Six sharpshooters leading the way

Jump to
17 Oct 2021
  • We highlight six in-form players who are their nation's all-time top scorers

  • Cristiano Ronaldo is also the highest-scoring male in international football history

  • Romelu Lukaku, Teemu Pukki and Islam Slimani also feature

While their ultimate objective is to secure a place for their teams at the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™, for six national treasures currently engaged in qualifying competitions across the globe there are also individual targets to be achieved. Their names are Cristiano Ronaldo, Teemu Pukki, Enner Valencia, Emilio Nsue, Islam Slimani and Romelu Lukaku, and they have all scored more goals for their respective national teams than anyone else, with some of them acquiring that status in the last international window and others cementing it. FIFA.com looks at their mighty achievements in front of goal.

Cristiano Ronaldo

36 years old 115 goals in 182 appearances Already Portugal’s leading marksman, Ronaldo became the highest ever goalscorer in men’s international football when he helped himself to a brace against Republic of Ireland on 1 September, moving past Ali Daei, the scorer of 109 goals for IR Iran. Despite turning 36, Ronaldo continues to rewrite the record books and grow his legend even further. After finding the back of the net against Qatar in a friendly, CR7 put three past Luxembourg in a Qatar 2022 qualifier, his tenth hat-trick for his country. Did you know? Qatar are the 46th country Ronaldo has scored against. The match also saw him set a new European record for international appearances. Quote Cristiano Ronaldo: “I promised that I’d keep striving for more. It’s in my blood and it’s in ours. We never settle for what we’ve got. We never let up and we keep on fighting for everything we can achieve.”

Teemu Pukki

31 years old 33 goals in 98 appearances The Norwich City man made his international debut against Japan in February 2009, coming on in place of the great Jari Litmanen. Twelve years on and Pukki moved past him as Finland’s leading all-time scorer with two goals in the Qatar 2022 qualifier against Kazakhstan. The 31-year-old is still some way short of Litmanen’s national appearances record of 132, one the former Ajax star should hold on to for a little longer yet. Did you know? Pukki received a congratulatory text from Litmanen. Quote Teemu Pukki: “I’m obviously very proud. Jari Litmanen is the greatest player in the history of Finnish football, so it’s very special to have moved past him.”

Enner Valencia

31 years old 34 goals in 64 appearances Valencia scored twice against Bolivia on Matchday 11 of South American qualifying to move out on his own as Ecuador’s all-time leading marksman on 33 goals, two clear of Agustin Delgado. Valencia has had to wait for the outright record, having pulled level with 'El Tin' back on 14 November 2019, when he struck a brace in a friendly against Trinidad and Tobago. Did you know? After going nearly two years without a goal for his country, Valencia needed just two first-half minutes to score his double against the Bolivians.

Emilio Nsue

32 years old 13 goals in 26 appearances A scorer in the 2-0 defeat of Zambia on 7 October, the versatile Equatorial Guinea captain has had a big part to play in their progress on the road to Qatar 2022 so far. Nsue and Co are three points adrift of Tunisia, whom they entertain in November. A right-back in his youth but capable of playing in midfield and on the wing, Nsue has been calling the shots for the Nzalang Nacional since making his international debut in 2013. Having had spells with Mallorca in La Liga and Middlesbrough in the Premier League, the 32-year-old is the most experienced player in the squad. Yet despite being an obvious first-choice for his country, he is currently without a club. Did you know? Before embarking on his international career with Equatorial Guinea – the country of his father’s birth – Nsue played for Spain’s youth teams at every age level and ran out for La Roja at the FIFA U-20 World Cup Egypt 2009™.

Islam Slimani

33 years old 37 goals in 77 appearances The leading marksman in African qualifying for Qatar 2022 on six goals, Slimani has just moved past Abdelhafid Tasfaout as Algeria’s leading all-time marksman. The two goals he struck against Niger on 8 October took Slimani on to 37 and into the country’s footballing annals. He has also played his part in another impressive record, having helped the Desert Foxes go 31 matches without defeat, taking them past France on the all-time international list and within reach of Italy’s record of 37, set between 2018 and this year. Did you know? Slimani has fond memories of playing Niger, having won the first of his 77 caps against them on 26 May 2012. The Desert Foxes striker scored the first of his 37 international goals a week later, against Rwanda.

Romelu Lukaku

28 years old 65 goals in 98 appearances Belgium were on UEFA Nations League duty last week and suffered back-to-back defeats – to France and then Italy – for the first time since 2016, adverse results that could endanger their position at the top of the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking. One position that is not under threat, however, is Lukaku’s as Belgium’s most prolific ever marksman, with the Chelsea forward scoring against France to move on to 65 goals for the Red Devils. Did you know? No-one would have been more pleased to see Thierry Henry’s return to Belgium’s coaching staff in August than Lukaku. The two get on like a house on fire. Quote Romelu Lukaku: “Thierry might be the only guy in the world who watches more football than me. We debate everything. We’re sitting around and having debates about German second-division football. I’m like, ‘Thierry, have you seen the Fortuna Dusseldorf set-up, though?’ He’s like, ‘Don’t be silly. Yes, of course.’ That’s the coolest thing in the world, to me.”