The Race for Goals

The interactive below traces goal records at the World Cup. Brazil and Germany lead in goals, but it’s Hungary on either side of World War 2 that defined prolific.

Data visualisation:

Source and Notes

1. Data for this visualization has been sourced from the Fjelstul World Cup Database, created by Joshua C. Fjelstul, Ph.D. (© 2022 Joshua C. Fjelstul, Ph.D.).

2. Over the years, the number of matches in a World Cup has increased, contributing to more goals. The number of matches in a World Cup was 17-18 from 1930 to 1938, 22 in 1950, 26 in 1954, 35 in 1958, 32 from 1962 to 1970, 38 from 1974 to 1978, 52 from 1982 to 1994, and is 64 since 1998.

3. Country names show how they competed in a particular World Cup, and have not been modified for subsequent realignments. Thus, for example, there’s undivided Germany in 1934, West Germany and East Germany from 1950 to 1990, and unified Germany since 1994. Two other such prominent examples are Soviet Union (1958 to 1990) and Yugoslavia (1930 to 1998), from each of which several countries were carved out.

4. Due to World War 2, the World Cup was not held between 1938 and 1950.

5. In all, 1,340 players have scored 2,548 World Cup goals. To keep the list meaningful, we have considered only those players who have scored at least 3 goals, which is 261 players. Of these, data was not available for 11 players, and they were excluded, to give us a final count of 250 players.

6. Though there have been at least four teams from Asia in the World Cup since 1998, they are not among the top 10 in any category.