They began with a bang...
The list of footballers who scored on their international debuts and then failed to do much more is uncomfortably long: Francis Jeffers, Rickie Lambert, David Nugent and Kieran Richardson are all relatively recent victims of such a fate (and that’s just England).
These, however, were the strikes that ushered in international stars of the future. Can Declan Rice and Callum Hudson-Odoi add their names to the list this weekend?
Zinedine Zidane (France, 1994)
In August 1994, Zidane came off the bench to help France come back from two down against the Czech Republic. The 22-year-old scored an outrageous individual goal to halve the deficit, running through the Czech defence with ease before slamming home from long distance. Then he headed in from a corner to complete his brace and level the scores.
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 later get him in trouble in 2006, when he was sent off for sinking his noggin into Marco Materazzi, but he remains one of Les Bleus’ best of all time.
Bobby Charlton (England, 1958)
Few international debut goals were followed by a more stellar career than that of Sir Bobby. The then-20-year-old attacking midfielder created England’s first goal in a 4-0 win over Scotland in 1958, lifting in a delicate free-kick for Bryan Douglas to head home.
Charlton went to that year’s World Cup but didn’t receive a single minute of game time as the Three Lions crashed out in the group stage. Eight years later he was a key man in England’s victorious campaign on home soil, and by the time of his international retirement in 1970 he'd scored 49 goals – a record until Wayne Rooney broke it in 2015 – in 106 matches.
Miroslav Klose (Germany, 2001)
He might not have been the most prolific goalscorer at club level – and particularly struggled during a four-year spell at Bayern Munich – but Klose always came alive on the international stage. He’s the top goalscorer in World Cup history with 16 goals (one ahead of the Brazilian Ronaldo), after all.
Klose began with a bang and barely looked back thereafter, scoring against Albania on his maiden international outing to give Germany a 2-1 victory. He went on to find the net on 70 more occasions for Die Mannschaft, then sensibly retired after helping Joachim Low’s side win the World Cup in 2014.
Neymar (Brazil, 2010)
The icon of Brazil’s 2014 home World Cup, Neymar didn’t take long to announce himself on the international stage – he scored on debut inside 28 minutes at the age of 18 with a tidy header against the United States, before falling to his knees in celebration.
An injury cut short his World Cup four years later, and Brazil went on to suffer a 7-1 demolition by Germany in the semi-finals. The jury is out on whether Neymar has fulfilled his early promise, but it’s hard to argue with his record for the Seleção: 60 goals in 96 appearances means only Ronaldo and Pele have found the net more often for the five-time World Cup winners.
Diego Forlan (Uruguay, 2002)
While he infamously struggled to make a long-term impact at Manchester United, the Uruguayan had greater success in La Liga - and always seemed to play superbly for his country. That culminated in the 2010 World Cup, where Uruguay got to the semi-finals and Forlan won the Golden Ball as the tournament’s best player.
His first national team goal came in his debut game: a 3-2 win over Saudi Arabia, when Forlan was 22. He went on to nab 32 in 116 games for La Celeste, including a joint-high five at World Cup 2010.
Pele (Brazil, 1957)
He was the greatest goalscorer of his 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 by 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.
The greatest World Cup player of all time, Pele lifted the trophy on no fewer than three occasions – a feat no one else has matched. Almost half a century on from his retirement, he remains the Seleção’s record goalscorer.
Alan Shearer (England, 1992)
Another player who scored on debut for club and country, Shearer’s first for the Three Lions came in a 2-0 win over France in a 1992 friendly. Left unmarked inside the six-yard box, the 21-year-old Geordie forward took the ball under control with his back to goal, swivelled on the spot, then smashed home the first of his 30 goals in an England shirt.
Shearer went on to score 260 Premier League goals, a top-flight record in the post-1992 Prem era. His best spell in an England shirt came in 1996, with five strikes in as many games as he top-scored in a home European Championship – which ended in the inevitable semi-final shoot-out loss to Germany.
Just Fontaine (France, 1953)
Never mind scoring a goal to calm the nerves on your debut, the 20-year-old Fontaine won over the French fans in 1953 with a hat-trick. Mind you, it did come in an 8-0 win over a poor Luxembourg side - but they all count.
Fontaine knew this lesson better than most, as he had the most prolific World Cup any player has ever experienced. It took Fontaine just one World Cup, in 1958, to score 13 goals for France in six matches (four of them against defending champions West Germany).
With an incredible ratio of 30 goals in only 21 outings for Les Bleus, ‘Justo’ suffered a career-ending injury in 1962 at the age of 28.
Mark Hughes (Wales, 1984)
Hughes ticked off his first goal when, 17 minutes into his Welsh international career, the 20-year-old forward scored a header against an England side who had exuded confidence pre-match. The game ended in a 1-0 victory for the underdogs.
After that spectacular debut, Hughes was able to earn a further 71 caps for his country and score another 15 goals. He never got the chance to play at a major tournament, though, with Wales missing out on the 1986 World Cup on goal difference despite a famous 3-0 triumph over Spain.
Faas Wilkes (Holland, 1946)
Bear with us. Poor old Luxembourg were the victims of another debut drubbing, seven years before Fontaine’s hat-trick. In 1946, it was Johan Cruyff’s idol Faas Wilkes who scored not three but four goals on his international bow for the Netherlands.
The 22-year-old forward grabbed 35 goals in 38 games for his country and held the record of all-time top scorer from 1959 to 1998, until Dennis Bergkamp broke it. Charlton attempted to sign Wilkes in the late 1940s, but the Dutch FA were having none of it, insisting that their players were amateurs, not professionals.
In 1949, however, Wilkes wanted to further his ambitions and successfully signed for Inter. The Dutch FA weren’t thrilled (and presumably, neither were Charlton).