Cristiano Ronaldo has been ripping up records on the road to Russia.
With 14 goals so far, and two matches still to play, the Portugal captain has already set a new benchmark for goals in a European qualifying section. Ronaldo is also now the highest scoring European in the history of FIFA World Cup™ preliminaries, having moved three clear of Andriy Shevchenko with his hat-trick against the Faroe Islands in August.
Yet despite his record-breaking form, and incredible average in Russia 2018 qualifiers of a goal every 45 minutes, CR7 is not yet assured of finishing as the continent’s top marksman. Indeed, he has two formidable and in-form rivals in the shape of Robert Lewandowski and Romelu Lukaku.
With all three on double figures ahead of their team’s penultimate and final qualifiers, FIFA.com looks closer at Europe’s leading trio and their roles in the race to Russia.
CRISTIANO RONALDO (POR) 2018 WCQ goals: 14
Minutes played: 630
Minutes per goal: 45
Shots on target: 29
Remaining fixtures: Andorra (A), Switzerland (H)
Coach’s view "I have never seen Cristiano Ronaldo unmotivated. He always wants to win and to do better, better, better. Cristiano is crazy, he's amazing. He has only one focus: win, win, win. And for this he works a lot. He is the best player in the world, but more importantly, he’s my friend. He’s a genius. To be a genius you need a talent, but you need to work. Because if you have one without the other it is impossible to be a genius — and Cristiano is a genius.”
Did you know? Ronaldo’s hat-trick against the Faroes took him on to 78 international goals and beyond Pele’s final tally for Brazil. Only Ali Daei (109), Ferenc Puskas (84), Kunishige Kamamoto (80) and Godfrey Chitalu (79) have now scored more goals for their national teams than Portugal’s all-time leading marksman.
ROBERT LEWANDOWSKI (POL) 2018 WCQ goals: 12
Minutes played: 720
Minutes per goal: 60
Shots on target: 18
Remaining fixtures: Armenia (A), Montenegro (H)
Coach’s view "For me, he is the number one. He's the best striker in the world. Robert Lewandowski is developing all the time, he makes progress continuously and I don't think there's anyone that could stop him. He's incredibly important for us - he’s like the steam-powered locomotive of the team.”
Did you know?
Lewandowski needs just one more goal to equal Wlodzimierz Lubanski’s all-time record of 48 goals for Poland. Lubanski himself has tipped the Bayern Munich man to break the 60-mark.
ROMELU LUKAKU (BEL) 2018 WCQ goals: 10
Minutes played: 606
Minutes per goal: 61
Shots on target: 18
Remaining fixtures: Bosnia-Herzegovina (A), Cyprus (H)
Coach’s view “He creates chances and takes chances and he'll never lose that. He will always score goals. He is ready to take responsibility up front and and thirsty to take the big moment in a game. From a very young age, he had an incredible goalscoring threat. He has the possibility of becoming the best number nine in world football because he has absolutely everything."
Did you know? Lukaku made his debut for Belgium’s senior team aged just 16 in 2010. Now, and though still just 23, he has already amassed 60 caps and is just seven goals away from becoming his country’s all-time leading scorer.