Lists

The 10 highest international football goalscorers of all time

Cristiano Ronaldo
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5. Godfrey Chitalu, Zambia (108 caps, 79 goals)

Remember in 2012, when everyone thought Lionel Messi had broken Gerd Muller’s record for the number of goals scored in a calendar year? Then along comes the Zambian FA and tells us that one of their guys, Godfrey Chitalu, netted 107 goals in 1972? The same year as Muller scored his 85? 

Yeah, that. Chitalu also scored 79 goals in 108 games for Zambia between 1968 and 1980. His finest hour came at the 1980 Moscow Olympics, where he bagged against Venezuela and the Soviet Union.

Tragically in April 1993, while managing the national team, Chitalu was killed in a plane crash off the coast of Gabon along with his players and coaching staff.

4. Kunishige Kamamoto, Japan (84 caps, 80 goals) 

Japan’s first footballing superstar, Kamamoto scored 84 goals in 80 internationals between 1964 and 1977. He was top scorer at the 1968 Mexico Olympics, including a hat-trick against Nigeria and two against France in the quarter-finals.

Japan came third and had high hopes of qualifying for the 1970 World Cup, but in 1969, Kamamoto was struck down with Hepatitis and in the first round of qualifying his team lost to both Australia and South Korea.

He returned the following year and soon started banging them in again. His best year was 1972, with 15 goals in eight games. After retiring, he went into politics and football administration.

3. Ferenc Puskas, Hungary (85 caps, 84 goals)

Between 1945 and 1956, the ‘Galloping Major’ (Puskas played for Hungarian army club Budapest Honved, and all the players were given military ranks) scored 84 goals in 85 games for Hungary, which included three hat-tricks and four in a 12-0 win against Albania.

He struck four at the 1952 Olympics where Hungary won gold; then, in 1953 and 1954, the Mighty Magyars beat England 6-3 and 7-1. Puskas scored twice in both games.

He got three in Hungary’s first two games at the 1954 World Cup before being carried off injured with a hairline fracture in his ankle. Puskas missed two games, came back for the final against West Germany and scored as Hungary's opponents came back to win after shipping two in the first eight minutes. 

2. Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal (160 caps, 93 goals)

Cristiano Ronaldo Morocco

Slowly but surely, Cristiano has been chipping away at this list. In March 2017 there were 11 men ahead of him after he levelled Stern John's (!) haul of 70 for Trinidad & Tobago. Now there's only one, having surpassed Ferenc Puskas during Portugal's 2018 World Cup tussle with Morocco. 

He'd matched the Hungarian's lot with a stunning hat-trick goal against Spain in the opening game, salvaging a last-gasp draw for the Seleção. Ron has always been a clutch player for his country, though – most memorably when his second-leg World Cup 2014 play-off hat-trick against Sweden sent Portugal through in a thrilling encounter. Only Robert Lewandowski netted more times in 2018 qualification, and he failed to score in only two games.

No.1: he's coming for you... 

1. Ali Daei, Iran (149 caps, 109 goals)

When Hertha Berlin beat Chelsea 2-1 in a 1999 Champions League group game, it was the most prolific international goalscorer of them all who rose above Frank Leboeuf to head the Germans in front. Iranian striker Ali Daei then robbed the Frenchman inside Chelsea's half before making it 2-0.

Between 1993 and 2006, Daei scored 109 goals in 149 internationals. Twice he scored four in a game, against South Korea in the 1996 Asian Cup, then Laos in a qualifier for the 2006 World Cup.  

Daei didn’t fare as well against tougher opposition, and failed to score in the 1998 and 2006 World Cup finals. He did, however, set up the goal that beat the USA in 1998 to give Iran its first – and to date only – World Cup finals victory.

SEE ALSO USA vs Iran at France '98: the most politically charged game in World Cup history

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