The FIFA World Cup is the world’s most prestigious soccer tournament, taking
place every 4 years at select locations across the globe. The 2018 version of
the event, taking place in Russia, will be the 21st playing of the event. 8
national teams have combined to win the first 20 World Cups, with no team having
more wins than Brazil’s 5.
The first-ever World Cup took place in 1930 in Uruguay, who would go on to
win the event for the first and only time. A number of records have been
established along the way. What are some of the most noteworthy records that
have been set in soccer’s biggest event?
Most Goals (All-Time) – Miroslav Klose (Germany, 16)
Miroslav Klose wrapped up his international career while serving as a bit
player during Germany’s run to the 2014 title. Klose bagged a pair of goals
along the way for the Germans to run his career World Cup total to 16 tallies.
With his 16th goal in the 7-1 rout of hosts Brazil in the quarter-final
round, Klose ironically surpassed Brazilian legend Ronaldo for the most goals by
one player in the history of the tournament. Klose’s strike put Germany up 2-0
on their way to an insurmountable 5-0 lead at the intermission.
Klose is also the third player ever to score at least one goal at 4 separate
World Cups. His 16 strikes came across 24 matches, while Ronaldo’s 15 were
scored in just 19 games. Another German, Gerd Muller, scored 14 World Cup goals,
which is third most all-time. Just Fontaine of France scored 13, while Pele
ranks fifth with 12.
The biggest direct threat to Klose’s newfound record is likely to come from
one of his former teammates, Thomas Muller. Heading into the 2018 World Cup, the
German forward has already scored 10 goals in the competition in just 13
matches. Still only 28, it stands to reason that Muller will have the chance to
surpass Klose if he features again for Germany in 2022.
Most Goals (Single Tournament) – Just Fontaine (France, 13)
Just Fontaine managed to set a new World Cup all-time record for goals scored
in the span of just one tournament. Fontaine found the back of the net 13 times
during France’s run in the 1958 competition. Perhaps most impressively, he
managed to accomplish the feat in just 6 games.
Fontaine’s run included a 4-goal performance against defending champions West
Germany in the third-place playoff match. The Frenchman scored twice during the
quarter-final 4-0 win over Northern Ireland and once during the 5-2 defeat in
the semi-final round against Brazil. Fontaine scored in all 6 matches, which
remains a record for the most consecutive games in which one player has scored
at least once.
Unfortunately, this would be Fontaine’s lone appearance at a World Cup.
France failed to qualify for the 1962 tournament in Chile. And Fontaine was
forced to retire in July of that year because of a recurring injury. He was just
28 at the time of his retirement, which makes you wonder just how many goals he
would have finished his career with had he been able to keep playing
competitively well into his 30s.
Fontaine’s performance in 1958 was good enough to earn him Golden Boot honors
as the tournament’s highest scorer. Before his exploits in ’58, Hungary’s Sandor
Kocsis held the previous record for most goals in a tournament, with 11 in 1954.
Most Goals (Single Match) – Oleg Salenko (Russia, 5)
Oleg Salenko bagged a World Cup-record 5 goals in a match back at the 1994
World Cup in the United States. Salenko scored 5 times in a 6-1 Russia victory
over Cameroon. Salenko would finish the tournament with 6 goals after scoring a
penalty kick against Sweden in the previous match.
Salenko’s 6 goals in 1994 would be good enough to tie him with Bulgaria’s
Hristo Stoichkov, and the 2 players would share Golden Boot honors. What is
particularly remarkable about Salenko’s accomplishment is that Russia was
actually eliminated in the group stage, while Bulgaria would go on to play 7
matches and finish in fourth place in the tournament.
Salenko remains the only player in the history of the World Cup to earn
Golden Boot honors despite his team having been eliminated in the group stage. 5
goals in one match certainly goes a long way toward sealing that record. It
makes you wonder whether Salenko could have given Fontaine a run for his
all-time single-tournament record for goals scored had Russia been able to make
a deeper run.
