The first official international soccer match took place in November 1872 between the national teams of England and Scotland, but there were no scorers that day, as the game ended in a 0-0 draw. Since then, the international game has become a phenomenon. It's importance varies from age to age and nation to nation. For decades international football was seen as the pinnacle of the beautiful game, but with the rise of the Premier League and Champions League, the club game has become of greater importance to some.
The World Cup though remains not only the largest footballing event on the planet, but also the largest sporting event, showing the undeniable lure and prestige of the international game. Scoring a goal for one's country is a moment of immense pride and joy for most players, and none have done it more regularly than those featured on this list.
Some goals are obviously more important than others, and the nature of international football means there are a number of easier games in which players sometimes score prolifically. This list takes into account only the sheer number of goals scored, not the quality of the opposition, resulting in a list which includes Ballon d'Or winners and legends of the game, as well as relative unknowns outside their continent. Here are the top 20 goal scorers in international soccer history:
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20 Imre Schlosser - 59 Goals
There are actually three players tied on 59 goals; Imre Schlosser, David Villa and Carlos Ruiz, but it is Schlosser who makes 20th place by virtue of having scored his 59 goals in fewer games than the other two. Imre Schlosser was one of the first Hungarian football stars, and he scored incredible prolifically for both club and country. At club level, Schlosser had astonishing success, winning 13 league titles over a 23-year career, being named Hungary's top scorer seven times and European top scorer four times. At international level, Schlosser scored 59 goals in 68 games, and Hungary won 70% of all games he played in.
19 T17. Ahmed Radhi - 62 Goals
Often credited as being the greatest Iraqi footballer of all time, Ahmed Radhi had a very impressive 17 year career. He played his only club football in Iraq and Qatar, meaning international recognition was hard to come by, but he still received some. Radhi scored Iraq's only goal at the 1986 World Cup, in a 2-1 defeat to Belgium. Overall, he scored 62 goals in 121 games for the Iraqi national team. Radhi also won the 1988 Asian Footballer of the Year Award.
18 T17. Zlatan Ibrahimovic - 62 Goals
Tied in 17th place but most likely not for long, Zlatan Ibrahimovic is already 34 but one would be surprised if he didn't add to the 62 goals he has managed for Sweden to date. The imposing forward twins power and stature with technique and an audacity which has made him a much-loved figure within the game. PSG's all-time top scorer after just 3 years in France, Zlatan is an international superstar, and has scored 62 goals in 111 games for his country. The big Swede would love to add to that tally this summer coming at Euro 2016.
17 T17. Ronaldo - 62 Goals
He may be down in 17th place but few players on this list have made the impact on international football, or world football for that matter, that Ronaldo has. The Brazilian was without doubt one of the most technically gifted footballers of all time, and were it not for injuries, he would be regarded alongside the likes of Pele, Maradona and Messi. Ronaldo scored 62 goals in 98 caps for Brazil, including a number of crucial strikes.
Until 2014, Ronaldo had been the top scorer in World Cup history, with 15 goals. He won two World Cups with Brazil as well as reaching a final in 1998, in which he suffered from a fit, but recovered by winning the Golden Boot at the 2002 tournament.
16 Jasem Al-Huwaidi - 63 Goals
From a World Cup and Ballon d'Or winner and one of the all-time greats of the game to a name most people have never heard of. Jasem Al-Huwaidi may never have bagged a brace in a World Cup final, but he has scored more international goals than Ronaldo. It is fair to say the opposition Al-Huwaidi faced in his 17 years representing Kuwait may not have been the sternest, but that should not detract from his achievements, after all, you can only beat what's put in front of you. In his prime, he inspired Kuwait to their highest position in the FIFA World Ranking's (24th), in 1998.
15 Didier Drogba - 65 Goals
Back to a more familiar face in the form of Didier Drogba, the big Ivorian is one of the greatest forwards of his generation. When at his best for Chelsea, Drogba was unstoppable. He had pace, power, technique and unerring ruthlessness in front of goal; he was even named the club's greatest ever player by one supporter's poll.
Drogba is a cult hero in the Ivory Coast even more than in West London though, and his 65 goals in 104 games for the national team have a lot to do with that. He ended his international career in 2014 following the Brazil World Cup, and is currently playing for the Montreal Impact in MLS.
14 Robbie Keane - 67 Goals
The highest ranked player still playing international football, aged 35, Robbie Keane is still going strong in the Republic of Ireland national team. Keane made his Ireland debut way back in 1998, aged 18, and since then he has gone on to win 143 caps and score 67 goals for his country, making him both Ireland's record appearance and goal scoring holder.
