"To average a goal every two games is an incredible record in international football, and Eusebio easily surpassed this."
Those words were spoken by Bela Guttmann upon the retirement of his former Benfica pupil, who struck 41 times in 64 matches for Portugal. Yet as admirable as this 0.64-per-game ratio was, it paled in comparison to that of the great Hungarian coach's compatriot, Sandor Kocsis, who leads an elite crop of players to have scored more goals than they earned caps.
The imposing forward returned an astounding 75 in 68, many of which came courtesy of the most prolific head in football history. He rippled the back of opponents' nets six times in five outings to help the Magical Magyars to an Olympic gold in 1952, and 11 times in five matches en route to silver at Switzerland 1954.
Kocsis is one of four FIFA World Cup™ Golden Shoe recipients to have averaged more than a goal a game for his country. And if Guillhermo Stabile's 200-per-cent strike ratio came in just four appearances for Argentina – all at Uruguay 1930 – the remaining two managed to maintain this productivity over a sustained period.
Just Fontaine's 13 goals in six Sweden 1958 contests remains a record at one World Cup, and it contributed heavily to his overall count of 30 in 21 for Les Bleus. "He could score with his head, with both feet, from impossible angles - he was just a truly great goalscorer," said the Morocco-born striker's former team-mate Raymond Kopa. "His movement was also very intelligent and this made it easy to find him after one of my dribbles."
Mexico 1970 may have belonged to the constellation of stars that comprised Brazil's shimmering galaxy, but it was also illuminated by the prolificacy of Gerd Muller. With his first effort at the tournament, Der Bomber embarked on a run of 40 goals in 24 contests, which helped him conclude his West Germany service with figures of 68 in 62.
Moreover, Muller's unequalled four goals helped Helmut Schon's side win UEFA EURO 1972, and he also fired home the winner in a 2-1 victory over the Netherlands in the 1974 World Cup Final. "His record of 68 goals in 62 internationals will stand for eternity," said Rudi Voller, his nearest challenger on Germany's scoring chart with 47 in 90.
The Golden Shoe may have eluded Ernest Wilimowski, but he does boast the best goals-to-games ratio in World Cup history at 400 per cent. Indeed, in his solitary appearance – an unforgettable match at France 1938 – he scored four of Poland's goals in a 6-5 defeat by Brazil in the first round.
They made up some of the 21 'Ezi' netted in 22 outings for Poland. However, his country of birth afforded him the opportunity to amass more international goals than caps: Wilimowski scored 13 in eight for West Germany to finish his career with 34 in 30 overall.
Away from the grandest stage
A crop of players who did not make the score-sheet in a World Cup also accomplished the feat. Poul ‘Tist' Nielsen, an Olympic silver medalist in 1912, managed an astounding 52 goals in 38 outings for Denmark, and Sven Rydell's 49 strikes for Sweden came in six fewer games. Both remain their country's all-time leading marksmen, while the latter's nearest rival Gunnar Nordahl, whose potency thrust the Blågult to Olympic gold in 1948, returned 43 goals from 33 matches.
Others include Englishmen Steve Bloomer (28 in 24) and Vivian Woodward (29 in 23), Hungarians Istvan Avar (27 in 23, including three in two for Romania) and Ferenc Deak (29 in 20), Scotland's Hughie Gallagher (23 in 20), Bep Bakhuys of the Netherlands (28 in 23), Brazilian Leonidas da Silva (21 in 19) and Argentina's Herminio Masantonio (21 in 19).
Several other attackers have eclipsed a 100 per cent strike rate in fewer matches, including England's George Camsell (2.00 goals per game), Isidoro Langara of Spain (1.42) and Frenchman Eugene Maes (1.36). Few, however, have retired with at least 20 international goals and this estimable record intact.
"It's a magnificent achievement," remarked another legendary Hungarian coach, Gusztav Sebes. "It's something that eluded some of the greatest goalscorers like Sarosi, Pele and even Puskas."
Players with more international goals than caps
Sandor Kocsis, Hungary - 75 goals in 68 games (1.10 ratio)
Gerd Muller, West Germany - 68 in 62 (1.10)
Poul Nielsen, Denmark - 52 in 38 (1.37)
Sven Rydell, Sweden - 49 in 43 (1.14)
Gunnar Nordahl, Sweden - 43 in 33 (1.30)
Ernest Wilimowski, Poland & West Germany - 34 in 30 (1.13)
Just Fontaine, France - 30 in 21 (1.43)
Ferenc Deak, Hungary - 29 in 20 (1.45)
Vivian Woodward, England - 29 in 23 (1.26)
Bep Bakhuys, Netherlands - 28 in 23 (1.22)
Steve Bloomer, England - 28 in 24 (1.17)
Istvan Avar, Romania & Hungary - 27 in 23 (1.17)
Hughie Gallagher, Scotland - 23 in 20 (1.15)
Leonidas da Silva, Brazil - 21 in 19 (1.11)
Herminio Masantonio, Argentina - 21 in 19 (1.11)
Players who narrowly missed out
Ferenc Puskas, Hungary & Spain - 84 goals in 89 games (0.94 ratio)
Kunishige Kamamoto, Japan - 55 in 61 (0.90)
Pauli Jorgensen, Denmark - 44 in 47 (0.94)
Faas Wilkes, Netherlands - 35 in 38 (0.92)
Nat Lofthouse, England - 30 in 33 (0.91)
Juan Ulloa, Costa Rica - 27 in 27 (1.00)
Edmund Conen, West Germany - 27 in 28 (0.96)
Anton Schall, Austria - 27 in 28 (0.96)
Luis Artime, Argentina - 24 in 25 (0.96)
Richard Hoffman, West Germany - 24 in 25 (0.96)
Stan Mortensen, England - 23 in 25 (0.92)
Tommy Lawton, England - 22 in 23 (0.96)
Zarra, Spain - 20 in 20 (1.00)
Record international goalscorers
Ali Daei, Iran - 109 goals in 149 games (0.73)
Ferenc Puskas, Hungary & Spain - 84 in 89 (0.94)
Pele, Brazil - 77 in 91 (0.85)
Sandor Kocsis, Hungary - 75 in 68 (1.10)
Bashar Abdullah, Kuwait - 75 in 134 (0.56)
Hossam Hassan, Egypt - 69 in 169 (0.41)
Gerd Muller, West Germany - 68 in 62 (1.10)
* Only includes players who have retired from international football.