Ranking England's 10 Greatest World Cup Strikers of All Time

Rob Pollard@@RobPollard_Featured ColumnistJune 22, 2014

Ranking England's 10 Greatest World Cup Strikers of All Time

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    England have a long history with the World Cup, having first appeared at the tournament in Brazil in 1950 and winning it on home soil in 1966.

    Their record needs to improve—the group stage exit at this summer's event certainly hasn't helped—but they've regularly qualified for the finals and played their part in some exciting games down the years.

    This special Bleacher Report list looks specifically at the strikers who have performed well for The Three Lions at World Cups in the past, from a West Brom legend right through to a striker we still see plenty of on British TV.

    Here are England's 10 greatest World Cup strikers of all time.

10. Derek Kevan

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    Nicknamed "The Tank," former West Brom striker Derek Kevan was said to have a powerful shot with either foot, as well as being dominant in the air. During 10 seasons playing at the Hawthorns, he managed 173 goals in 291 games and is considered one of the club's greatest ever players.

    He scored two goals for England at the 1958 World Cup in Sweden, including a header past legendary goalkeeper Lev Yashin in England's 2-2 draw with the Soviet Union.

9. Trevor Francis

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    Trevor Francis, one of the most respected and feared strikers in English football during his heyday, scored two goals at the World Cup in 1982, including the opener in England's 2-0 win over Czechoslovakia in the group stage.

    He also scored the only goal of the game in the 1-0 win over Kuwait that saw England qualify from Group 4 with a 100 per cent record, with only a solitary goal against France conceded in their opening three matches.

    However, in the second round—another group phase—England drew both of their matches 0-0 and were eliminated as West Germany pipped them to first place before going on to finish as runners-up.

8. Alan Shearer

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    Alan Shearer remains one of the greatest-ever England strikers. If this list was concerned with performances for England in all competitions, it's likely he would rank much higher, but because of their failure to qualify for USA '94, his World Cup record was compromised.

    He managed just two World Cup goals for England, both of which came at France '98. He scored the opener in their first group game against Tunisia, a 2-0 win that also saw Paul Scholes—one of the greatest English midfielders of all time—score the second.

    England qualified from the group in second place behind Romania, whose last-minute win against England left Glenn Hoddle's side with a tough draw in the next round.

    They faced Argentina in the round of 16, but were eliminated on penalties after a 2-2 draw. Shearer had opened the scoring from the spot, but a pulsating game finished with England exiting the competition early once more.

7. David Platt

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    Although not strictly a striker, David Platt appears in this list by virtue of his finishing ability and his role as an attacking midfielder playing close to England's forwards.

    Platt managed three goals at Italia '90, one of the most memorable tournaments in World Cup history. It remains England's finest performance at a World Cup since '66, with Platt a key part of a very talented side.

    He started the tournament on the bench, but his superb last-minute volleyed winner against Belgium in the round of 16 saw him start against Cameroon in the quarter-final, where he scored the opening goal of a game England went on to win 3-2 after extra time.

    A goal in the third-place play-off against Italy, a match England lost 2-1, saw him finish alongside Jurgen Klinsmann and Rudi Voeller on three goals for the competition.

6. Nat Lofthouse

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    Nat Lofthouse scored a remarkable 30 goals in 33 international games for England and will forever be remembered as a true great.

    He scored three goals in the World Cup, all of which came in the 1954 event held in Switzerland. Lofthouse had also scored three during the qualifying campaign.

    He managed a brace in England's 4-4 draw with Belgium in the group stage, before adding his third of the competition in England's quarter-final defeat to Uruguay.

5. Roger Hunt

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    England's glorious 1966 triumph remains their only World Cup success. Roger Hunt, the legendary Liverpool forward, was central to that success, scoring three goals en route to victory.

    All of Hunt's goals came in the group stage as England finished top of Group 1 to qualify comfortably for the knockout stages.

    He played in all six of England's 1966 World Cup matches, partnering both Jimmy Greaves and Geoff Hurst along the way.

4. Michael Owen

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    Michael Owen's career may have ended in tepid fashion due to his poor injury record, but there's no doubting his goalscoring credentials.

    At his best, Owen was a feared forward, and his goal against Argentina for England at the 1998 World Cup will forever be remembered as the moment he announced himself on the world stage.

    Owen scored four World Cup goals for England—two in 1998 and two more in 2002.

    His first came in the 2-1 group-stage defeat to Romania at France '98. His strike with just over 10 minutes remaining appeared to have rescued England a point, but Dan Petrescu won it for the Romanians with just moments left on the clock.

    His brilliant solo effort against Argentina—one of the finest goals ever scored by an English player in a major tournament—put England 2-1 ahead in their round of 16 match, but it was a game they went on to lose in another disappointing penalty shootout.

    In 2002, Owen scored England's second goal in their 3-0 win over Denmark in the round of 16 before opening the scoring in the quarter-final defeat to Brazil.

3. Bobby Charlton

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    Manchester United legend Bobby Charlton's World Cup goalscoring record began with a strike against Argentina in a 3-1 group-stage win in 1962.

    However, it was four years later, when he really announced himself as an England legend by scoring three goals as England won their only ever World Cup. Charlton—who, like Platt, wasn't strictly a striker—opened his account that tournament with a goal against Mexico in the group stage. He added two more to his tally in the semi-final win over Eusebio's Portugal, before playing a key role in the win over West Germany in the final.

    He remains England's record goalscorer with 49 from 106 appearances.

2. Geoff Hurst

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    Geoff Hurst's four goals in the World Cup of 1966—including a hat-trick in the final against West Germany—have secured his place in the pantheon of England greats forever.

    His other goal in '66 was the winner against Argentina in the quarter-final that set up their semi-final date with Portugal.

    Four years later, in Mexico, Hurst scored the only goal of the game against Romania—England's only group stage win—in a match crucial to their progression to the next round.

    His hat-trick in the 1966 final, though, remains the abiding memory of one of England's greatest-ever players.

1. Gary Lineker

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    Having scored 10 goals over two tournaments—Mexico '86 and Italia '90—Gary Lineker is by far and away England's greatest ever World Cup striker, having managed to double the number of goals scored by his closest challenger.

    Very few England players have possessed Lineker's instincts inside the box, with his ability to score goals, particularly from close range, his defining skill.

    He scored a hat-trick in England's 3-0 win over Poland in their final group game at Mexico '86, a result that ensured England's passage into the round of 16, where he scored another two goals in the 3-0 win over Paraguay.

    With England 2-0 down to Argentina in the quarter-final, Lineker scored with nine minutes left, but it wasn't enough as they exited the competition. However, his six goals in Mexico saw him finish the tournament as the top scorer.

    And his love affair with the world's greatest sporting event continued in Italy four years later. He got Bobby Robson's men off to a flyer in their opening group game against Ireland with a goal after 8 minutes, though Kevin Sheedy equalised with less than 20 minutes remaining and the game finished 1-1.

    England went on to draw with Netherlands in their second match before a 1-0 win over Egypt saw them progress to the knockout stages, where—after beating Belgium in the round of 16—Lineker scored two penalties in the win over Cameroon in the quarter-final.

    He was on the scoresheet again in the semi-final, grabbing England's only goal in the 1-1 draw with West Germany. He went on to score in the penalty shoot-out, but Chris Waddle and Stuart Pearce failed from the spot and England were sent home.