Tuesday, 28 May 2024

What Is A Brace In Soccer?

Football is packed with words and phrases that can sometimes be a little confusing to outsiders. As the game has cemented its status in society and popular culture over the years, an expansive vocabulary has been developed to describe what we see on the soccer field.

One of the most commonly used phrases, and a phrase that has a completely different meaning outside the world of football, is the “brace.” A brace in soccer is a relatively common occurrence, seen as often in the lower divisions as it is under the bright lights of the Premier League. But what does it mean to score a brace?

In this article, we’ll explain what a brace is, diving through the origins of the term and exploring some of the most famous braces of the modern era. There are some absolute legends of the game that have scored braces in the biggest matches of all — by the time we’re done, you’ll be well versed on all these iconic goalscorers.

What Is A Brace In Soccer?

In soccer, a brace is when a player scores two goals in a single match. It’s that simple. One solo goal cannot be called a brace, and as soon as a player notches a third it becomes a hat trick rather than a brace.

It doesn’t matter when in a match those two goals are scored — the first goal could be converted after six minutes and the second after 89, and it would still be a brace. To the same end, braces don’t have to be scored in a single 45-minute half.

While soccer fans will be used to the sight of a centre-back or deep-lying defensive midfielder putting the ball into the back of the net from a corner or free kick, it’s much rarer for defensively-minded players to grab two goals in a single soccer game, so most of the time braces are scored by attacking players. We’ll soon dive into who the most celebrated brace-scorers in football are; but first, why has this soccer phenomenon been given such a strange name?

Why Is It Called A Brace?

The term “brace” is an English expression, and not one you’ll typically hear outside of match commentary and punditry circles in English-speaking countries. This is a reflection of the origins of the term; the word ‘brace’ can be traced back to Old English, when a brace signified a ‘pair’ of something that was killed or shot down (for example, game shooters might refer to the killing of two rabbits or two pheasants as a “brace”).

This terminology can be followed back even further, too. In the old Anglo-French language that laid the foundations for Old English, a brace (deriving from the Latin “bracchia” and the Ancient Greek “brakhion”, both meaning “arm”) meant a “pair of arms”. Over time, “brace” was cemented in the English language as a word that meant a pair of something, and it was this context that led to the word’s adoption by soccer fans in the 19th century.

After the Laws of the Game had been laid out by the English Football Association and the first formalised association football competitions had been structured, the popularity of the phrase “scoring a brace of goals” rose, as more and more people across society began following football. Since then, the phrase has been shortened to the point that most pundits and commentators will simply say that a given soccer player has scored a brace, rather than a “brace of goals”.

Scoring multiple goals in a single game is no mean feat, as most people who have played the game will testify. So when it comes to scoring a pair of goals on a consistent basis, the list of players that have done so at the highest level is pretty illustrious.

Who Has Scored The Most Braces?

During Fulham’s barnstorming Championship title-winning season of 2021/22, Aleksandr Mitrovic went down in Football League history for his incredible goalscoring form — in 44 league matches across the campaign, he scored a remarkable 43 goals, breaking the EFL Championship scoring record and setting a mark that will probably never be broken in the division again.

Mitrovic

The Serbian international bagged a staggering nine braces during that season; however, reaching these kinds of figures is much more difficult once you make it to the top flight.

In the Premier League, a number of players have demonstrated their prolific nature by recording a multiple braces in a single season. For fans of the EPL it will be no surprise to hear that the player who holds the record for the most braces in a campaign is the league’s all-time top goalscorer Alan Shearer, who scored 10 braces in 1994/94, a season in which he registered 34 league goals.

There is a caveat here, however; with 22 teams competing in the top flight back in the mid-90s, Shearer’s goals were scored over a 42-game season, meaning he had 4 additional matches to get his numbers up in.

Since the Premier League has followed a 38-game format, four players have managed to score 9 braces in a single term. Kevin Phillips managed it for Sunderland during the 1999/00 season, while Thierry Henry also accomplished this feat a few years later in 2005/06.

In 2007/08, Manchester United’s former star man Cristiano Ronaldo registered 9 braces, and Liverpool’s Luis Suarez also scored two goals in a game on 9 different occasions in the 2013/14 season.

To expand our sights beyond the English top division, the Champions League has also seen some impressive goalscoring achievements over the year. In the competition’s history, no player has scored more braces in competitive Champions League matches than Cristiano Ronaldo, with the Portuguese star bagging a remarkable 38 braces in his 187 Champions League appearances.

