Wednesday 09 March 2022, 15:00

The race to finish as the regional scoring kings

  • Regional qualifying for Qatar 2022 is approaching its conclusion

  • We look at the race to finish as top scorer in the respective zones

  • Depay and Kane share the lead as Marcelo threatens a huge shock


Islam SlimaniAlgeria7
Victorien AdebayorNiger5
Ayoub El KaabiMorocco5
Ibrahima KoneMali5
Riyad MahrezAlgeria5
Fashion SakalaZambia5

Slimani may be in pole position and on song for Sporting, but he’s not over the line yet. Opponents Cameroon are on a run of three consecutive clean sheets in Qatar 2022 qualifying and boast one of the continent’s finest goalkeepers in Andre Onana. Three players still in the mix sit two goals behind Slimani: team-mate Riyad Mahrez, Mali’s Ibrahima Kone and Ayoub El Kaabi of Morocco. Kone will be buoyed by the flying start he has made to life at Lorient and the fact that he scored the winner against forthcoming adversaries Tunisia in the recent CAF Africa Cup of Nations.

El Kaabi is another player in high spirits. The Casablanca native has thrived for the Atlas Lions since making his debut at the relatively old age of 24 in 2018, and is fresh from a hat-trick for Hatayspor at the weekend. Fellow Moroccan Ryan Mmaee, Senegal’s Famara Diedhiou, Dieumerci Mbokani of Congo DR, and Nigeria’s Victor Osimhen are in with an outside chance. Mo Salah, meanwhile, has yet to get off the mark in Qatar 2022 qualifying, while his club colleague but upcoming rival, Sadio Mane, has three goals to his name. Stats Emmanuel Adebayor scored or assisted 16 of Togo’s 20 goals in Germany 2006 qualifying as they stunned Senegal for a ticket to the finals. Kone has netted 11 goals in ten Mali appearances – a ratio of 1.1 per game. At just 22, the towering striker is just fours goal off becoming his country’s third-highest all-time marksman.

Previous top scorers

1962Edward AcquahGhana3
1970Garba OkoyeNigeria4
1974William Ouma Kenya6
1974Kembo Uba KemboZaire6
1978Mahmoud El KhatibEgypt6
1982Roger MillaCameroon6
1986Bassam JeridiTunisia5
1990Francois Omam-BiyikCameroon4
1994Rashidi YekiniNigeria8
1998Mike OrigiKenya5
1998Vitalis TakawiraZimbabwe5
1998Mamadou ZongoBurkina Faso5
2002Ibrahima BakayokoCôte d'Ivoire11
2006Emmanuel AdebayorTogo11
2010Moumouni DaganoBurkina Faso12
2014Mohamed AboutrikaEgypt6
2014Asamoah GyanGhana6
2014Mo SalahEgypt6
2018Prejuce NakoulmaBurkina Faso5
2018Mo SalahEgypt5
Mo Salah celebrates Egypt qualifying for Russia 2018


Ali MabkhoutUnited Arab Emirates14
Wu LeiChina PR12
Takumi MinaminoJapan10
Yuya OsakoJapan10
Omar Al SomahSyria9
Sardar AzmounIR Iran9

Ali Mabkhout and United Arab Emirates have Iraq away and Korea Republic at home as they look to make sure of third place, which would guarantee them another game in Asian qualifying. China PR golden boy Wu Lei is two goals behind and has Saudi Arabia and Oman to face. Japanese pair Takumi Minamino and Yuya Osako are a good way back, but after a tough test against Australia in Sydney, will be hopeful of boosting their tallies against Vietnam in Saitama.

Stats Karim Bagheri, from central midfield, astonishingly scored 19 goals in 14 games during the France 1998 preliminaries. All coming in 1997, it helped the Iranian finish that calendar year as international football’s leading marksman, one clear of Romario. Ali Mabkhout has scored 27 goals in his last 24 internationals to rocket into joint-seventh on the leading marksmen in international football history. The Emirati is one shy of Sunil Chhetri and Lionel Messi.

Previous top scorers

1986Lau Wing-YipHong Kong7
1990Hwang SunhongKorea Republic7
1994Kazu MiuraJapan13
1998Karim BagheriIR Iran19
2002Hani Al-DhabitOman11
2002Talal Al-MeshalSaudi Arabia11
2002Said BayazidSyria11
2006Ali DaeiIR Iran9
2010Sarayuth ChaikamdeeThailand8
2010Maksim ShatskikhUzbekistan8
2014Shinji OkazakiJapan8
2018Mohammad Al-SahlawiSaudi Arabia16
2018Ahmed KhalilUnited Arab Emirates16

Ali Daei and Karim Bagheri in 1998


Memphis DepayNetherlands12
Harry KaneEngland12
Robert LewandowskiPoland8
Aleksandar MitrovicSerbia8
Eran ZahaviIsrael8

It’s been a long while since an Dutchman or an Englishman topped the scoring chart – the Germany 1974 and Sweden 1958 qualifiers respectively – but Memphis Depay and Harry Kane are all but certain to end those droughts. Robert Lewandowski has just one fixture remaining – a Path B final against Sweden or Czech Republic no less – and six goals is surely too much of a bridge for even Cristiano Ronaldo to make up in a maximum of two outings. Stats Cristiano Ronaldo hit 15 goals in nine Russia 2018 qualifiers – more than any player had ever scored in a previous European qualifying campaign but not enough for him to finish top of the scoring chart, with Robert Lewandowski netting 16 goals in 10 appearances. Christian Benteke scored the fastest goal in World Cup qualifying history for Belgium against Gibraltar after just 8.1 seconds in 2017. It wrested the record from Davide Gualtieri, who famously fired San Marino ahead against England in 1993 after 8.3 seconds.

