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Who Are the Top Goalscorers in International Football

Club football will dominate the thoughts of most fans over the next couple of months as the 2022/23 season comes to a conclusion. England next play after all the Premier League excitement has ended and the dust has settled, facing Malta in their next Euro 2024 qualifier, on the 16th June. However, during the recent round of international fixtures, Harry Kane made history by becoming England’s record goalscorer.

Kane bagged a penalty against Italy, helping his side to a historic win in Naples but even more historically moving him to 54 England goals. That meant he moved one clear of Wayyne Rooney to sit atop the pile for the Three Lions and he added a 55th (from 82 appearances) just a few days later against Ukraine.

Following that match Kane even suggested that 100 goals for England was not out of the question. That might be a push for the 29 year old, although in 2021 he notched 16 for his country, a record in a calendar year for the Three Lions.

Who Are the Leading International Scorers?

Even if Kane does make it to triple figures, he’ll have some work to do to match some of the names on the list of top international scorers.

Chart That shows the Top International Goalscorers Up to and Including April 2023

1) Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)  – 122 Goals

Loathe him or really loathe him (ok, we’re sure there are lots of people who love him too), there is no doubting that Cristiano Ronaldo was some player. His best days are behind him but he might hold onto the record for most international goals for a long time. Though he might not…

Anyway, we will return to that issue but for now nobody is close to CR7’s 122 goals for Portugal in 198 appearances. That’s not a typo, the cheeky winker has scored 122 goals for his nation and, perhaps even more amazingly, he has played for them almost 200 times! He made his debut in 2003 and 20 years on is still going. How many more caps and goals he can add remains to be seen but no matter what, his achievements are incredible.

2) Ali Daei (Iran) – 109 goals

Only football anoraks and pub-quiz aces, and perhaps fans of Iranian football, will have heard of Daei, the man who was the leading goalscorer in international football for many years. His last cap came in 2006 and drew the curtain on an international career that brought 109 goals from “just” 148 games. We say “just” because that scoring rate is 0.74 goals per game, the best in the top five and second-best in the top 10 (bettered only by Ferenc Puskas who bagged his 84 goals for Hungary in only 85 matches). He might, just perhaps, not be better than Messi, but for now at least he leads him on this list!

3) Lionel Messi (Argentina) – 102 goals

Kane wasn’t the only player making history during March’s international break. Messi joined the elite 100-club when he hit a hat-trick against Curacao in a friendly, sauntering from 99 Argentina goals to 102 in just 15 first-half minutes! Aged 35, it is far from certain he will beat Ronaldo’s tally and you can bet your bottom dollar the Portuguese will be desperate to hold onto his record too.

Messi confirmed his GOAT status, certainly among these two modern legends, by winning the 2022 World Cup. He scored key goals and comprehensively outperformed Ronaldo on the biggest stage, landing the only piece of silverware that had previously eluded him. His goals per game ration is slightly inferior to Ronaldo but it would yet further cement his position as the undoubted GOA(M!)T (we’re inventing a new modern-GOAT category as we just aren’t getting into the Maradona, Pele, etc debate!) if he could eclipse CR7 on our list.

4) Mokhtar Dahari (Malaysia) – 89 goals

Dahari has bagged 89 goals for Malaysia, playing for his nation 142 times in a 13-year period from 1972. We don’t mean to belittle his achievements, or brush over them, but the biggest names on the list of teams he has scored against are probably South Korea, Morocco, Japan and India. A large portion of his strikes have come against neighbours such as Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Burma (now Myanmar) and Cambodia.

5) Sunil Chhetri (India) – 85 goals

Chhetri is India’s leading goalscorer and has plied his trade largely in his home nation. He had a brief stint in MLS and an even briefer, less successful one in Portugal. Now aged 38 he remains the captain of his national side and may yet be able to move into fourth on this list. Thus far his goals for India have come from 133 caps and he played in the recent (March 2023) international window.

Other Notable Goalscorers in International Football

View Behind Football Fans with Arms in the Air

The leading strikers for Zambia, UAE and Iraq all appear in the top-10 of international goalscorers. However, as with three of the players among our top five, many of their goals have come against relatively low-calibre opposition.

All of these players deserve their place on the list and of course this is not a roll of honour of the best strikers of all time. It is about scoring goals in international football and that is what these players have done so all credit to them. However, here are a selection of some of the greatest strikers of all time, and some who might end up being classed that way, and just where they feature on this list.

  • Robert Lewandowski – 78 goals in 140 games for Poland at a rate of 0.56 goals per game. Lewandowski is currently captain of his national team but turns 35 in August 2023
  • Pele – the one, the only, Pele bagged his 77 goals in just 92 games to sit joint-11th on the all-time list of international goalscorers. Of the players to score more, only Puskas has a better goals/games ratio
  • Neymar – it is Neymar who is tied with Pele on 77 Brazil goals but the former Barca player took 124 matches to get there. Neymar is only 31 and may be eyeing 100 goals
  • Phil Younghusband – he’s tied-59th on the all-time list but look, we just think his name is funny. However, the Filipino forward bagged 52 goals in 108 games, last playing for his country in 2019
  • Erling Haaland – Haaland’s 21 goals for Norway do not earn him an entry on the goalscorer’s hit parade. However, given he has played just 23 times to reach that number, we’re confident he will soon be making his way up the list. Aged just 22, he could well be one of the greatest ever
  • Kylian Mbappe – an old hand at the age of 24, Mbappe already has 38 France goals to his name, which is incredible. His rate of scoring is getting better and surely it is only a matter of time before he overtakes Olivier Giroud (53) as France’s top goal-getter