Top 5 goalscorers in World Cup history

World Cup

The 2022 World Cup is just around the corner, where some of the best footballers on the globe will be showcasing their skills in a bid to lift the famous trophy.

The long list of talented players on show includes several world-class attackers, all of which will have one eye on the World Cup Golden Boot. Previous winners include Ronaldo, Davor Sukor, Miroslav Klose, Eusebio, Gary Lineker and Harry Kane.

They all secured the iconic award thanks to their abilities in front of goal, and now the likes of Kylian Mbappe, Karim Benzema, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar, among many others, will try and follow in their footsteps in Qatar.

The current generation of attackers does, however, have a long way to go if they are ever to etch their name in World Cup goalscoring folklore.

Here are the top 5 goalscorers in World Cup history:

5. Pele – 12

Brazil legend Pele could do just about anything on a football pitch, with his mazy dribbles and stunning goals forever imprinted in the history of the beautiful game. He played in the 1958, 1962, 1966 and 1970 World Cups for his nation, scoring 12 goals from his 14 matches.

With 77 goals, Pele remains Brazil’s all-time top goalscorer. Current forward Neymar is, however, closing in on the record with 75. But the legendary Pele managed the feat in just 92 matches, compared to Neymar’s 121. His phenomenal international career began in 1957, lasting all the way until 1971. Brazil have produced countless stunning talents throughout their rich football history, with Pele standing at the very top of the pile.

4. Just Fontaine – 13

Incredibly, France’s Just Fontaine netted all 13 of his World Cup goals in a single tournament, with the former forward still holding the record to this day. The 1958 edition in Sweden was when he came alive for his nation, with his four goals against giants West Germany particularly memorable.

Given Fontaine’s history in front of goal, fans should have, perhaps, anticipated plenty of goals. He scored a hat-trick on his national team debut, stealing the show in a World Cup qualifier against Luxembourg. The striker would end his France career with a stunning 30 goals from just 21 matches.

World Cup

3. Gerd Muller – 14

Fox in the box Gerd Muller was simply one of the greatest footballers the game has ever seen, with his lengthy honours list largely down to his sublime finishing in front of goal. His club achievements include four Bundesliga titles and three European Cups with Bayern Munich.

But he didn’t limit himself to club football, with Muller scoring an astonishing 68 goals from his 62 games for his country West Germany. A total of 14 of those goals arrived in the World Cup, 10 of which came in the 1970 tournament, with the other four coming in the 1974 edition, the latter of which was won by West Germany. A natural goalscorer, Muller was a hero for both club and country, with his feats on the biggest stage of them all the stuff of legend.

2. Ronaldo – 15

Brazil legend Ronaldo conquered the world during his time on the pitch, scoring goal after goal for his various clubs and his beloved country. The likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona, PSV and Inter Milan all witnessed his special talents up close, with the entire world doing just that when the striker lined out in three World Cups, playing a total of 19 matches. Despite his constant and unfortunate injury struggles, Ronaldo remained one of the most lethal strikers in the world for quite some time.

His career on the biggest stage theoretically began in 1994, when the 17-year-old watched on as his country lifted the trophy in the USA. But his own story came to life in the following tournaments. Ronaldo clinched the Golden Ball award and scored four goals in the 1998 event, with the Golden Boot then going his way four years later thanks to his phenomenal tally of eight goals. Three more goals arrived in his final World Cup in 2006.

1. Miroslav Klose – 16

Sitting at the very top of the pile for the most World Cup goals is former Germany striker Miroslav Klose. The hitman netted 16 goals in 24 matches across the 2002, 2006, 2010 and 2014 competitions.

Only Ronaldo managed more than Klose in that first event, with the latter hitting the back of the net five times. But it was the German who secured the Golden Boot in the following tournament, with the forward scoring another five goals at the 2006 World Cup.

Tallies of four and two followed in the 2010 and 2014 competitions respectively. Klose ended his fantastic international career at the top of Germany’s all-time scoring list with 71 goals, three ahead of the legendary Muller.

Given the various talents that are now playing the game, and indeed the gradually increasing number of games as the World Cups go on, Klose’s record may not stand forever. The likes of Erling Haaland and Kylian Mbappe could be a real threat, but the former will need to guide Norway to the competition first in order to chase down the record.

But for now, Klose’s historic feats remain unbeaten, with his compatriot Thomas Muller the only active player in the list anywhere near the record. The Bayern Munich man has 10 World Cup goals to his name, and will be eyeing a few more in Qatar in what could be his farewell on the big stage for Germany.

World Cup

World Cup goalscoring statistics

2,548 – Goals scored in the 21 editions of the World Cup

13 – Goals scored by France’s Just Fontaine at the 1958 World Cup, the most goals scored in a single tournament

10 – World Cup goals for Germany’s Thomas Muller, the most for an active player

2.20 – Goal average for Hungary’s Sandor Kocsis, the highest for players to have scored at least 10 World Cup goals

 4 – Goals scored by the Golden Boot winner at the 1962 World Cup, the lowest tally to win the award (six players scored four goals)

52 – Hat-tricks scored in World Cup history

8 – Hat-tricks at the 1954 World Cup, the most hat-tricks scored in a single tournament

229 – World Cup goals scored by Brazil, no other country has scored more

13 July 1930 – First ever World Cup goal, scored by France’s Lucien Laurent against Mexico

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Peter Lynch

Peter Lynch has a passion for both sports and writing.