Despite being in his mid 30s now, Keane is still performing exceptionally well for L.A. Galaxy and is still a huge figure in the R.O.I. dressing room. Euro 2016 could well mark the end of Keane's international career, and how he would love to add a few goals to his overall tally in France.
13 T12. Hossam Hassan - 68 Goals
Hossam Hassan is a hero and a household name in Egypt, but outside of Africa the prolific striker is relatively unknown. That is because despite brief spells in Switzerland, Greece and Abu Dhabi, Hassan spent the vast majority of his career playing in Egypt. Having made his international debut at the age of 19 in 1985, incredibly, Hassan kept playing for Egypt until the age of 40, when he retired from the international game in 2006. He retired with a record of 68 goals in 176 games and has played in 7 African Cup of Nation tournaments, winning the competition a joint record 3 times.
12 T12. Gerd Muller - 68 Goals
One of the most clinical goal scorers of all-time, Gerd Muller is a legend of the game. The German striker spent the vast majority of his career at Bayern Munich, and scored a total of 655 goals in 709 games at club level. For West Germany, Muller managed an even more impressive 68 goals in 62 games, and is the third highest scorer in World Cup history with 14 goals in the competition. The 1970 Ballon d'Or winner had great success with West Germany, scoring the winner in the countries famous 2-1 World Cup final win over the Netherlands and also being a part of the winning 1972 European Championship's team.
11 T10. Kiatisuk Senamuang - 70 Goals
A former police officer, Kiatisuk Senamuang is a legend of Thai football. Over his 18 year career, the striker played in four different countries and scored a total of 251 goals in 339 games. He became a superstar in Thailand and scored a record 70 goals in 131 games for the Thailand national team, including strikes against the likes of Finland, Japan, South Korea, North Korea and New Zealand. Nicknamed 'Zico' because of the Brazilian midfielder who had been his idol as a youngster, Senamuang now coaches the Thai national team.
10 T10. Stern John - 70 Goals
Tied with the Thai goal-getter in joint tenth place is a more familiar face to football fans in England and the U.S., Stern John. The Trinidadian forward is still playing football, having come out of retirement in 2014, but he is no longer active on the international scene. Something of journeyman, John spent two years playing in the U.S. and 13 years playing in England, before returning to Trinidad and Tobago in 2014. For his country's national team, John scored 70 goals in 115 games, and helped the country qualify for the 2006 World Cup. Between 1998 and 1999, Stern John set a record of scoring in 12 consecutive international matches.
9 T8. Miroslav Klose - 71 Goals
A deadly poacher, Miroslav Klose had 13 incredible years with the German national team, before retiring following the 2014 World Cup. The Lazio striker scored 71 goals in 137 games for his country, making him the nation's all-time top scorer. With 16 World Cup goals to his name, Klose is also the top scorer in World Cup history.
While Klose has had an impressive club career, it is his performances for the German national team that he will be best remembered for. Born in Poland, Klose played in four World Cups for Germany, finishing third in two, runner-up in one and finally a winner in 2014. He won the Silver Shoe at the 2002 World Cup and the Golden Shoe at the 2006 World Cup.
8 T8. Majed Abdullah - 71 Goals
Nicknamed the 'Arabian Jewel', Majed Abdullah is widely regarded as the greatest Saudi Arabian footballer of all time, and one of the finest Arab footballers to have ever lived. Sadly, Abdullah never got the chance to shine outside of Saudi Arabia at club level, spending his entire career at Saudi side Al Nassr FC, where he scored 260 goals in 240 games.
He certainly proved himself at international level though, scoring 71 goals in 116 games for the Saudi Arabia national team, including goals against Argentina, England, Scotland, Algeria and a brace against Brazil. A three-time Asian Footballer of the Year winner, 70,000 people watched his farewell game against Real Madrid.
7 T6. Bashar Abdullah - 75 Goals
No relation to Majed Abdullah, Bashar is the least high-profile player in the top 10 of this list. His career spanned 17 years and saw him play domestically in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. While his international career lasted only 11 years, Abdullah still managed a remarkable 75 goals in 133 games.
Although Kuwait had limited success on the worldwide stage, they were successful in regional competitions, winning two Gulf Cups and reaching the semi-finals of an Asian Cup with Abdullah leading the line. Most of his goals came against modest opposition, and 13 came in the space of just two games, against Bhutan and Nepal in February 2000.
