Sunday 27 December 2020, 07:58

A year to remember for five little-known hotshots 

  • We look at some of the top goalscorers in leagues across the world in 2020

  • A Cuban was the third-most prolific behind Ronaldo and Lewandowski

  • The highest-scoring Argentinian this year was a player other than Messi

As we continue to reflect on Planet Football over the last 12 months, is turning its spotlight on goalscorers.

While superstars Cristiano Ronaldo and Robert Lewandowski, whose exceptional year saw them both named among the trio of finalists for The Best FIFA Men’s Player 2020 award, were the most clinical in front of goal, a few lesser-known names also hit the back of the net at an astonishing rate. has focused on five such sharpshooters, some of whom will likely be called upon by their national teams in 2021, during the qualifying campaign for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™.

Marcel Hernandez

Nationality: Cuban Club: CS Cartagines (Costa Rica) Age: 31 2020 record: 31 goals in 40 matches

Although he finished the calendar year behind Ronaldo and Lewandowski, Hernandez was nevertheless the official top scorer in world football in season 2019/20. By September 2020, he had scored 26 goals for Costa Rican outfit CD Cartagines. Since then, the Havana-born forward has netted five more times, lifting himself into third place for the entire year.

After coming through the ranks at FC Ciudad de La Habana and starring for the team in the Cuban League, Hernandez played in Antigua and Barbuda and the Dominican Republic. Having arrived in Cartagines in 2018, the rangy striker found his feet in the Costa Rican League, eventually bagging a sensational haul of 31 goals – a tally that does not include a single penalty kick – in 2020, forcing fans from outside the island of his birth to sit up and take notice of him.

Many Cubans are now wondering if Hernandez’s scoring exploits will persuade him to come out of international retirement – in 2013, he had announced his decision to no longer make himself available for his country after being omitted from the CONCACAF Gold Cup squad. With important qualifiers for Qatar 2022™ on the horizon, might we again see the 31-year-old represent the Leones del Caribe, for whom he recorded eight goals in 24 appearances between 2010 and 2013?

Did you know? In 2017, Hernandez was on the verge of packing his bags for Europe, but his transfer to Kosovan side Trepca’89 fell through due to administrative reasons.

Michael Olunga

Nationality: Kenyan Club: Kashiwa Reysol (Japan) Age: 26 2020 record: 28 goals in 32 matches

Michael Olunga, who began his career with Liberty Sports Academy in his native Kenya, has, at 26, already had his passport stamped a number of times and managed to find the net in several different countries, including Sweden, Spain, China and his current adopted home, Japan. And it was after arriving in the Land of the Rising Sun in 2018 that he began to score more regularly and in more clinical fashion. “I attribute the success to hard work and staying focused even when you think everything is lost,” he told FIFA.comin April. “It’s about believing you are capable of achieving great things and doing wonders on the pitch.”

In 2020, that work certainly paid dividends, because the talented Kenyan racked up no fewer than 28 goals in 32 games, topped the J-League scoring charts, and led promoted Kashiwa to seventh place at the conclusion of the 2019/20 campaign.

Olunga’s targets for 2021 will likely include maintaining the pace he set this year, and perhaps adding to his international scoring total in the upcoming qualifying matches for Qatar 2022, where the Kenyans find themselves in a group with Mali, Uganda and Rwanda.

Did you know? In 2018, Olunga became the first Girona player to notch a hat-trick in La Liga. Not content to sit on his laurels, in 2019 he scored eight goals in Kashiwa’s 13-1 victory over Kyoto Sanga.

Kasper Junker

Nationality: Danish Club: FK Bodo/Glimt (Norway) Age: 26 2020 record: 27 goals in 25 matches

Having previously not managed more than six goals in his career, Danish front man Kasper Junker was doubtless hopeful of making progress when he arrived at Norwegian club Bodo/Glimt on 1 January, but surely even he could not have imagined that, one year later, he would be able to present a record of one goal every 74 minutes!

Top scorer and champion of the Norwegian Eliteserien, Junker finished sixth in the global list of league goalscorers this year, behind Ronaldo, Lewandowski, Hernandez, Olunga and Ciro Immobile. The left-footer’s prowess in the box and eye-catching development have not yet earned him a national-team call-up, but they have piqued the interest of numerous clubs, particularly in England and Germany. “He really doesn’t want to leave, but his ambition is to test himself in Europe’s top leagues,” admitted his agent, Christian Bysted.

If the 26-year-old Dane continues in the same vein, countless doors should soon begin to open for him.

Did you know? In the 25 matches in which he took part last season, Junker scored three hat-tricks and four braces, as well as registering 11 assists.

Ramiro Rocca

Nationality: Argentinian Club: CSD Municipal (Guatemala) Age: 32 2020 record: 26 goals in 27 matches

As surprising as it may sound, the top Argentinian goalscorer in a national league in 2020 was not Lionel Messi. That honour goes to Ramiro Rocca, who, just like his illustrious compatriot, played youth football for Newell’s Old Boys. While his career may not have had the same prominence or impact as Messi’s, the 32-year-old penalty-area specialist certainly found himself in the spotlight in 2020, during which he bagged nearly one goal per match in the Guatemalan top tier.

After plying his trade in the Argentinian lower leagues and in El Salvador, Rocca signed for Guatemalan side Deportivo Iztapa in 2019, finishing the Apertura season as leading scorer with 16 goals. This feat attracted the attention of CSD Municipal, and he joined the Guatemalan heavyweights at the beginning of January.

Over 12 months, Rocca not only improved on his previous tally, hitting the net 26 times, but he also equalled the 20-year-old Apertura scoring record, held by legendary Costa Rican striker Rolando Fonseca.

Did you know? On 29 November, Rocca scored four goals against his former club, Iztapa. After grabbing the opener in the tenth minute, he celebrated by donning an Argentina jersey bearing the No10, in a tribute to the late Diego Maradona.

Rauno Sappinen

Nationality: Estonian Age: 24 Club: FC Flora Tallinn (Estonia) 2020 record: 26 goals in 28 matches

Sappinen’s stats for 2020 are impressive. However, while his scoring ratio – one goal every 86 minutes – was the best of his career, it was not his most successful season in terms of the number of goals: in 2018, the Estonian topped the league standings with 27 successful strikes. Having also amassed totals of 16 and 19 in the two previous seasons, Sappinen has always had an eye for goal.

Curiously, the Flora Tallinn attacker, named Estonian Young Footballer of the Year in 2015 and 2018, and Meistriliiga Player of the Year in 2017, has never been able to reproduce his performances at home whenever he has had the opportunity to export his talents abroad. His ruthlessness in front of goal in the Estonian League stands in stark contrast to his three loan spells at Beerschot Wilrijk (Belgium) in 2017/18 (two matches, no goals), Den Bosch (Netherlands) in 2018/19 (32 matches, six goals) and Domzale (Slovenia) in 2019/20 (11 matches, 2 goals).

But with his 25th birthday around the corner, perhaps Sappinen is maturing at just the right moment, given that Estonia will soon be kicking off their qualifying campaign for Qatar 2022.

Did you know? Sappinen struck four goals in six international appearances in 2020, having previously only found the net twice in 25 previous games for Estonia, between 2015 and 2019.