From Maradona’s sublime solo dance from inside his own half to Geoff Hurst’s legendary hat-trick, a total of 2,546 goals have been scored at the 21 FIFA World Cup finals tournaments staged since 1930.
Over almost a century, those two-and-a-half thousand goals, both the famous and the forgotten, have been shared among some 73 teams – the 78 nations to play at the finals, less the five who did so without finding the net.
While even the boldest aficionado would be hard-pushed to remember all of the countries on the list – such as Haiti, who limited Italy to a 3-1 win in 1974 – many names will stick firmly in the mind.
And, with the 22nd instalment of football’s showpiece event just a few short months away, we take a look at the five teams who have made the greatest contributions to that total goal haul.
5 – France (120)
On the list at number 5, with a goal difference of +43 from 15 World Cup outings, are Les Bleus. Having made their debut at the first-ever tournament in Uruguay, France were also responsible for the goal that began it all.
Lucien Laurent scored the opener in a victory over Mexico, in an encounter that doubled as one of two simultaneous curtain-raiser matches.
In fact, France netted four of their 120 goals that day – the same number they scored to seal their second and most recent triumph in 2018 versus Croatia. Their most famous of all, however, were undoubtedly the three they put past holders Brazil in the 1998 final, crowning themselves world champions on home soil.
4 – Italy (128)
Slightly ahead of France and just shy of the podium are four-time winners Italy. The Azzurri did not take part in the first edition, though they made their bow in style as hosts in 1934, taking the crown following a 2-1 win over Czechoslovakia, courtesy of an extra-time winner from Ottavio Schiavio.
Marco Tardelli’s iconic celebratory run to the touchline, in the wake of clinching Italy’s second goal in the 1982 3-1 final win over West Germany, arguably stands unmatched in terms of legendary Italian World Cup strikes.
3 – Argentina (137)
Taking the bronze medal in terms of goals scored are the Albiceleste. Beaten finalists against Uruguay in 1930 despite goals from Guillermo Stabile and Carlos Peucelle, it took Argentina 38 years and seven attempts to win top honours themselves – a feat they managed for a second time in 1986.
Their quarter-final against England at the Mexican World Cup of that year provided not one, but two of the most replayed goals in history. The first, an equaliser netted illegally by the hand of Diego Maradona but awarded nonetheless by the referee, came to be known as the famous ‘Hand of God’; the second saw him waltz through half the English team before slotting home the ‘Goal of the Century’.
2 – (West) Germany (226)
Level with Italy with four World Cups to their name, Germany – and for a period, West Germany – can at least boast of pipping their neighbours to the south in the goal stakes.
A dramatic extra-time clincher from Mario Gotze brought them their most recent victory in 2014, a full eight decades after Stanislaus Kobierski became the first German to find the net at a finals tournament, in 1934’s 5-2 opening-round rout of Belgium.
With 16 at the finals, Miroslav Klose has the most goals of any player.
1 – Brazil (229)
Out in front by just three are the event’s most successful side. Winning an unequalled fifth title in 2002, the Selecao have proven themselves, generation after generation, to be the embodiment of World Cup class.
Five Brazilians have taken home top goalscoring honours and the country’s 229 goals are deserving of a whole standalone article, but one that remains head and shoulders above its peers is Carlos Alberto’s 1970 wonder-strike, capping off a free-flowing team move that brought the Canarinho its third global title.