josip Brajkovic
Published: 31.10.2023.

Scoring a hat trick in itself is a hard task. But to do it with the national team, with teammates you haven't been training consistently for years, with a jam-packed schedule of international games, that's reserved for the very best of the footballers. So the players who scored the most hat-tricks for a national team are in a league of their own.

Actually, the list is so exclusive that there are only two players on it who are still active. You should guess who right away.

Due to the nature of the records for four out of the six players on this list, as two happened in the first half of the 20th century, we're going to stick around longer for the players who scored the most hat-tricks for a national team more recently.

Pele (Brazil) - 7 hat-tricks

Pele (Brazil)

The reality of Pele's career that is rarely discussed is that even though he is considered by the broader public as one of the best, he has never played an official club match in Europe. All of his laurels mostly stem from the work he did with the Brazil national team. Including the two World Cups, of course.

Pele played in 92 matches for Brazil, scoring 77 goals in total. One of the seven hat-tricks he scored was in the 1958 World Cup semis, against France. While three happened in friendly matches.

Pele represented his country between 1958 and 1964, so even his playing era is ancient now. But nothing compared to two other players who scored the most hat-tricks in international games.

Ali Daei (Iran) - 8 hat-tricks

Ali Daei, Saipa vs. Al-Rayyan pre-match conference.jpg
By Fars Media Corporation, CC BY 4.0, Link

One of the more recent players who qualify for the list of international football hat-trick record scorers. And Ali Daei finished his career in 2004. For the longest time the player with the most international goals scored at 109, but he was overtaken by another player on this list. The player born in 1954 made his debut in 1992 and played in 149 total games for Iran.

It has to be said that as impressive as the feat is on itself, Daei recorded these hat-tricks against the likes of nations not known for their football prowess: Nepal, Maldives, Guam, Laos, Sri Lanka, Uzbekistan, and Lebanon. With the exception being the poker he scored against the worthy rival South Korea in the Asian Cup 1996. Actually, of all these hat-tricks, Daei stopped at three only on three occasions.

Poul Nielsen (Denmark) - 8 hat-tricks

PoulNielsenDenmark1910s (cropped).jpg
By Unknown (Life time: Unknown, taken in the 1910s) - Original publication: Unknown
Immediate source:,
 Public Domain, Link

Now we have to dig in to the ancient history of football, especially its international iteration as Poul Nielsen did his playing from 1913 to 1921. Amidst World War I, yes. Actually, four of his total eight hat-tricks were scored during it, one against the Netherlands and three against Norway. In total, Nielsen tormented Norway four times with a hat-trick, Germany once, and Sweden to start with. On four of these hat-tricks, he scored more than three goals. In total, Nielsen scored 52 goals for Denmark in 38 games!

Sven Rydell (Sweden) - 9 hat-tricks

Rydell Olsson 1923.jpg
By Unknown author -, Public Domain, Link

Another historic player and another from the north of Europe. Sven Rydell represented Sweden 43 times between 1923 and 1932, scoring 49 goals total. Rydell made his hat-tricks against Poland, Belgium, Egypt, Norway three times, the Netherlands, and Latvia, with two of them being pokers. Even though in his club career he played for clubs that aren't familiar to even Swedish football fans now, he left his mark on the history of international football as one of the players with most hat-tricks for a national team.

Lionel Messi (Argentina) - 9 hat-tricks

Lionel Messi (Argentina)

He started playing for Argentina in 2005 and still going strong, or even stronger, as Leo Messi finally tasted success with his country in the latter stages of his career. The Copa America and the World Cup. In total, Messi bagged 106 goals in his 178 appearances for Argentina. He waited six years for his first hat-trick which came in a friendly against Switzerland.

The next followed quickly in 2012, also in a friendly. But only in name, as Argentina defeated their eternal rivals Brazil 4:3. Guatemala in 2013 was a given as well, also in a friendly. Messi scored his first international hat-trick in a competitive match against Panama in the 2016 Copa America Centenario, marking 100 years of the first continental competition in South America.

Ecuador received its three from the greatest player of all time in 2017 during a World Cup qualifying match. Haiti in 2018 for a friendly match the Argentinians played with the tiny island nation. Bolivia was single-handedly defeated by Messi 3:0 in the World Cup qualifications for the Qatar WC.

Messi's highest-scoring match in international waters came against Estonia in the preparations for the World Cup, when he scored all five goals of the match! That was in the build-up to the greatest triumph of Messi's career, in the backdrop of it, Messi scored three against Curacao. It perfectly illustrates how hard is it to be one of the players who scored the most hat-tricks for a national team considering that Messi only has one game where he has over three goals! Also that it rarely happened in non-friendly matches!

Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) - 10 hat-tricks

Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)

It makes sense that the player with the most international goals is also the player with the most hat-tricks scored for the national team. CR7 bagged a total of 127 goals for Portugal (and counting) in his amazing 203 games! With the scoreboards showing his name three or more times on 10 of these games.

Cristiano had an early start with the Portugal NT, but as with the clubs, he started his career as a traditional winger so his first hat-trick for Portugal came 10 years after his debut! Northern Ireland had the first honour in the World Cup qualifiers.

The one that followed is arguably the most iconic Cristiano hat-trick for Portugal, as in the play-offs for the World Cup in Brazil, Sweden with Zlatan Ibrahimovic stood in the way. Scoring once in the first game, and three to Zlatan's two in the second saw CR7 send his country to Brazil.

Qualifiers for the European qualifiers in France saw Armenia get three from Ronaldo, the tournament which saw Portugal finally win the silverware.

Ronaldo scored his next two against tiny European nations of Andorra - which he put four past - and the Faroe Islands, firstly in 2016 and then in 2017.

Another memorable Cristiano hat-trick came in Portugal's opening game of the 2018 World Cup in Russia, when Cristiano set the final score at 3:3 with a cannonball of a free-kick.

Cristiano continued to record his hat-tricks in massive matches for Portugal, the first following coming in the Nations League semis against Switzerland. In another tournament Portugal won afterwards.

Lithuania got seven from CR7 over the course of two European qualifiers matches in 2019! While the last (so far) Cristiano hat-trick for Portugal came against Luxembourg in the 2021 European qualifiers.

An early candidate for making the list of players who scored the most hat-tricks for a national team is of course, Erling Haaland. Who has an amazing record of 27 goals in 28 matches for Norway, with two hat-tricks scored so far. It's hard to imagine he won't push in five more to make the cut as he is still 23 and ever-hungry for goals and match-balls.


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