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Best for their nation

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While the majority of football is centred around the club level for most of the year, the international break brings us the joy of watching our favourite players don their national jerseys. However, since most of these matches are friendlies and the bigger tournaments like FIFA World Cup and Euros come once in four years, not all international matches enjoy the same level of viewership, something rare in club football.

Despite this, these matches do serve as an indication of the quality of the respective national teams. And some players are really impressive when wearing their country’s jersey. Among them are players who have scored a lot of goals for their nations. While some of them are already well-known entities, there are a few players as well whose international careers far eclipsed their clubs.

So, here are the top 10 players who have scored the most goals in international matches.

Robert Lewandowski- Poland 

Robert Lewandowski can make a strong claim of being the best player ever to represent Poland in international football. The striker has had an impressive career where he has won 28 trophies, including 12 league titles, one Champions League, and one Super Cup, among others. And while he has not won anything with Poland, Lewandowski has always been a chief source of goals for the Biało-czerwoni. 

Lewandowski has scored 78 goals in 140 matches, and with his international career still going, expect to add a few more and move up the top 10 international goal scorers.

Hussein Saeed- Iraq 

Hussein Saeed is perhaps the greatest Iraqi player and one of the best ever to come out of Asia. Saeed was part of a golden generation of Iraqi players that won several international trophies in the late 70s and early 80s. Saeed’s first success at the international level came in 1977 when he helped Iraq win the AFC under-19 Championship.

He would then be a part of the Iraqi army team that won the 1979 World Military Cup. Three years later, though, would come his greatest moment when he was part of the Iraqi team that won the 1982 Asia Cup. Hussein Saeed retired in 1990 with 78 goals in 137 matches.

Godfrey Chitalu- Zambia 

Godfrey Chitalu is a name that is already known to football fans. When Lionel Messi broke the record of scoring the most goals in a single calendar year by getting past Gerd Muller, the Zambian Football Association e that Godfrey Chitalu was the legitimate record holder with 107 goals in 1972 as compared to Messi’s 91.

While there is scepticism regarding that claim, what can be said with certainty is that Chitalu was a brilliant goal scorer. In an impressive career that spanned 22 years, Chitalu scored 79 goals in 111 matches and helped Zambia finish runners-up in the 1974 Asia Cup.

Ali Mabkhout- United Arab Emirates

Another footballer who is still going strong after 15 years of international football, Ali Mabkhout, remains the best player to ever play for the United Arab Emirates. A youth product of the Emirati club Al Jazira, Mabkhout made his international debut in 2008 and has amassed over 100 appearances for his national side.

Mabkhout won his first international trophy in 2010 when he helped the UAE win the Gulf Cooperation Council under-23 Championship. In the same year, the under-23 side win the silver medal at the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou. At the senior level, he won the Arabian Gulf Cup in 2013 and finished third at the 2015 AFC Asian Cup.

The attacker has scored 80 goals in 109 matches as of March 2023.

Ferenc Puskas- Hungary 

Ferenc Puskas remains one of the most devastating goal-scorers in the history of football. The Hungarian won a total of 18 trophies at the time of his club, three of which came with the national side. This includes the 1947 Balkan Cup, 1953 Central European International Cup, and 1952 Summer Olympics. He also finished as runners-up to West Germany in the 1954 FIFA World Cup.

At the international stage, he played 89 matches and scored an astounding 84 goals scoring 0.94 goals per match. At the later end of his career, he switched his nationality to Spanish and played four games.

Sunil Chhetri- India 

Sunil Chhetri is a man who has been by far India’s best player of the 21st century. The 38-year-old is still going strong after making his debut back in 2005. Over the course of his almost two-decade-long career, Chhetri has played for over ten clubs and has won 19 trophies, out of which ten have come while playing for the national team.

Chhetri has won one AFC Challenge Cup, four SAFF Championships, three Nehru Cups and one Intercontinental Cup. He was also a silver medallist with India’s under-20 squad at the 2004 South Asian Games. As of 2023, Sunil Chhetri has scored 85 goals in 133 matches.

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Mokhtar Dahari- Malaysia 

Mohd Mokhtar bin Dahari is undoubtedly the best player ever to play for Malaysia. In an intentional career from 1972-1985, Dahari won eight international trophies with Malaysia, which includes two Southeast Asian Games titles. He also won a bronze medal with the national team in 1974.

Dahari also won another 13 trophies at the club level, which included a whooping ten Malaysian Cup. When he retired in 1985, Dahari’s tally stood at 89 goals in 142 matches. However, there was scepticism regarding the record. However, in June 2021, FIFA recognised his tally this making him a player in the top ten international goalscorers.

Lionel Messi- Argentina 

Perhaps the greatest ever player to play football, Lionel Messi is a name that every football fan knows. The Argentine has smashed record after record in his incredible career, winning 42 trophies, the most by any player ever after Dani Alves. So it is unsurprising to find Messi on the list of top international goal scorers.

The Argentine has scored 102 goals in 174 matches and is the only player among the top ten international goal scorers to have won the FIFA World Cup. With the Argentine still going strong, he could add a few more before hanging up his boots.

Ali Daei-Iran

Ali Daei differs from every other player on the list who played for a small nation. It is because Daei played in the Bundesliga, one of the top leagues playing for clubs such as Arminia Bielefeld, Bayern Munich and Hertha Berlin. And as expected, Daei was brilliant for the Iran national football team.

Daei won three trophies with Iran: the 1998 Asian Games, the 2003 Afro-Asian Cup of Nations, and the 2004 West Asian Football Federation Championship. When he retired in 2006, Ali Daei had scored 109 goals in 148 matches. For the next 15 years, he remained the top international goal scorer before his record was broken in 2021.

Cristiano Ronaldo- Portugal

With 122 goals to his name, Cristiano Ronaldo is the top international goal scorer in world football. After breaking Ali Daei’s record in 2021, Ronaldo has remained the undisputed leader, scoring 20 goals more than Messi, the next-best active footballer on the list.

The Portuguese star has won 32 trophies, of which three came with the national team, including their 2016 Euros. The attacker has also said he has no intention of retiring despite turning 38, which means he will add a few more goals.

Saumy Deepak Tripathi
A Bayern Munich fan who is deeply in love with football statistics. Has a soft spot for goalkeepers! (well only he knows why). You’ll find him vibing on 70’s classic songs and spends an abnormal amount of time cooking.

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