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Ranked: The Top Goal Scorers in FIFA World Cup History

Ranked: The Top Goal Scorers in FIFA World Cup History

With the 2022 FIFA World Cup around the corner, soccer (or football) fans have their eyes set on how their favorite teams and players will perform.

But history shows that some players, and teams, are far more proficient in goals and wins than others. After all, with only 32 teams competing and the field quickly whittling down, there aren’t many chances for players to make their mark.

Who are history’s most prolific goal scorers? This series of graphics from Pablo Alvarez breaks down the top goal scorers in FIFA World Cup history, and their goals per appearances.

The World’s Cup Top Goal Scorers

Since the inaugural World Cup tournament in 1930, there have been 21 tournaments held across 17 countries.

At the first World Cup in Uruguay, 13 national teams competed for the championship trophy. The tournament then included 16 teams until 1982, when it expanded to 24 teams. Most recently, FIFA expanded to the current 32-team format starting in 1998.

And across all these tournaments, just 13 players have scored 10 or more goals:

RankPlayer (* denotes active)World Cup GoalsTournaments
1 🇩🇪 Miroslav Klose164
2 🇧🇷 Ronaldo153
3 🇩🇪 Gerd Müller142
4 🇫🇷 Just Fontaine131
5 🇧🇷 Pelé124
T6 🇭🇺 Sándor Kocsis111
T6 🇩🇪 Jürgen Klinsmann113
T8 🇩🇪 Helmut Rahn102
T8 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧 Gary Lineker102
T8 🇦🇷 Gabriel Batistuta103
T8 🇵🇪 Teófilo Cubillas102
T8 🇩🇪 Thomas Müller*102
T8 🇵🇱 Grzegorz Lato103

The record for the most goals scored at the World Cup currently belongs to Germany’s Miroslav Klose with 16 goals across 4 tournaments, including one championship in 2014.

In fact, Germany had the most 10+ goal scorers of any country with five, including the only still-active player Thomas Müller.

Other well-known legends on the list include Ronaldo (not to be confused with Cristiano Ronaldo) and Pelé from Brazil, and Gary Lineker from England. But the title for the most goals scored in just one tournament goes to France’s Just Fontaine, who scored an incredible 13 goals in six matches in 1958.

Tracking World Cup Goals Per Appearances

Because of a diverse field and an intense qualification process, some teams play more games than others. Therefore, the above list skews towards teams and players with many caps.

So Alvarez also charted how World Cup goal scorers compare on a per-match basis. Unfortunately, FIFA match reports only fully tracked appearances and substitutions from 1970 onwards, though this still gives a clear picture of some of the world’s most effective (and least effective) goal scorers:

charting goals scored versus appearances in the FIFA World Cup

Again, the top goal scorers Klose and Ronaldo appear very prominently with 15+ goals, but other legends with a similar number of appearances like Maradona, Messi, and Cristiano Ronaldo weren’t as successful on a per-match basis.

What happens when we take the top World Cup goal scorers with 5 or more goals from 1970 onwards and look at their goals/match rate?

PlayerWorld Cup Goals (1970–2018)Matches PlayedGoals/Match
Miroslav Klose16240.67
Ronaldo15190.79
Gerd Müller14131.08
Jürgen Klinsmann11170.65
Gary Lineker10120.83
Gabriel Batistuta10120.83
Teófilo Cubillas10130.77
Thomas Müller10160.63
Grzegorz Lato10200.50
Christian Vieri991.00
David Villa9120.75
Jairzinho9130.69
Paolo Rossi9140.64
Roberto Baggio9160.56
Karl-Heinz Rummenigge9190.47
Rivaldo8140.57
Rudi Völler8150.53
Diego Maradona8210.38
Careca790.78
Andrzej Szarmach7130.54
Luis Suárez7130.54
Johnny Rep7140.50
Cristiano Ronaldo7170.41
Oleg Salenko632.00
Harry Kane661.00
Salvatore Schillaci670.86
James Rodríguez680.75
Davor Šuker680.75
Neymar6100.60
Diego Forlán6100.60
Hristo Stoichkov6100.60
Asamoah Gyan6110.55
Dennis Bergkamp6120.50
Rob Rensenbrink6130.46
Bebeto6150.40
Arjen Robben6150.40
Rivellino6150.40
Zbigniew Boniek6160.38
Robin van Persie6170.35
Wesley Sneijder6170.35
Thierry Henry6170.35
Mario Kempes6180.33
Lionel Messi6190.32
Lothar Matthäus6250.24
Tomáš Skuhravý551.00
Jon Dahl Tomasson560.83
Fernando Morientes570.71
Kennet Andersson570.71
Alessandro Altobelli570.71
Romário580.63
Mario Mandžukić580.63
Marc Wilmots580.63
Emilio Butragueño590.56
Tim Cahill590.56
Roger Milla5100.50
Romelu Lukaku5100.50
Ivan Perišić5100.50
Hans Krankl5100.50
Raúl5110.45
Fernando Hierro5120.42
Zinedine Zidane5120.42
Landon Donovan5120.42
Johan Neeskens5120.42
Henrik Larsson5130.38
Gonzalo Higuaín5140.36
Edinson Cavani5140.36
Zico5140.36
Michel Platini5140.36
Lukas Podolski5150.33

Most players expectedly scored under one goal/match, but five players stand out:

  1. Russia’s Oleg Salenko with an incredible 2 goals/match (6 goals in 3 matches).
  2. Germany’s Gerd Müller with 1.08 goals/match.
  3. Italy’s Christian Vieri, England’s Harry Kane, and the Czech Republic’s Tomáš Skuhravý with 1 goal/match.

Future Top Goal Scorers

With many players in Qatar 2022 vying for both the national championship and the Golden Boot, which is awarded to the tournament’s top goal scorer, the rankings are always ripe to change.

And future tournaments will likely offer more goal-scoring opportunities. The 2026 World Cup to be held in Canada, the U.S., and Mexico will be the first to feature 48 teams after FIFA voted to expand the tournament.

Which active players, or up-and-coming talents, will be next to climb the all-time goal scoring rankings?

The post Ranked: The Top Goal Scorers in FIFA World Cup History appeared first on Visual Capitalist.

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