Woodburn for world-beater? 10 players who scored on their international debuts – then went on to greatness

Ben Woodburn Wales goal

Woodburn’s winner for Wales against Austria has us thinking about the goals that proved a sign of things to come

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The list of footballers who scored on their international debuts then failed to do a fat lot more is uncomfortably long: Francis Jeffers, Rickie Lambert, David Nugent and Kieran Richardson are all recent victims of such a fate (and that’s just England).

Yet after netting a winner in his first appearance for Wales last weekend (what were you doing when you were 17?), Liverpool’s Ben Woodburn will be hoping to continue on the other path of debut goals. These were the strikes that heralded an international star of the future...

Zinedine Zidane (France, 1994)

In August 1994, France were 2-0 down to the Czech Republic in a friendly that was turning out to be rather forgettable. Good thing they had a solid option on the bench to change all of that, then. The 22-year-old Zizou came on for his first full cap and proceeded to score an outrageous goal, running through Czech defence with ease before slamming home from long distance. Then he headed in from a corner – quite brilliantly, we're sure you'll agree – to complete his brace and France’s comeback.

That bullet header was a sign of things to come. Four years later, Zidane nodded in twice as hosts France beat Brazil 3-0 in the 1998 World Cup Final. Of course, his bonce would get him in trouble in the 2006 finale as he was sent off for that headbutt on Marco Materazzi.

Yet overall, the midfielder’s international career of 108 caps, 31 goals, one World Cup victory and a European Championship triumph can probably be considered fairly successful. It's just a shame that great players don't become great manag- oh. 

Bobby Charlton (England, 1958)

Few international debut goals were followed by a more stellar career than that of Sir Bobby Charlton. The then-20-year-old attacking midfielder created England’s first goal in a 4-0 win over Scotland in 1958, lifting a delicate free-kick into the six-yard box for Bryan Douglas to head home.

Charlton received a taste of his own delicious medicine in the second half as Tom Finney put in a well-timed cross, met by Charlton's sweetly struck right-foot volley. That finish would prove to be his first of 49 goals in an England shirt – a record only beaten by Wayne Rooney. Like Ben Woodburn, Charlton also scored on his club debut. Oh, and he won the 1966 World Cup, which is a nice touch.

Goal at 1.35

Pele (Brazil, 1957)

He was the greatest goalscorer of his era – arguably of any era – so it’s little surprise that Pele scored on his Brazil debut. Yet the 16-year-old had to suffer disappointment, as his strike came in a 2-1 defeat at home to rivals Argentina in 1957. Still, it did kick start an international career of 77 goals in 92 appearances across 14 years of service. Not bad going.

Pele was the key figure in helping his national team to win three World Cups, spanning four tournaments from 1958 to 1970. Much like Lionel Messi vs Cristiano Ronaldo, whether Pele was better than Diego Maradona is a debate that football fans still seemingly never tire of. Either way, Pele scored on his international debut - and probably no one better did.

Pele debut

A year after scoring on his debut, Pele was winning the World Cup aged 17

Miroslav Klose (Germany, 2001)

He may not have been the most prolific goalscorer at his various clubs – he particularly struggled during a four-year spell at Bayern Munich – but Klose always came alive on the international stage. How's this? He’s the top goalscorer in World Cup history with 16 goals (one ahead of the Brazilian Ronaldo).

But before all that, the Poland-born striker made his debut in dramatic fashion for Germany in 2001. Die Mannschaft were drawing 1-1 with Albania in a World Cup qualifier when Klose was brought off the bench. With two minutes left on the clock, the 22-year-old popped up with the most needless diving header of all-time (seriously, the ball is so low - just kick it, Miroslav) to win the game 2-1.

Two minutes in...

It was the first of 71 goals in 137 games for Germany, in a career which involved two World Cup final appearances - including a triumphant one in 2014.