6 T6. Sandor Kocsis - 75 Goals
Also with 75 international goals to their name is Sandor Kocsis. Unlike Abdullah, Kocsis is considered a legend of the game across the globe. The Hungarian superstar was an integral part of Hungary's Golden Generation known as the 'Magical Magyars', and scored prolifically at both club and international level. In a career lasting 23 years, Kocsis spent 16 years playing in Hungary and seven in Spain with Barcelona.
With the Hungarian national team, Kocsis scored 75 goals in only 68 games, winning the Olympic Games in 1952, the Central European Cup in 1953 and he should have added a World Cup in 1954 but for the Miracle of Bern, which saw Hungary finish up as losing finalists.
5 Pele - 77 Goals
Arguably the greatest footballer of all-time, what is there left to say of Pele. He has become an icon and an image of the beautiful game across the globe thanks to his magnificent and ability both with Santos, the New York Cosmos, but most of all the Brazilian national team. The only man in history to have won three World Cup's as a player, Pele announced himself to the world as a 17-year-old at the 1958 World Cup, scoring six goals in four games, including a brace in the final. Pele added a second World Cup in 1962 and a third in 1970, scoring a total of 12 World Cup goals in 14 games, and a total of 77 goals in 91 games for Brazil.
4 Hussein Saeed - 78 Goals
Few would rank Hussein Saeed ahead of Pele in terms of ability, but in terms of international goals, the Iraqi marksman has managed one more than the Brazilian superstar. Saeed is considered, along with Ahmed Radhi, to be the finest Iraqi footballer of all time. He spent his entire club career with Baghdadi side Al Talaba, where he scored 141 goals.
His international career spanned 14 years, scoring 78 goals in 137 games for Iraq, retiring early at the age of just 32 due to injuries. Saeed won gold with Iraq at the 1982 Asian Games, as well as winning two Gulf Cups, in which he was the tournament's top scorer on both occasions.
3 Kunishige Kamamoto - 80 Goals
Often cited as the greatest Japanese footballer of all time, Kunishige Kamamoto is the third highest scorer in international football history with 80 goals in 84 games for his country. Kamamoto spent his entire club career at Yanmar Diesel, where he scored 262 goals in 311 games, being named in the league's 'Best XI' 14 times, top scorer seven times and Japanese Footballer of the Year seven times. He played in two Olympic Games for Japan, winning bronze in 1968. After trying his hand at football management, Kamamoto had been in politics since 1995.
2 Ferenc Puskas - 84 Goals
A legend of the game, Ferenc Puskas is one of the finest players to have ever graced a football pitch. With marvellous technique, intelligence, understanding of the game and a lethal left foot, Puskas was named European Player of the Century by L'Equipe magazine. The third Hungarian to make this list, Puskas is considered the most gifted Hungarian footballer of them all, and spent his 23 year career at Budapest Honved and Real Madrid. In total, he won 10 league titles in Hungary and Spain and three European Cup's.
Puskas played for both Hungary and Spain, scoring 84 goals in 85 games for Hungary and no goals in four games for Spain. He scored four goals as Hungary won Gold at the 1952 Olympic Games, and was top scorer when Hungary won the Central European Cup in 1953. Puskas also played a major role in Hungary's humiliation of England, scoring twice in both their 6-3 away win and 7-1 home win. The prolific striker was top scorer at the 1954 World Cup but Hungary fell at the final hurdle, losing the final to West Germany.
1 Ali Daei - 109 Goals
The top scorer in international footballing history, and by some distance too, is Ali Daei. The Iranian football legend won 149 caps for his country between 1993 and 2006, scoring an eye-watering 109 goals, 25 more than second placed Ferenc Puskas. Daei spent the majority of his club career in Iran, but also spent five years playing in Germany, most notably for for Hertha BSC and Bayern Munich. He won the Bundesliga with Bayern and was an unused substitute when the club lost the 1999 Champions League final to Manchester United.
Whilst playing for Hertha BSC, Daei scored braces against both Chelsea and AC Milan in the Champions League, showing his qualities even against top class opposition. The only player to have scored a century of international goals, Daei scored goals for Iran against the likes of Japan, Mexico, Ecuador, Bosnia and Ukraine. His greatest game for Iran though came in the quarter-finals of the 1996 Asian Cup, in which he scored four goals in a 6-2 win over South Korea. The 1999 Asian Footballer of the Year, Daei played in a World Cup for the first time in 2006, aged 37.
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