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:
|Rank||Player (* denotes active)||World Cup Goals||Tournaments|
|1||🇩🇪 Miroslav Klose||16||4|
|3||🇩🇪 Gerd Müller||14||2|
|4||🇫🇷 Just Fontaine||13||1|
|T6||🇭🇺 Sándor Kocsis||11||1|
|T6||🇩🇪 Jürgen Klinsmann||11||3|
|T8||🇩🇪 Helmut Rahn||10||2|
|T8||🏴 Gary Lineker||10||2|
|T8||🇦🇷 Gabriel Batistuta||10||3|
|T8||🇵🇪 Teófilo Cubillas||10||2|
|T8||🇩🇪 Thomas Müller*||10||2|
|T8||🇵🇱 Grzegorz Lato||10||3|
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:
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?
|Player||World Cup Goals (1970–2018)||Matches Played||Goals/Match|
|Robin van Persie||6||17||0.35|
|Jon Dahl Tomasson||5||6||0.83|
Most players expectedly scored under one goal/match, but five players stand out:
- Russia’s Oleg Salenko with an incredible 2 goals/match (6 goals in 3 matches).
- Germany’s Gerd Müller with 1.08 goals/match.
- 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?
This article was published as a part of Visual Capitalist's Creator Program, which features data-driven visuals from some of our favorite Creators around the world.
Charted: Tesla’s Unrivaled Profit Margins
This infographic compares Tesla’s impressive profit margins to various Western and Chinese competitors.
Chart: Tesla’s Unrivaled Profit Margins
In January this year, Tesla made the surprising announcement that it would be cutting prices on its vehicles by as much as 20%.
While price cuts are not new in the automotive world, they are for Tesla. The company, which historically has been unable to keep up with demand, has seen its order backlog shrink from 476,000 units in July 2022, to 74,000 in December 2022.
This has been attributed to Tesla’s robust production growth, which saw 2022 production increase 41% over 2021 (from 930,422 to 1,313,851 units).
With the days of “endless” demand seemingly over, Tesla is going on the offensive by reducing its prices—a move that puts pressure on competitors, but has also angered existing owners.
Cranking up the Heat
Tesla’s price cuts are an attempt to protect its market share, but they’re not exactly the desperation move some media outlets have claimed them to be.
Recent data compiled by Reuters shows that Tesla’s margins are significantly higher than those of its rivals, both in terms of gross and net profit. Our graphic only illustrates the net figures, but gross profits are also included in the table below.
|Company||Gross profit per car||Net profit per car|
Data from Q3 2022
Price cutting has its drawbacks, but one could argue that the benefits for Tesla are worth it based on this data—especially in a critical market like China.
Tesla has taken the nuclear option to bully the weaker, thin margin players off the table.
– Bill Russo, Automobility
In the case of Chinese EV startups Xpeng and Nio, net profits are non-existent, meaning it’s unlikely they’ll be able to match Tesla’s reductions in price. Both firms have reported year-on-year sales declines in January.
As for Tesla, Chinese media outlets have claimed that the firm received 30,000 orders within three days of its price cut announcement. Note that this hasn’t been officially confirmed by anyone within the company.
Tit for Tat
Ford made headlines recently for announcing its own price cuts on the Mustang Mach-E electric SUV. The model is a direct competitor to Tesla’s best-selling Model Y.
Chevrolet and Hyundai have also adjusted some of their EV prices in recent months, as listed in the following table.
|Model||Old Price||New Price||Discount|
|Tesla Model Y Long Range||$65,990||$53,490||18.9%|
|Chevrolet Bolt EUV 2023||$33,500||$27,200||18.8%|
|Tesla Model Y Performance||$69,990||$56,990||18.6%|
|Chevrolet Bolt 2023||$31,600||$26,500||16.1%|
|Tesla Model 3 Performance||$62,990||$53,990||14.3%|
|Hyundai Kona Electric 2022||$37,390||$34,000||9.1%|
|Ford Mustang Mach-E GT Extended Range||$69,900||$64,000||8.4%|
|Tesla Model 3 Long Range||$46,990||$43,990||6.4%|
|Ford Mustang Mach-E Premium AWD||$57,675||$53,995||6.4%|
|Ford Mustang Mach-E RWD Standard Range||$46,900||$46,000||1.9%|
Source: Observer (Feb 2023)
Volkswagen is a noteworthy player missing from this table. The company has been gaining ground on Tesla, especially in the European market.
We have a clear pricing strategy and are focusing on reliability. We trust in the strength of our products and brands.
– Oliver Blume, CEO, VW Group
This decision could hamper Volkswagen’s goal of becoming a dominant player in EVs, especially if more automakers join Tesla in cutting prices. For now, Tesla still holds a strong grip on the US market.
Recent Tesla buyers became outraged when the company announced it would be slashing prices on its cars. In China, buyers even staged protests at Tesla stores and delivery centers.
Recent buyers not only missed out on a better price, but their cars have effectively depreciated by the amount of the cut. This is a bitter turn of events, given Musk’s 2019 claims that a Tesla would be an appreciating asset.
I think the most profound thing is that if you buy a Tesla today, I believe you are buying an appreciating asset – not a depreciating asset.
– Elon Musk, CEO, Tesla
These comments were made in reference to Tesla’s full self-driving (FSD) capabilities, which Elon claimed would enable owners to turn their cars into robotaxis.
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