The World Cup's 7 All-Time Leading Goal Scorers

Say what you will about the slow death of nationalism, but a single cursory glance at the crowd in virtually any major international sports tournament will confirm that nationalism is alive and well i

Say what you will about the slow death of nationalism, but a single cursory glance at the crowd in virtually any major international sports tournament will confirm that nationalism is alive and well in the world. We may no longer stream into urban centers for military parades, flags waving in the breeze, but that doesn’t mean that people got tired of playing ‘my country is better than your country’, no matter how subjective and arbitrary it may be. In fact, sports are probably last bastion of open, unabashed nationalism.  Most major sports have some form of international competition, and if not the Olympics can get fans fairly riled up for their native athletes, but nothing comes close to the burst of energy nationalist sentiments get around World Cup time. There are nations on this planet whose populace go absolutely banana sandwich for soccer, and many – if not all of them – take international soccer extremely seriously. Seeing as how the World Cup is the biggest event in international soccer, which only comes around once every 4 years, the stakes are naturally very high. Players can become heroes or villains, depending on the outcome of their tournament run. For every Andrés Iniesta – who led Spain to their first World Cup victory in 2010 – there is someone who lets his teammates and countrymen down, sometimes with disastrous results. Andrés Escobar, captain of the Colombian national team during the 1994 World Cup (held in the USA), scored an own goal in one of their first games at the tournament. They subsequently failed to advance past the round robin stage, despite the fact that they were being painted as a possible contender for the entire tournament. Only 6 days after his national squad was officially eliminated from the World Cup, Andrés Escobar was shot and killed in Medellín, Colombia. The full story of Escobar and the 1994 World Cup is detailed extensively in the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary The Two Escobars, and I highly recommend it. Why am I bringing this up? Because although it’s an extreme example, it highlights the very real pressure faced by World Cup players by their fans in the stands and back home. As heart-wrenching as it must be to fail under the big lights, I can only imagine the adrenaline rush that success brings. As with most team sports, that adrenaline rush probably spikes every time a goal is scored. Defense is necessary, a creative midfield is a huge advantage, but without the offense to seal the deal then all a team’s efforts are for naught. Some star strikers can’t perform at the World Cup, whether it is due to the pressure or just a lack of chemistry with their national team. Likewise, some men shine on the international stage. This is a list of the most prolific international goal scorers in the history of the tournament.

7 Sándor Kocsis - Hungary - 11 Goals

6 Jürgen Klinsmann - Germany - 11 Goals

5 Pelé - Brazil - 12 Goals

4 Just Fontaine - France - 13 Goals

3 Gerd Müller - Germany - 14 Goals

2 Miroslav Klose - Germany - 14 Goals

1 Ronaldo - Brazil - 15 Goals

No, not that Ronaldo. He may be overshadowed by Cristiano Ronaldo’s immense form in recent years, but everyone above the age of 20 all have memories of the Brazilian Ronaldo (born Ronaldo Luís Nazário de Lima) when he was in his prime. He made his debut with the Brazilian national team in 1994, but would have to wait until 1998 to make his World Cup debut. He scored 4 times in 1998, helping Brazil reach the final where they would eventually lose to host France. He rebounded in 2002 by scoring 8 goals, including both of Brazil’s goals in the 2-0 victory over Germany in the final, clinching Brazil’s 5th and record-breaking World Cup championship. Ronaldo is one of 3 players to have won the FIFA Player of the Year Award 3 or more times, the other 2 being Zinedine Zidane and Lionel Messi. He retired with the World Cup scoring record and a solid reputation as one of the all-time greats.

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The World Cup's 7 All-Time Leading Goal Scorers