There is no shortage of strange sports terms floating around, and one you may be less familiar with is what’s known as a brace in soccer.
It isn’t something that the players wear to help support their legs or the name of a certain set piece that players would need to brace themselves for. In fact, this is a term related to goal scoring.
What is a brace in soccer? A brace in soccer is when one player scores two goals in a single match within any of the play periods except for penalty shoot-outs. The word “brace” has its roots in the old English language and signifies a pair of something.
Why is it Called a Brace?
Some may know that scoring three goals in a single game is called a hat trick, which is in itself a strange term with roots in cricket. Legend has it that the term came from when a player scored thrice in a match and the crowd celebrated the achievement by pooling their money to give him a hat.
Perhaps a less commonly known term is a brace of goals. The origin of the word brace in the context of meaning a pair of something comes from the 1400s in reference to the Old English term for killing two animals while out hunting.
Those top soccer scorers are definitely on the hunt for points, and if they get two of them in the same game, they are said to have scored a brace.
Since this term comes from an Old English word, it is most often heard used in conversation by British commentators and fans, so don’t worry if you haven’t noticed it outside of those areas. Since soccer is a global sport, it makes sense that there are many terms in different languages.
Similar to the rules of obtaining a hat trick, the two goals must be scored by the same player during a game, but they do not have to be scored consecutively. For a player to be considered to have scored a brace, both of the goals must come before any penalty shoot-outs.
This means goals scored in the first or second half, as well as any stoppage time and extra time periods, will be counted towards a brace. However, since the penalty shoot-out is considered a team achievement, none of the goals scored there count towards any players’ individual statistics.
Which Players Have the Most Braces?
In the annual tournament known as the UEFA Champions League, the top five players with the most braces to their names are:
- Cristiano Ronaldo – 38 braces
- Lionel Messi – 34 braces
- Robert Lewandowski – 20 braces
- Karim Benzema – 17 braces
- Raúl González – 14 braces
As evidenced by the statistics above, scoring two goals in a single game is no easy feat at the professional level, and there is a clear delineation between the top two brace scorers and the third, fourth, and fifth.
Statistics such as these can be used to truly understand the level of skill players such as Ronaldo and Messi have when compared to other incredibly skilled scorers.
No matter who is scoring them, it’s always exciting for fans to see their favorite players smash the ball into the back of the net.
When this happens at a global tournament like the FIFA World Cup or the Olympic Games, fans and statisticians definitely take notice.
FIFA World Cup
Belgian player Romelu Lukaku became the first player in 32 years to score back-to-back braces in the World Cup finals matches when he scored a brace in his 2018 match against Tunisia. This feat hadn’t been accomplished since Diego Maradona scored a brace in the final games of both the 1972 and 1976 tournaments.
In 2014, Toni Kroos from Germany scored two goals within one minute, nine seconds of each other in a game against Brazil, earning the record for the fastest brace scored in the World Cup.
In 1958, Pele became the youngest player ever to score in a World Cup final at the age of 17, and he not only scored once, but twice, securing a brace in Brazil’s win against Sweden. This record still stands 63 years later.
However, in the 2018 World Cup, Kylian Mbappe became the youngest player to score a brace in the World Cup except for Pele. Mbappe was 19 and 1/2, and his brace didn’t come in the finals, but this is a feat nonetheless.
Even though the Olympics are not soccer’s most popular tournament, there have been some stunning braces scored at those venues, as well. For example, Americans Megan Rapinoe and Carli Lloyd scored a brace apiece against Australia at the 2021 Olympic Games (which were delayed in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic).
Also in 2021, Marta Vieira da Silva scored a brace in Brazil’s commanding victory over China, and these goals also contributed to her record of being the only soccer player ever to score goals in five consecutive Olympic games. After the game was over, famed Brazilian men’s player, Pele, shared a message of support for Marta and applauded how much she inspired women in the sport.
Interestingly, Pele’s full name is Edson Arantes do Nascimento, but he goes by the mononym Pele, a childhood nickname. Marta is also mononymous in Brazil and beyond, being known simply by her first name.
Both men and women who play at elite professional levels know how hard it is to score once in a game, never mind twice in a game. Scoring a brace is an achievement to be honored, and even the most skilled players can struggle to capture two goals in a single game.
From its roots in the 1400s to today’s usage, attaining a brace definitely deserves an iconic goal celebration that will no doubt be turned into a GIF so that we can all cheer together.