One cap wonder international cult heroes

February 4, 2016 | Filed Under: Blog 

A timely feature from Betway on FA Cup third round cult heroes got us thinking about which international footballers got just one cap off the back of equally memorable exploits.

The betway post looked at some historical cult heroes who made the third round their own including Mikey Thomas and ‘Arry’Redknapp, legends of the game. The players featured in this list may be classed as legends but not by many!

Most players with a sole appearance for their country fit into the failed to live up to early promise bracket, but others can be late bloomers or receive recognition just when they think any chance of turning out on such a stage has gone.

Alan Thompson

Newcastle native Thompson is best known for his spell north of the border with Celtic (2000-07), where he cultivated a reputation for having an impact one way or another in Old Firm derbies with Glasgow rivals Rangers. Scoring two winners (and seven goals in total) on such occasions, he was also sent off three times on derby day. Thompson also found the target in big European games, netting an Anfield opener as the Bhoys beat Liverpool en route to being 2003 UEFA Cup runners-up to Porto. He even has a goal against Barcelona on his CV!

Midfielder and occasional wingback Thompson thus proved to be a key performer from the Martin O’Neill era, allowing the Northern Irish manager to leave Parkhead on a high thanks to a decisive strike in the 2005 Scottish Cup final victory over Dundee United. At a time when natural left-footed options were missing from England’s roster (Paul Scholes had played on that flank at Euro 2004), Sven-Goran Eriksson tested out Thompson in a friendly against Sweden. If the Scottish Premier League had been as strong as its 1990s heyday, then further international recognition would surely have followed.

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Thompson, who also played for his hometown team, Bolton Wanderers, Aston Villa, Leeds United and Hartlepool, was the first Celtic player to have represented the Three Lions whilst on the Bhoys’ books and had been the only one until goalkeeper Fraser Forster – now with Southampton – followed suit. Winning nine honours with the Glasgow giants (four SPL titles, three Scottish Cups and two League Cups), Thompson’s name is not as well known as club icons of the same era, which include Henrik Larsson, Neil Lennon and John Hartson, but a return of 51 goals from 227 appearances from left midfield contributed to sustained success during his seven years at Celtic.

Sergio Pellissier

Italian football has its fair share of modern day veteran strikers, from Francesco Totti to Luca Toni and Antonio Di Natale, with loyalty to one club over lengthy periods often a feature, Chievo club captain and goal poacher Pellissier has been at the Verona club since 2000 having failed to make the grade at Torino. Following a couple of years on loan at Ferrara side SPAL, his Serie A debut followed in 2002.

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Over the next 14 seasons, though, in 2007/08 Chievo dropped into Serie B but achieved immediate promotion, Pellissier has grabbed almost 100 Italian top-flight goals. His career reached its zenith in 2009 when Azzurri national boss and World Cup winning coach Marcello Lippi called up Pellissier for a friendly against Northern Ireland. This was off the back of a Serie A campaign where he scored as many goals as Alessandro Del Piero, Filippo Inzaghi, Adrian Mutu and Totti.

Pellissier proved being in that exalted company was no fluke as, after Giampaolo Pazzini, he scored the third and final goal in Pisa on his only outing for his country. His reaction to being a debutant international scorer was remarkably humble: “It’s a dream that came true. L’azzurra is the cherry on the cake of an extraordinary season. But the merit is not mine, but all of Chievo.”

Michu

Swansea City have gone on a remarkable journey since avoiding the dreaded drop out of the Football League on the final day of the 2002/03 campaign. While long-serving players like Ashley Williams, former manager Garry Monk and Leon Britton were key member of the Swans’ spine during their meteoric rise from bottom to top tier, who could score the goals that would help maintain them after a successful maiden Premier League season?

Spaniard Michu was plucked from obscure Madrid side Rayo Vallecano for a fee of just £2m after an encouraging 2011/12 term when he netted 15 times in La Liga. Surely that was a fluke from the Oviedo native? Michu proved doubters wrong, as he was a menace when initially unleashed on the Premier League.

With a canny knack of arriving late into the box, Michu’s impact was immediate, scoring in each of his first three outings. His Premier League tally ended up at 18, and he broke the 20-goal barrier in all competitions, netting home and away against Arsenal and Manchester United. Under Michael Laudrup, Swansea soared to Capital One Cup glory, eliminating Liverpool and Chelsea en route to thumping surprise League Two package Bradford City 5-0 in the Wembley final.

Although injuries curtailed Michu’s second season with the Swans, though not before a sole Spain cap against Belarus in October 2013, and he was then farmed out on loan to Napoli amid reports of a fallout, nothing can take the gloss off his contribution to putting this south Wales side on the footballing map.

Geovanni

Here, we’re talking about the one man who played for Barcelona that became a hero at Hull City. It still seems the most unlikely of stories even now. Like so many South American talents, attacking midfielder Geovanni promised much in his youth and was in Brazil’s squad for the 2001 Copa America, making his only international in a 1-0 defeat by Mexico.

Just being on the Samba Boys roster, coupled with encouraging club from with Cruzeiro, saw Barca snap him up for a reported €18m. A bust up with Catalan coach Carles Rexach ended Geovanni’s Nou Camp dream, however, and he was sent out on loan to Benfica in 2003.

More of a hit in Lisbon, where he was back-to-back Benfica player of the year awards, Geovanni’s goals and guile helped the capital club to domestic success in Portugal. In 2015, the Eagles also beat Manchester United during the Champions League group stage, with a diving header from Geovanni cancelling out Paul Scholes’ opener.

Returning to Cruzeiro, he then signed for Manchester City in the summer of 2007. Geovanni failed to make much impact at Eastlands, however, and was snapped up by the Tigers for free the following year. He scored Hull’s first-ever Premier League goal against Fulham, and inspired the Humberside outfit to a famous victory at Arsenal.

Geovanni saved his best for the big games, with a stunning 30-yard free-kick against Spurs and was on target in fixtures with both Manchester teams. These strikes were enough to end the campaign as leading Tigers marksman as they avoided relegation, provoking that famous singing from Phil Brown.

They weren’t so lucky the following season and went down, with Geovanni’s influence waning. He is still writ large in Hull’s history, however, and gave some magic moments to East Yorkshire’s only league football outfit.

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