Statistical Snapshot: The Five Most Efficient Goalscorers in Brazil History
I’m working on an article analyzing Brazil’s offense in 2012 versus 2010-11. Long-time readers may remember my previous article on the subject, which you can find here.
While doing a bit of research on it, a quick tangent led me to think about the most efficient goalscorers in Brazil history, based on a goals-to-caps ratio. A quick search combined with an even quicker calculation yielded the following results, which I’m posting here simply because:
A) I like stats
B) I like lists
C) I like history
Technically speaking, the most efficient scorer in Brazilian history is the great Leonidas da Silva, perhaps the greatest player of the 1930s. He’s also famous for being one of the pioneers of the bicycle kick (though not the inventor) and for taking free-kicks with his bare feet. In the 1938 World Cup, he scored 7 goals and was voted the player of the tournament, but in one of the most disastrous coaching mistakes of all time, the Brazil manager decided to rest him for the semi-final against Italy, probably costing Brazil the match.
Leonidas scored 21 goals in 19 games, an incredible feat no matter how you spin it. However, since the other players on this list all played double to quadruple the amount of matches he did, we’ll give him an honorary place and move on to a more modern five. My criteria here (somewhat arbitrary, I admit) is that the player has to have scored at least 20 goals, played in at least 30 matches, and had to have appeared in a World Cup.
(As a quick aside, I once watched about 20 minutes of Brazil’s match versus Poland in that World Cup. The quality was surprisingly good, but what was even more surprising was that the match was very entertaining – even then, the players on the pitch looked very quick (though erratic frame rates make it hard to judge), surprisingly athletic, and skilled.)
Without further ado, the Five Most Efficient Goalscorers in Brazil History:
5. Luis Fabiano
When you think of the great Brazilians of the past, you obviously think of Pele, Ronaldo, Romario, Zico, etc. If you go even further, you think of Didi, Jairzinho, Tostao, Rivelino, Rivaldo, etc. You probably don’t think of Luis Fabiano. Yet the former Sevilla man has scored 28 goals, which puts him at 13th all time. That’s impressive enough, but even more impressive is his goals-to-caps ratio. His 28 goals came in only 43 matches, giving him a percentage of 65%. Add to all this the fact that Fabiano didn’t play a game from 2005-2006, and that 20 of his goals came in competitive play (2004 Copa America, 2010 WC qualification, 2009 Confederations Cup and 2010 World Cup) and it’s clear that not only is Fabiano one of the great goalscorers in Selecao history, but one of the most underrated. The latter is probably due to the fact that he’s probably the least flashy and technical player of the names on this list.
How good was Zico? Considering that he’s the only midfielder to appear on this list, pretty damn good. In fact, not only is he the 4th most efficient goalscorer of all time, he’s also the 4th most voluminous goalscorer of all time, with 52 goals in 72 caps. That puts him at 72%. Zico was a superb dribbler, an excellent finisher, and tremendous at set pieces…maybe the best Brazil has ever had. Add in his incredible vision and passing ability, and you’re looking at the most complete Brazilian ever not named Pele. If only he hadn’t missed that penalty in ‘86.
No surprise here. Romario is one of the greatest finishers of all time, no matter what nationality you’re considering. He could score with both feet. He could score with power. He could score with placement. He was both a goal-poacherpar excellence and a solo artist of the first degree. He could win headers in the box, dig out loose balls, or break the offside trap. But maybe his greatest skill was the delicate chip. Ronaldo was the best player I’ve ever seen at rounding the keeper to score goals, but Romario was the best I’ve ever seen at chipping the keeper. Watch this video and see how many times he would loft the ball over the keeper, even off the first touch.
And like Fabiano, he was a tremendous tournament player. He scored one goal in the ‘87 Copa America, 3 in the ‘89 Copa America, 1 in ‘90 WC qualification, 2 in ‘94 qualification, 5 in the ‘94 World Cup, 3 in the ‘97 Copa America, 7 in the ‘97 Confederations Cup, 3 in the ‘98 Gold Cup, and 8 in ‘02 WC qualification. And all that is over a 15-year time period. Absolutely incredible.
So what were his stats? 55 total goals, putting him 3rd of all time. And his 55 goals in 70 caps gives him a percentage of 78%, which is good enough for 3rd in that category as well.
Poor Ademir. Undoubtedly on the finest players of the late ’40s and early ’50s, Ademir scored 32 goals in only 39 matches, meaning he scored in 82% of his matches. He also scored 9 in the 1950 World Cup, besting Jairzinho’s and Leonidas’ 7 goals in 1970 and ‘38, respectively, or Ronaldo’s 8 goals in 2002. It was enough to win him the Golden Boot, but his failure to score in the biggest match of all, the final versus Uruguay, denied him not only the greatest trophy of all, but also a more revered spot in the history books.
There’s a reason they called him the King. 77 goals, most in Brazilian history. 92 caps played. That means he scored in a mind-blowing 83% of his games. Think about that. He failed to score only 17% of the time. And like Zico, he could score with both feet. He could score from set pieces. Like Romario, he was a superb finisher. Like Ronaldo, he could go on surging runs into the box, beating everyone to score. And, unusual for players on this list, he was phenomenal in the air. It helped that he was probably the best athlete of his era. He scored goals in his teens and he scored goals in his 30’s. And most amazing of all? He did all this while simultaneously being one of the most fouled, hacked, and targeted players in the history of professional football.
One wonders how many more he would have scored if he hadn’t missed most the 1962 World Cup to injury. Here’s Pele in the opening round match versus Mexico. He missed a free header in the 2nd half, but scored a beautiful solo goal, and also assisted Zagallo with a lovely cross. He would be injured in the next match.
That’s all for now.
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