FIFA World Cup

World Cup 2014: The 10 Greatest Strikers in World Cup History

Savvas ChristouContributor IIIJune 16, 2014

World Cup 2014: The 10 Greatest Strikers in World Cup History

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    Will Messi join the all-time great World Cup leaderboard?
    Will Messi join the all-time great World Cup leaderboard?Felipe Dana/Associated Press

    With Arjen Robben, Robin van Persie, Karim Benzema, Neymar and Lionel Messi already among the goals at the 2014 World Cup, speculation is rife as to who will win the Golden Boot.

    The list of illustrious predecessors is vast given the World Cup's 84-year history, so will any of the aforementioned players be rubbing shoulders with the World Cup's best-ever strikers by the end of Brazil 2014?

    Statistics sourced from Transfermarkt.com (unless otherwise linked)

     

Honourable Mentions

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    Whittling such a distinguished list down to 10 is never easy, with the following strikers earning a well-deserved mention.

    Argentina's Guillermo Stabile scored eight goals in four games in the inaugural 1930 World Cup.

    England's Geoff Hurst remains the only player to have scored a hat-trick in a World Cup Final.

    Peruvian Teofilo Cubillas scored 10 goals in 13 World Cup appearances spanning 14 years, commencing in 1970.

    Poland's Grzegorz Lato won the Golden Boot in 1974 during Poland's best-ever World Cup performance.

    Romario and Hristo Stoichkov, Barcelona team-mates, both thrived at USA 1994 with Brazil and Bulgaria, respectively.

    And Roberto Baggio scored in three separate tournaments (1990-1998), which included the goal of the 1990 World Cup (as per above) and his masterful spell in the 1994 semi-final.

     

10. Gary Lineker (England)

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    Gary Lineker was a goal poacher personified with 48 goals in 80 appearances for the Three Lions.

    Although Bobby Charlton scored one more goal for his country, Lineker scored 10 times across two World Cup finals.

    He won the Golden Boot at Mexico '86 with six strikes and helped England progress to the semi-finals in 1990 with four goals. 

     

9. Paolo Rossi (Italy)

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    Paolo Rossi's Golden Boot award in the 1982 World Cup inspired the Azzurri to their first World Cup in 44 years.

    It also helped the Juventus striker overcome a difficult time in his career—his implication in the Totonero scandal, which resulted in a two-year ban from football.  

    He returned to the international fold just in time for the World Cup. Back then the format entailed two round-robin group stages, and having disappointed during the first stage, Rossi suddenly came to life with six goals—including an unforgettable hat-trick in Italy's 3-2 win over favourites Brazil.

     

     

     

8. Miroslav Klose (Germany)

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    Klose stretches ahead of his last World Cup
    Klose stretches ahead of his last World CupMartin Rose/Getty Images

    Klose is the only current player in the list.

    Despite not having the Hollywood presence of the other names selected, the Polish-born striker recently overtook the legendary Gerd Muller as Germany's all-time top scorer and currently sits just one goal behind Brazilian Ronaldo for the most all-time goals scored in the World Cup.

    Could he overtake the Brazilian to become the World Cup's top scorer?

7. Eusebio (Portugal)

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    Eusebio scored nine goals at the 1966 World Cup in England.

    Nicknamed as the "Black Panther," Eusebio terrorised defences, in particular North Korea's, as he scored four goals to turn the quarter-final match on its head after the Koreans had taken a surprising 3-0 lead within the opening 30 minutes.

    Eusebio also enjoyed a successful career at Benfica where he won numerous league titles, plus one European Cup and one prestigious Ballon d'Or award in 1965.

6. Sandor Kocsis and Ferenc Puskas (both Hungary)

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    Sandor Kocsis and Ferenc Puskas were the two deadly marksmen from the Magical Magyars side—arguably the best team never to win a World Cup.

    Ferenc Puskas, known as the Galloping Major, was the main attraction of the side, and he scored four goals in the 1954 World Cup despite missing half of the campaign through injury.

    The Real Madrid striker's presence was missed but Sandor Kocsis kept scoring the goals, including two hat-tricks during the tournament.

    Hungary set a record by scoring 27 goals, still the most by any side at a World Cup—hugely impressive given they only played five matches.

    Between them, Kocsis and Puskas scored 15 goals, but even that was not enough as they succumbed to the Germans, 3-2, in the final.

5. Just Fontaine (France)

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    Fontaine at the 1958 World Cup finals
    Fontaine at the 1958 World Cup finalsAssociated Press

    Pele was not the only star of the 1958 World Cup finals.

    A Frenchman named Just Fontaine scored 13 goals from six matches—including four against defending champions West Germany.

    The Moroccan-born front man only played in one World Cup, and his 13 goals at a single tournament has comfortably stood the test of time.

4. Gerd Muller (West Germany)

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    Gerd Muller
    Gerd MullerAssociated Press

    Gerd Muller was West Germany's goal machine—their all-time scorer with 68 goals from 62 games. Klose recently broke the record, but after having played over double the amount of games.

    In 1972, Muller scored 85 goals during the calendar year, a record that stood for 40 years until Lionel Messi scored 91 goals in 2012.

    The Bayern Munich striker scored 14 goals across two World Cup tournaments (13 matches), including some very important goals such as the quarter-final extra-time winner in a 3-2 victory over England in 1970, in addition to the winner in the 1974 World Cup Final against the Dutch.

    He won the Golden Boot in 1970 with 10 goals—the last man to reach double digits in a single tournament.

     

3. Ronaldo (Brazil)

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    Ronaldo scored 8 goals at the 2002 World Cup
    Ronaldo scored 8 goals at the 2002 World CupDUSAN VRANIC/Associated Press

    The Brazilian burst onto the world scene in 1996 due to his sensational Barcelona exploits, and he soon became Brazil's most potent weapon.

    Despite enjoying a largely successful 1998 World Cup, he reportedly suffered convulsions before the final but still played and was predictably ineffective as Les Bleus won their maiden World Cup.

    Four years later he found redemption in the form of eight goals, the most at a World Cup tournament since 1970, as Brazil were crowned world champions for the fifth time.

    In 2006, a bloated Ronaldo still demonstrated glimpses of his genius with another three goals to make him the current all-time World Cup top scorer with 15 goals.

2. Diego Maradona (Argentina)

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    Maradona's personal tally of five goals and five assists in Argentina's 14 goals during their successful 1986 World Cup campaign is an impressive statistic, but the sheer, spellbinding quality of his play made the feat all the more impressive.

    Argentina's coach Carlos Bilardo decided to mould an unfashionable Argentina side around his star player, who rekindled his career after trading La Liga for Serie A by transferring from Barcelona to Napoli. 

    Despite the dishonest "Hand of God" goal against England, his second goal, moments later in the same match, has always been considered one of the all-time great goals.

    Maradona and Argentina were close to defending the World Cup four years later as the holders reached the final, but he later tarnished his career by failing a drug test at the 1994 tournament.

1. Pele (Brazil)

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    Edson Arantes Do Nascimento, better known as Pele, was the focal point behind the Selecao's success between 1958 and 1970, as they won three out of four World Cups and scored 12 goals in the process.

    Pele burst onto the international scene in Sweden during the 1958 finals, as a 17-year-old, where he scored six goals including a breath-taking goal in the 5-2 World Cup Final win over the hosts. 

    Injury cut short his 1962 campaign, while Brazil were eliminated in the group stages in 1966.

    In 1970 he ended his self-imposed international exile to galvanise Brazil in winning a third World Cup—meaning Brazil permanently kept the Jules Rimet Trophy.

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