Thursday 7 February 2013

Top 50 Big Game Scorers - Some Findings

Based on the large amount of feedback from the Guardian Football link to the Top 50 Big Game Scorers piece, I thought I'd add a bit more detail to answer some of the questions raised in the comments:

In terms of rankings, I've added an interactive table at the bottom of the post including the Top 200 - so filter on whatever you think is relevant for what you want to find out - whether that be club goals only, or just English Players, or even the decades - the tool can give a bit more detail.

Where's Maradona? (and others)

Maradona doesn't feature in the Top 50 Big Game Scorers list due to not scoring in the biggest games as regularly as others. That's not to say he's not one of the greatest players of all time, because only a fool would argue that. I'm just saying that based on major Global, European and South American Tournaments, Maradona scored just three goals in the Semi Final or Final stages - pretty low for the man many consider to be the greatest of all time. Given his club and national team goal scoring record, it's quite surprising - he has 311 in 589 club games and 34 in 91 for his country. That's a prolific strike rate for anyone - so for a man considered greatest of all time, and who has played in four World Cups, and Three Copa Americas, you'd expect more than just two Semi Final goals (in the same match 1986).

That's two World Cup Finals (1986 & 1990), a Semi Final (1990), and a Copa America Semi (1987) - without him scoring. In fact, he didn't score once in the 1990 World Cup. It's obvious that he was more than just goals - his assists tell you that, but for a prolific scorer, his strike rate wasn't carried into the biggest games. His other big game goal was a penalty in the UEFA Cup Final of 1989.

Andres Iniesta - 3 goals/9 points - World Cup Final (2012), Champions League Semi Final (2009 & 2012)

Didier Drogba - 4 goals/9 points - Champions League Final (2012), Champions League Semi Final (2 x 2008, 2012)

Andriy Shevchenko - 4 goals/8 points - Champions League Semi Final (2 x 1999, 2003, 2005)

Steven Gerrard - 2 goals/5 points - Champions League Final (2005), UEFA Cup Final (2001)

Frank Lampard - 3 goals/7 points - Champions League Final (2008), Champions League Semi Final (2004, 2008)

Rivaldo - 3 goals/11 points - Copa America Final (1999), Copa America Semi Final (2 x 1999)

Carlos Tevez - 6 goals/11.5 points - Copa Libertadores Final (2003) Copa Libertadores Semi Final  (3 x 2003, 2 x 2004)

Lothar Matthaus - 5 goals/11 points - UEFA Cup Final (1980, 1981), European Cup Semi Final (2 x 1987, 1989)

Luis Suarez - 3 goals/11 points - Copa America Final (2011), Copa America Semi Final (2 x 2011)

Lineker and Klose have just one entry each - World Cup Semi Final in 1990 and Euro 2008 Semi Final respectively.

Steven Gerrard for example, is known for stepping up at important times, but the 2006 FA Cup Final goal for example is a domestic cup and although very prestigious, not included in the biggest games in World Football. Similarly, the goal in the Champions League to get Liverpool to the next round against Olympiakos, was a group game match. Similarly, a hat trick in the Merseyside Derby is undoubtedly showing a big game temperament, but this list is for the very biggest games in World Football.

I can confirm that Roger Milla did not feature.

Appearances and Assists

Some interesting points were made on the opportunities that the players had. In this choice of games, George Best for example only had the one game that he could have scored in - the 1968 European Cup Final, in which he showed his Big Game pedigree by scoring 2 goals. Alternatively, Thierry Henry has played in the following Finals without scoring: World Cup 2006, Euro 2000, UEFA Cup 2000, Champions League 2006, 2009. Also the Semi Final stages of all of the above only brought one goal - in the UEFA Cup Semi Final against Lens.A footballing great without doubt, but not on the biggest stages.

So on that front, the opportunities to join the list are worth noting, but unfortunately the line up data for all of the tournaments going back to 1950 aren't available, so had to be omitted.

And the same can be said of assists. Although I mention Maradona's lack of goals in the World Cup Finals, he did create the winning goal for Burruchaga in 1986 with a sensational pass that split the West Germany defence and left the striker clean through. However, the assist information is not widely available for all of the big games from 1950, so unfortunately they had to be left out. That's why the article was specifically called Big Game Scorer rather than Player.

Weighting of Goals

Also another valid point is the weighting of goals. Should Fernando Torres' two European Championship Final goals be worth the same weight? The 2008 goal was the winning goal in a 1-0 win, compared to the 2012 goal which was the third in a 4-0 win. However, given the scale of the project, this just wasn't possible. Plus there's the further issue of weighting, when the games themselves have already been weighted.

Top 200 (and 10)


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. fascinating article thanks. Remember when Zizou was a serial big game choker? 'Choked' in Bordeaux's UEFA Cup Final then consecutive CL finals with Juve. Narrative...

  3. Yeah, that's a good point actually - be interesting to see the ages of the players when they scored the big goals