Most Wins (Single Tournament) – Brazil (7, 2002)
Brazil’s most recent World Cup triumph came in 2002 in the tournament
co-hosted by South Korea and Japan. The Brazilians put on arguably the greatest
show in the history of the tournament that year, winning all 7 matches they
played. Brazil outscored its opponents 18-4 during that stretch.
That 2002 Brazil team had arguably the best collection of talent ever on a
single roster at the tournament. Ronaldo led the way, but the squad also
included several other world-class players, including Ronaldinho, Roberto
Carlos, Cafu, Rivaldo, Juninho, and Kaka.
The Brazilians blew their group out of the water, defeating Costa Rica,
China, and Turkey by a collective score of 11-4. The team then easily disposed
of Belgium in the round of 16 before getting past England 2-1 in the next round.
Brazil earned a narrow 1-0 victory over a familiar Turkish side in the
semi-final before beating the Germans 2-0 in the Final.
Most Goals Allowed (Team, Single Tournament) – South Korea (16, 1954)
South Korea has been a mainstay at the World Cup in recent years, and they
are competing once again in Russia in 2018. Unfortunately, the South Koreans
have one of the worst records at the tournament to date. They did enjoy a
Cinderella run to a third-place finish when they co-hosted the competition with
Japan at the aforementioned 2002 event, but their other performances have left
much to be desired.
South Korea holds the dubious honor of having conceded the most goals in the
history of a single World Cup. The South Koreans made their World Cup debut in
1954 in Switzerland, and things did not go too well. South Korea played just 2
matches in the group stage that year and went goalless while conceding 16 goals
on the other end.
The fact that they still hold the record for most goals allowed in a
tournament despite playing a whopping 2 games is mind-bendingly awful. They were
thrashed 9-0 by Hungary in their first-ever World Cup match before getting a
slightly better but still awful result in a 7-0 drubbing by Turkey in the next
That would be it for South Korea in the World Cup for 32 years. The South
Koreans didn’t appear in another World Cup until 1986 in Mexico. They still
finished last in their group that year, but at least they mustered 4 goals of
their own along the way while conceding 7 times.
Most Goals Scored (Team, Single Tournament) – Hungary (27, 1954)
So we know that Hungary throttled South Korea by a score of 9-0 during their
group stage match in the 1954 World Cup. That same Hungarian team would go on to
score the most goals of any team during a single World Cup, with 27. Scoring 9
goals in one match is certainly a good head start.
Unfortunately, Hungary couldn’t parlay their goal-scoring ways into a
tournament victory. The Hungarians were ultimately beaten by West Germany in the
Final, which is still the closest Hungary has come to glory on the World Cup
stage. Hungary was also runners-up in 1938, but they have not been able to
qualify for the event since 1986.
As mentioned previously, Sandor Kocsis set a then-record for goals in a
single tournament with 11 in ’54. He bagged a pair of hat tricks along the way,
including one in the smashing of South Korea. He found the back of the net a
whopping 4 times in their next game against West Germany in an 8-3 win over an
undermanned squad. As we know, the Germans would ultimately have their revenge,
but Kocsis put forth one of the best individual efforts the tournament has ever
The World Cup is set to expand from 32 teams to 48 teams for the 2026 edition
in Mexico, Canada, and the United States, which means we could see more records
start to fall. More teams and players in the competition means more games in
general, and there is a very real chance we’ll see some of the oldest records in
the books put to the test in the coming years.
It’s also interesting how some of the best players on the planet haven’t
exactly lit the world on fire in the World Cup in the past. Most consider
Cristiano Ronaldo to be among the best players in the history of the sport, yet
the Portuguese talisman has accounted for just 3 goals and 2 assists in the
tournament in the past.
The World Cup brings the best of the world together every 4 years in one of
the planet’s most anticipated, most watched sporting events. It will be
fascinating to see which prestigious records come tumbling down over the next
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