“Kevin De Bruyne has played against Wales nine times throughout his international career. Has any player earned more caps against the same opposition?” asks Joran.
De Bruyne may be bored of facing Joe Allen and friends, but he’s got a long way to go before he beats the record for most caps against a single country.
“The Danish international Per Røntved featured 11 times against Sweden between 1970 and 1982,” writes Troels Milo Knudsen. Unsurprisingly, geographical rivalries provide most of the answers to this question.
“Billy Wright played 13 times versus Scotland between 1947 and 1959,” notes Michael Haughey, “Bobby Moore made 12 appearances against the Scots from 1963 to 1973.” Wright also played 13 times, an England record, against Northern Ireland.
“There must be several players in teams that play in smaller confederations,” writes Will Van der Byl. “The most obvious one I can think of is Canada’s captain Atiba Hutchinson, who has won 14 of his 98 caps playing against Honduras in a mixture of World Cup qualifiers, Gold Cup, Nations League and friendlies.”
In the same part of the world, Ben Cordes points out that Landon Donovan won 17 of his USA caps against Mexico, including the celebrated victory at the 2002 World Cup.
Back to Britain, where the Home International Championship, which ran until 1984, provided plenty of opportunities to rack up appearances against the same opponent. Especially if you were the best goalkeeper in your country, arguably the world. “Pat Jennings (Northern Ireland 1964–86, 119 caps) played 20 times against England, and 19 times against Scotland,” writes John Curry. Those 20 caps include the famous night at Wembley when Jennings kept England at bay and ensured Northern Ireland’s qualification for Mexico 86 ahead of Romania.
According to the 11v11 site, the great Argentina winger Pedro Calomino, who played for his country between 1912-24, won 25 of his 41 caps against Uruguay. (There’s a bit of doubt about the official status of games at either end of his career, but we can safely say he played against Uruguay a helluva lot.)
“I suspect the record holder is the US legend Kristine Lilly,” suggests Tim Dockery. “Sadly, I can’t find a full list of all her matches, but looking at just the first 225 of her 354 caps, she faced Canada 19 times, China 24 times and Norway 25 times.”
We’re sure Lilly will hold the record, but we also can’t find a list of her 354 caps. If anyone can, please send it. Otherwise for now, the best we can do is the Malaysian legend Soh Chin Ann. According to RSSSF, he faced South Korea 28 times between 1969-84.
Managers in music videos (2)
In last week’s Knowledge, we used José Mourinho and Stormzy as an excuse to look at managers in music videos. Turns out we missed a number of classics. Some are official club/country videos, which probably isn’t in the spirit of the original question, but they’re too good to leave out.
And finally, the video that came this close to redeeming 2020.
Big money in lower divisions
“I have memories of Hermann Hreidarsson being signed from Crystal Palace by Brentford for £750,000 during the 1998-99 season when they were in the third division (fourth tier),” writes Rob Davies. “Is that the highest transfer fee paid for that division? Even by today’s standards it seems enormous.”
It’s a whopping fee, but it’s not the record. In 2009, when they were celebrating life under Sven-Goran Eriksson, Notts County signed Kasper Schmeichel from Manchester City. The fee was officially undisclosed but widely reported as being around £1.5m. He was worth it: County won the league at a canter. Things didn’t end so well, mind.
A double-barrelled quandary
“I know teams these days tend to wear even a new away kit at the first opportunity at home as a form of advertising,” wrote Simon Horner in 2012, “but has there ever been a kit that, due to a lack of colour clashes, has never been worn?”
While there were a whole multitude of shirts produced in the 90s that should never have seen the light of day due to their eyeball-bleeding ugliness, Fiorentina’s was perhaps the only one banned on political grounds. It took until December of the 1992-93 season before anyone noticed that the club’s away kit included (presumably unintentional) swastikas. The kit was quickly withdrawn. “Fiorentina and the manufacturers, Lotto, would like to underline that the optical effect [of a swastika image] is purely a matter of chance,” culpa mea-ed the club in a statement.
Of course, Fiorentina actually played in that kit – which didn’t answer Simon’s question – but Jon Waite brought us news of kits that never saw competitive action beyond a seven year-old winger down the park. “The FA produced a sky-blue version of the 1990 World Cup shirt (as famously modelled by Bernard Sumner in the World in Motion video) that was never worn in a fixture,” explained Jon. “A different sky-blue third kit was worn once in a qualifier in Turkey a year later when Dennis Wise scored the winner.”
Jon also nominated QPR’s third kit from the 1989-90 season, which was a jazzy black and orange number – their away kit was red and black and the lack of colour clashes meant it was left mouldering on the dressing room shelves. They also had an unused third kit in 1991-92. “It has been long rumoured that this kit was nixed by two senior professionals at the club, Ray Wilkins and Alan McDonald,” reckoned Jon. “Wilkins was still revered at Rangers from his time as a player there and McDonald was an east Belfast boy, long time Rangers fan and Northern Ireland captain. Both allegedly refused to wear the shirt for fear of upsetting friends in high places.”
Can you help?
“Have there been any examples of a player hitting the crossbar and both goalposts with three separate shots/headers in the same match?” asks Graham Clayton.
“Switzerland’s goalkeeper Yann Sommer recently saved his fifth penalty in a row in international matches (shoot-outs excluded). Is this a record and if no, what are the longest penalty-saving streaks in football’s history?” wonders Thomas Loser.
“Due to the pitch fiasco for Coventry, City are playing five home games in October 2022,” explains Larry Johnson. “Has this ever happened before to a league club? Weather and Cup buildups excepted.”
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