In a masterful moment of understatement, Belgian striker Christian Benteke remarked the most important thing had been to score early — after netting in just 8.1 seconds.
In doing so — and in less time than it took Usain Bolt to break the 100 meters world record — Benteke claimed the record for scoring the fastest ever goal in a competitive international, firing Belgium into the lead against Gibraltar in Monday’s World Cup qualifier.
Born in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s capital of Kinshasa, the 25-year-old Belgian international stole the ball in the opposition’s half when an errant pass went astray, capitalizing on a disordered defense before calmly beating Deren Ibrahim in the Gibraltar goal.
The Crystal Palace forward went on to claim a hat-trick in Belgium’s 6-0 win.
Benteke narrowly edges out the next best competitive international mark by 0.2 seconds according to FIFA, with the previous record set by San Marino’s Davide Gualtieri against England in 1993.
That was a particularly embarrassing moment for English football given San Marino have never won a competitive game, though England did recover to win 7-1.
But is Benteke’s strike the fastest ever?
The quickest goal in an official international tournament was scored by Turkey’s Hakan Sukur after 10.89 seconds against World Cup host South Korea in the third place playoff fourteen years ago.
Neymar entered the Guiness World Record Books for the fastest goal in Olympic history, scoring against Honduras in Rio within just 14 seconds.
Neither beat Benteke, but in club football, Paolo Poggi of Piacenza does at least match the Belgian’s time, taking 8.1s to score against Fiorentina in the 2001/02 Serie A season.
Former Bayern Munich forward Roy Makaay holds the honor of scoring the fastest Champions League goal, slotting it past Iker Casillas after just 10.12 seconds in a home round of 16 clash back in 2007.
Meanwhile, the fastest ever Europa League goal was scored this year by Jan Sýkora of Czech side Liberec, taking 10.69 seconds to score against Azerbaijani host Qaraba?.
Former Germany striker Lukas Podolski beats them all — if friendly matches are included — and is reported to have scored against Ecuador in 2013 after six seconds.
Gibraltar actually kicked off against Belgium — meaning Benteke had to gain possession as well as score — but, the San Marino goal aside, one thing unites all the records above.
Be it Benteke, Poggi, Podolski, Sykora or Makaay, the opposition has kicked off first — lending credence to the theory a team is never more vulnerable that having just lost the ball.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, who sold Benteke to Palace for $33 million in August after the Belgian featured sporadically last season, is a big believer in this idea, with the English Premier League team arch exponents this season of the tactical strategy of gegenpressing.
As you get your tongue round that phrase spare a thought for Saudi Arabian footballer Nawaf Al Abed.
The Al-Hilal player scored what many believe to be the fastest goal in history, hitting the back of the net in just two seconds with a 60-yard drive — only to have the game ruled invalid due to the fielding of ineligible players.