Not far behind is World Cup-winning Argentina legend Lionel Messi, who has scored 34 Champions League braces (on top of his staggering 134 La Liga braces). In total, Messi and Ronaldo both have over 200 career braces, while at international level, the player to have scored the most braces in World Cup history is the Brazilian Ronaldo, with 4.

Famous Braces

Ultimately, football isn’t just about numbers. The reason we all follow the beautiful game is because it’s capable of conjuring some absolutely jaw-dropping moments of magic. Over the years, this rich heritage has been strengthened by the scoring of some wonderful braces at the highest possible level. Here are a few that stand out.

Gareth Bale, Real Madrid

Bale

Welsh superstar Gareth Bale’s time at Real Madrid may have ended disappointingly, but the supremely-talented forward produced some incredible displays during his time with the Spanish giants. Perhaps his most memorable performance of all came during the 2018 Champions League final, in which he came off the bench on the hour mark with the score level and proceeded to score one of the most iconic braces ever seen in football. The second goal, a powerful long-distance strike, was admittedly a howler of a miss from goalkeeper Loris Karius, but the first goal, a spectacular overhead kick from just inside the box, arguably remains the greatest Champions League final goal of all time.

Zinedine Zidane, France

There’s no bigger stage than the World Cup final, and in 1998, legendary French attacking midfielder Zinedine Zidane was the main man in that iconic game; helping Les Bleus secure their first ever World Cup win, his two goals — both headers from corners — guided France to a 3-0 victory over Brazil. And it’s not just the two goals that shine in the memory, with Zidane playing out of his skin that day in one of the great individual World Cup performances.

Lionel Messi, Argentina

Given the incredible drama that took place across the 2022 World Cup final, contested between Argentina and France — from the European side’s shock Mbappe-led comeback to Emi Martinez’s penalty heroics — it’s almost easy to forget that Lionel Messi scored a pivotal brace in that match to lead Argentina to an iconic World Cup win. His first goal, a cleanly-dispatched penalty, was followed up a dramatic extra-time would-be winner, and it’s important to recognise the wider significance of those goals; not only did they give Messi that long-awaited Jules Rimet trophy, they also made him the first place in history to score in the group stage, round of 16, quarter-final, semi-final and final of a single World Cup.

If you’d like to find out more about how football lovers label the goalscoring antics of their favourite attackers, check out our guide to hat tricks in soccer.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What Is 3 Goals In Soccer Called?

When a player scores 3 goals in the same match, it’s called a hat trick. The 3 goals don’t have to be scored in succession, and they can be scored at any point in a match, whether it’s in regulation time or stoppage time at the end of a half. There’s also the phenomenon of the “perfect hat-trick”, which means scoring one goal with the right foot, one goal with the left foot, and one goal with the head. Check out our guide to hat tricks in soccer for more information.

What Is 4 Goals In Soccer Called?

Hat tricks are rare enough, but what’s even less common is for a player to score 4 goals in a single match — although it does happen, with one prominent example that springs to mind being Andriy Arshavin’s iconic four-goal return in a 2009 Premier League match against Liverpool. When a player grabs four, it can be referred to as a ‘haul’.

What Is 5 Goals In Soccer Called?

Scoring 5 goals in one match is a staggering achievement, and one that happens extremely rarely. However, there is also a name for this particular type of prolific scoring — when a player bags 5 goals in a single game, it’s unofficially called a ‘glut’.

What Is 6 Goals In Soccer Called?

When a player scores six goals in a single match of soccer — a situation which, trust us, barely ever happens — there is no official name for it. That’s hardly surprising given the rarity of the event. The same goes for when a player scores 7, with a five-goal ‘glut’ being the highest tally that has a commonly used name attached to it.

Conclusion

The brace is a revered achievement in the world of soccer, symbolizing a player’s ability to consistently find the back of the net. From the origins of the term to the legendary players who have scored brace after brace, the significance of this feat is deeply ingrained in the sport’s history. Whether it’s Gareth Bale’s stunning brace in the Champions League final or Zinedine Zidane’s unforgettable headers in the World Cup final, braces have provided us with unforgettable moments of brilliance. So the next time you see a player score two goals in a single game, remember the significance of their brace and appreciate their skill.