Previous top scorers

1958Tommy TaylorEngland8
1962Andrej KvasnakCzechoslovakia7
1970Gerd MullerWest Germany9
1974Hristo BonevBulgaria7
1974Johan CruyffNetherlands7
1974Gigi RivaItaly7
1974Joachim StreichEast Germany7
1978Roberto BettegaItaly9
1982Karl-Heinz RummeniggeWest Germany9
1986Preben EkjaerDenmark8
1990Marc van der LindenBelgium7
1994Florin RaducioiuRomania9
1998Predrag MijatovicYugoslavia14
2002Andriy ShevchenkoUkraine10
2010Theofanis GekasGreece10
2014Robin van PersieNetherlands11
2018Robert LewandowskiPoland16

North, Central America and Caribbean

Jonathan David and Cyle Larin may be obsessing about one thing and one thing only – qualifying Canada for a first World Cup since Mexico 1986 – but that won’t stop fans debating which of them will top the Octagonal scoring chart. Not that Michail Antonio will have given up hope. The West Ham United ace ended his pursuit of an international future with England to represent Jamaica, and with home games against El Salvador and Honduras among their last three run-outs, he'll be confident of putting pressure on the forerunners.

Stats Only two players have scored in five World Cup qualifying campaigns – and both did it in the Concacaf zone. One is unsurprising: Guatemalan goal machine Carlos Ruiz. The other is: Mexican defender Rafa Marquez.

‘Fish’ Ruiz is the 39-goal all-time leading scorer in World Cup qualifying history, three clear of Ali Daei and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Previous top scorers

1966Isidoro DiazMexico5
1970Juan Ramon MartinezEl Salvador7
1974Steve DavidTrinidad and Tobago7
1978Victor RangelMexico6
1982Hugo SanchezMexico3
1986Macho FigueroaHonduras5
1990Juan CayassoCosta Rica2
1990Raul ChaconGuatemala2
1990Evaristo CoronadoCosta Rica2
1990Leonidas FloresCosta Rica2
1990Kerry JamersonTrinidad and Tobago2
1990Philibert JonesTrinidad and Tobago2
1990Leonson LewisTrinidad and Tobago2
1990Julio RodasGuatemala2
1994Shaun GoaterBermuda7
1994Francisco UribeMexico7
1998Carlos HermosilloMexico11
2002Carlos PavonHonduras15
2006Jared BorgettiMexico14
2010Rudis CorralesEl Salvador8
2014Deon McCaulayBelize11
2018Carlos RuizGuatemala9

South America

Marcelo MartinsBolivia10
Lautaro MartinezArgentina7
Luis SuarezUruguay7
Michael EstradaEcuador6
Lionel MessiArgentina6
Christian CuevaPeru5
Alexis SanchezChile5

Marcelo Martins dream of firing Bolivia to a first World Cup since 1994 may be all but over, but he’s on the cusp of completing a preposterous personal fantasy. Lautaro Martinez, Lionel Messi and Neymar do have a game in hand, however, so the Verde No9 will be keen to bolster his tally against Colombia and Brazil.

Stats William Ramallo became the first Bolivian to hit a hat-trick in a World Cup preliminary in 1993 and went on to finish as the continent’s leading marksman, ahead of the likes of Gabriel Batistuta, Bebeto and Adolfo Valencia, in USA 1994 qualifying. The Cochabamba native was renowned for his many nicknames, among them ‘The Fisherman of the Area’, ‘Popeye’ and ‘The Ghost’.

Ronaldo had been a Brazil international for nine and a half years, and had 12 World Cup goals to his name, by the time he first scored in a qualifier for the competition. Marcelo Salas and Ivan Zamorano incredibly scored 23 goals between them in 16 France 1998 qualifiers.

Previous top scorers

1958Juan AgueroParaguay3
1958Maximo AlcocerBolivia3
1958Florencio AmarillaParaguay3
1958Oreste CorbattaArgentina3
1958Norberto MenendezArgentina3
1962Oreste CorbattaArgentina3
1966Hector SilvaUruguay5
1974Ruben AyalaArgentina5
1986Jorge AravenaChile7
1990Ruben SosaUruguay5
1994William RamalloBolivia7
1998Ivan ZamoranoChile12
2002Hernan CrespoArgentina9
2002Agustin DelgadoEcuador9
2010Humberto SuazoChile10
2014Luis SuarezUruguay11
2018Edinson CavaniUruguay10