Scoring goals in international football is mighty tough for any footballer.
Only the very best go on to reach the big numbers and it’s no coincidence that most of the leading scorers from all the major footballing nations are legends of the game.
Pele, Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Thierry Henry, Wayne Rooney and David Villa all hold the prestigious honour for their respective countries.
But how do those great goal scorers compare in terms of their goal-to-game ratios on the international stage? Well, you’re about to find out.
Below, we’ve ranked the top goal getter from each of the top 27 countries in the official FIFA standings by that exact metric. Let’s find out who takes top spot…
27. Henri Camara | Senegal | 0.29
One of the members of Senegal’s famous 2002 World Cup squad. Camara played for Wolves, Celtic, Southampton, Wigan, West Ham, Stoke and Sheffield United throughout the course of his career.
26. Alexis Sanchez | Chile | 0.34
Arguably Chile’s greatest ever player and the man who scored the winning penalty in the 2015 Copa America final. He also played a pivotal role in the country’s retainment of the crown the following year.
25. Salomon Rondon | Venezuela | 0.38
The Dalian Professional striker has featured at four Copa America tournaments with Venezuela, registering four goals in total.
24. Radamel Falcao | Colombia | 0.38
One of the great strikers of the modern era, 17 of Falcao’s 35 goals in a Colombia shirt thus far have come in a competitive setting – a mighty impressive tally.
23. Paolo Guerrero | Peru | 0.38
Guerrero has represented Peru at five Copa Americas, helping his country to third-place finishes in 2011 and 2015, before securing a runners-up medal in 2019. The 36-year-old was also the top scorer at those three tournaments.
22. Gareth Bale | Wales | 0.39
Bale was instrumental in Wales’ run to the semi-final stage of Euro 2016, scoring three goals in the competition. In the qualifying round of the tournament, the former Real Madrid man found the back of the net seven times.
21. Clint Dempsey | USA | 0.40
Possibly the greatest American to have played in the Premier League. Dempsey is actually USA’s joint record scorer alongside Landon Donovan, but the former Tottenham man makes the cut due to his superior goal-to-game ratio.
20. Thierry Henry | France | 0.41
Henry rarely ever showed his best form for France, but he still ended his career as Les Bleus’ record scorer. He also secured winner medals from the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000.
19. Andriy Shevchenko | Ukraine | 0.43
The Ukrainian legend scored goals aplenty on the international stage and Shevchenko also captained his country at their first World Cup appearance in 2006, where they reached the quarter-final stage.
18. Issam Jemaa | Tunisia | 0.43
Jemaa represented Tunisia at the 2008, 2010 and 2012 editions of the African Cup of Nations, scoring two goals across the three tournaments. The 36-year-old also scored 22 goals in 125 Ligue 1 appearances throughout his career.
17. Wayne Rooney | England | 0.44
We never really saw the absolute best of Rooney in an England shirt after Euro 2004, but he was still fairly prolific for the Three Lions. The Manchester United legend’s best year as an international player came in 2014 when he scored eight goals in 13 appearances.
16. Toni Polster | Austria | 0.46
Nicknamed ‘Toni Brace’ – due to his knack of scoring two goals per game – Polster was one of Europe’s best strikers in the 1980s. As well as finding the back of the net regularly for Austria, the Vienna-born forward scored a hatful of goals for Austria Wien, Sevilla and FC Koln.
15. Javier Hernandez | Mexico | 0.48
One of the Premier League’s most underrated strikers, Hernandez has been – and still is – a star in the international arena. Chicharito finished as the top scorer at the 2011 Gold Cup, a tournament which saw Mexico beat neighbours USA 4-2 in the final.
14. Robin van Persie | Netherlands | 0.49
Despite persistent injury issues throughout his career, Van Persie sits top of the goal scoring charts for the Dutch. Seven of the former Manchester United man’s 50 goals came at major tournaments.
13. Alexander Frei | Switzerland | 0.50
Probably Switzerland’s greatest ever striker. In five of his 10 years as part of the country’s senior setup, Frei scored five or more goals, his best return coming in 2006 when he notched eight in just 11 games.
12. Lionel Messi | Argentina | 0.51
The Barcelona legend is still waiting for that first major international trophy, but he can at least boast an impressive goal record from his time with Argentina regardless. He was also named the best player at the 2014 World Cup, despite losing in the final.
11. Miroslav Klose | Germany | 0.52
The World Cup’s all time leading goal scorer. Klose found the back of the net 16 times on the biggest stage of them all, winning the tournament with Germany in 2014. Die Mannschaft did not lose a single game the Polish-born striker scored in.
10. Zlatan Ibrahimovic | Sweden | 0.53
Zlatan scores goals wherever he plays. In 2012, the 39-year-old scored 11 goals in 11 games for Sweden and he then went one better in 2015, striking 11 more times in just 10 appearances. Ibrahimovic retired from international duty back in June 2016.
9. Luis Suarez | Uruguay | 0.54
Only Pele, Messi and Neymar have scored more goals for a South American country than Suarez. The Atletico Madrid striker helped Uruguay win the 2011 Copa America, with 14 of his 62 international goals coming in various major tournaments.
8. Robert Lewandowski | Poland | 0.54
Only Ronaldo among active European players has scored more international goals than Lewandowski. The Bayern Munich striker’s best year for his country was in 2015, when seven appearances yielded a whopping 11 goals.
7. David Villa | Spain | 0.60
What a player Villa was in his prime. The Spaniard was triumphant at both Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup with La Roja, finishing as the top scorer in the former and winning the Silver Boot in the latter.
6. Cristiano Ronaldo | Portugal | 0.60
Ronaldo has to make do with a sixth-place here, but the Portuguese is only the second player in international football to score 100 goals. He’s also got winner medals from Euro 2016 and the 2019 UEFA Nations League.
5. Romelu Lukaku | Belgium | 0.62
Imagine thinking this guy isn’t a world-class striker? Lukaku is the only active player to make the top five and at just 27-years-old, the Inter Milan forward could potentially get near the 100-goal mark for the Red Devils.
4. Davor Suker | Croatia | 0.65
Suker’s goal scoring prowess with Croatia is not heralded enough in the present day. The ex-Arsenal striker was electric at the 1998 World Cup, scoring six goals in seven games to help Croatia to an unexpected third-place finish.
3. Luigi Riva | Italy | 0.83
Amazingly, no player has ever scored more than 35 goals for Italy. Riva reached that tally in rapid fashion, the former Cagliari striker winning the 1968 European Championship with the Azzurri.
2. Pele | Brazil | 0.84
Seventy-seven goals and three World Cup winner medals. Yeah, not a bad international career that. Pele is often mocked in the present day for his bizarre goal scoring claims, but his exploits in a Brazil shirt were undeniably brilliant.
1. Poul Nielsen | Denmark | 1.37
Who? Well, Nielsen’s international career spanned from 1910 to 1925, so you’ve probably never heard of him. The striker won a silver medal with Denmark at the 1912 Summer Olympics and scored 276 goals in just 201 club games for Kjobenhavns Boldklub – not bad, eh?
Former AC Milan striker Jon Dahl Tomasson is actually level with Nielsen on goals scored for the Danish national side. However, it took 112 games for him to reach the feat, so Nielsen gets the nod here.
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