Who Were the Top Goalscorers in Each Soccer World Cup?

Being the top goalscorer in a world cup is one of the most coveted prizes in soccer, besides winning the tournament of course. Here's a list of all the previous top scorers in the tournament.
Who Were the Top Goalscorers in Each Soccer World Cup?

Last update: 18 August, 2020

In each soccer world cup, players aren’t just vying to lift the trophy. There are also other individual prizes to be won. One such prize is the golden boot, awarded to the tournament’s top goal scorer. Here, we’ve put together a list of the top goalscorers in each soccer world cup!

World cup top goalscorers

We’ll start with the most recent tournament and work our way back, looking at each player’s story in detail.

1. Russia 2018

The 21st edition of the world cup was held in Russia and, to date, was the most expensive in history. This tournament was the first to use a soccer ball fitted with a microchip and the controversial VAR technology (video assistant referee).

The top scorer was the Englishman Harry Kane, who scored six goals. Interestingly enough, three of them came in the same match against Panama, which England won 6-1. In fact, one of his goals in that game was quite lucky, bouncing off his heel.

Harry Kane playing for England.

2. Brazil 2014: world cup top goalscorers

This was the second time that the world cup had been held in Brazil, with the first being in 1950, when the famous “Maracanazo” took place. This was a world cup full of surprises, including the first-round elimination of defending champions Spain.

The top goalscorer on this occasion was the Colombian James Rodríguez, who scored six goals.

James Rodriguez.

3. South Africa 2010

This was the first time that a soccer world cup had been held in Africa, and it saw the return of several teams who had been absent from the tournament for a song time, including North Korea, Honduras, New Zealand, Algeria, Greece, and Chile. The top goalscorer was Thomas Muller of Germany, with five goals. He also got three assists in the tournament.

Thomas Muller playing for Germany.

4. Germany 2006

This 18th edition of the world cup took place in Germany, and it was the second time that this country had hosted the tournament (the previous, was in 1974 in West Germany). This was one of the tournaments with the fewest goals per game and also saw the most yellow and red cards issued.

The top scorer on this occasion was the German Miroslav Klose (pictured at the top of the article), scoring five goals. Klose holds the record for the most number of world cup goals, scoring 16 in his entire career. The last one was in the semi-final at Brazil 2014, when the Germans beat the hosts 7-1.

5. Korea-Japan 2002: world cup top goalscorers

This was the first time that either Korea or Japan had hosted the tournament, as well as being the first time that it had been held in Asia. Brazil won in the final against Germany to become five-times champions. Surprisingly, third and fourth places went to Turkey and South Korea, respectively. The top goalscorer was the Brazilian Ronaldo, with eight goals, two of which he scored in the final.

The Brazilian Ronaldo.
Image: Conmebol.

6. France 1998

As well as having scored the most number of world cup goals (171), France is one of the other countries to have hosted two world cups (along with Italy and Mexico). In this last world cup of the 20th century, France beat Brazil in the final, although the top goalscorer was Davor Suker of Croatia, with six goals.

Davor Suker, top goalscorer at France 98.
Image: RPP.

7. USA 1994

When the USA was chosen as the host nation for the 1994 world cup, there was great controversy. At the time, soccer wasn’t a very popular sport in the USA, and many questioned whether the tournament should’ve been hosted in a more ‘soccer’ country. This was also the last edition of the tournament to feature 24 teams, with the number being increased to 32 for the next tournament.

At this world cup, Brazil defeated Italy in the final, although neither team contained the top goalscorer. On this occasion, the golden boot was shared by the Russian Oleg Salenko and the Bulgarian Hristo Stoitchkov, with six goals each.

Oleg Salenko, one of the top goalscorers at the world cup in 1994.
Oleg Sanenko, one of the top goalscorers at USA 1994. Image: FIFA.

8. Italy 1990

As we’ve already mentioned, Italy has hosted the world cup on two occasions so far. This particular tournament didn’t create any particularly outstanding moments and was won by West Germany, who beat Argentina 1-0. The top scorer was Salvatore Schillaci of Italy, with six goals.

Salvatore Schillaci.
Image: guioteca.com

9. Mexico 1986

With this tournament, Mexico became the first nation to host the world cup for a second time. Another interesting fact is that the ball used for the tournament was the first to be made from synthetic materials, which improved durability on high-altitude pitches.

Gary Linekar sitting with his trophies.
Image: FIFA.

The top goalscorer on this occasion was the Englishman Gary Linekar, with six goals. In second place was the Argentine Diego Maradona, the best player at the tournament.

10. Spain 1982

This was the first world cup to feature 24 teams and it had representatives from each continent. The best player, and top goalscorer, was the Italian Paolo Rossi, with six goals. At this tournament, Dino Zoff of Italy became the oldest player to win a world cup, at the age of 40 years old.

Paolo Rossi lifting the world cup in 1982.
Paolo Rossi lifting the 1982 World Cup. Image: FIFA.

More world cup top goalscorers

The other top scorers in each World Cup were: Mario Kempes (6 goals, Argentina 1978), Grzegorz Lato (7 goals, Germany 1974), Gerd Muller (10 goals, Mexico 1970), Eusébio (9 goals, England 1966) and Albert, Garrincha, Vavá, Sánchez, Ivanov, and Jerkovic (4 goals each in Chile 1972).

In earlier world cups, we see even higher goal averages. The top scorers prior to 1972 were Just Fontaine (13 goals, Sweden 1958), Sandor Kocsis (11 goals, Switzerland 1954), Ademir (8 goals, Brazil 1950), Leónidas da Silva (7 goals, France 1938), Oldrich Nejedly (5 goals, Italy 1934) and Guillermo Stábile (8 goals, Uruguay 1930).

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