The Five Greatest German International Strikers – Male and Female

Alexandra Popp is undoubtedly England’s biggest obstacle to overcome if they are to win the Women’s Euros. The Germany striker broke the record for scoring in consecutive Women’s Euros matches by scoring for a sixth game in succession against France in the semi-final. In fact, she scored twice to draw level with England’s Beth Mead on six goals for the tournament, and it is likely that whichever of the two can make it a magnificent seventh (or more) in the final on Sunday will lead their team to victory.

Popp is the latest in a long line of great German international strikers, both male and female. Arguably no other country, and certainly no other European country, has produced so many great goal-scorers who have led their country to European Championship or World Cup finals and, in the case of the other four strikers on this list, helped them to win at least one, if not both, of those major international prizes. England will sincerely hope that Popp does not follow in the footsteps of her illustrious countrymen and women. Otherwise, they will be the bridesmaids once again and Popp will have joined one of the most exclusive clubs in sport.

Here, then, are the five greatest German international strikers – male and female.

Greatest German International Strikers

5. Alexandra Popp

Popp already merits inclusion on this list, even ahead of other great German forwards such as Uwe Seeler (who died recently), Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Maren Meinert, because of the way that she has taken Euro 2022 by storm. However, her domination of a Euros tournament has been a long time coming. She has already had an illustrious international career, the high-point of which is winning Olympic Gold at Rio in 2016. However, injury meant that she missed Euro 2017 in the Netherlands, when Germany finally surrendered their vice-like grip on the European Championship title, having won it an astonishing six times in succession before then.

Popp did not even start Euro 2022, instead coming on as a replacement for the injured Lea Schüller in Germany’s first game against Denmark. However, she scored soon afterwards and has continued to score ever since, making her absolutely irreplaceable now. In Germany, therefore, the hope is that she will become a latter-day, female equivalent of England’s Geoff Hurst, who replaced the great Jimmy Greaves when he was injured at the 1966 World Cup and ended up scoring the most famous hat-trick in football history in the final against Germany. If Popp can help Germany’s Women to gain a modicum of revenge in the Euro 2022 final, she might become as famous a figure in German football history as Hurst is in the chronicles of English football.

4. Miroslav Klose

Miroslav Klose was the archetypal international striker, in that his achievements for his country far outstripped those at club level. Indeed, given his extraordinary international scoring record (a German men’s record of 71 goals in 137 internationals), his club career was relatively undistinguished, notwithstanding the four years he spent with Bayern Munich between 2007 and 2011, during which time he won two Bundesliga titles. But on the international stage, in both Men’s Euros and World Cups, he was absolutely irrepressible.

Klose played for Germany for 13 years, but unlike most of the great German international strikers –male and female – he had to wait for his very last tournament before he finally won a trophy with his country. That was the 2014 Men’s World Cup in Brazil, when he broke the all-time record for most goals scored at Men’s World Cups with 16 in total. The last of those came in the semi-final against hosts Brazil, when Germany achieved the single most remarkable score-line in modern men’s football history (club or international) by winning 7-1. And when Germany then achieved a supreme South American double by beating Argentina 1-0 in the final, Klose finally had the international trophy that his legendary goal-scoring feats deserved.

3. Jürgen Klinsmann

Jürgen Klinsmann was a pivotal figure in two major German footballing triumphs. The first was actually with West Germany at the 1990 Men’s World Cup in Italy, before Germany was formally reunited as one footballing nation later that year. Then, Klinsmann was instrumental in leading West Germany to their third Men’s World Cup triumph, especially in the last 16 match against The Netherlands, the reigning Men’s European Champions. After Klinsmann’s fellow striker Rudi Völler and Frank Rijkaard of The Netherlands had both been sent off for fighting, Klinsmann produced one of the all-time great lone striker performances, including scoring the opener in Germany’s 2-1 win.

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Klinsmann made it a sensational international double when he led Germany to victory at the Men’s Euros in England in 1996. Although that side was arguably not as impressive as the 1990 Men’s World Cup Winners, Klinsmann was still impressive. He scored three goals, as he had in Italy in 1990, and joined the small club of international strikers who have won both the Euros and the World Cup – most of whom are German, including the top three players on this list.

2. Birgit Prinz

A lot of football fans, both male and female, are being introduced to women’s international football at Euro 2022, so they may not know the name Birgit Prinz and wonder why she should be ranked above the likes of Klinsmann and Klose on this list. Yet Klinsmann and Klose themselves would be the first to admit that, as an international striker, Prinz was even more successful than either of them. Indeed, she is probably the greatest striker in the history of women’s football and arguably also its greatest player.

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Prinz’s international career was phenomenal. It lasted between 1994 and 2011, when she bowed out on home soil at the 2011 Women’s World Cup. In that time, she won one Women’s World Cup (in 2003 in the USA) and five Women’s Euros in succession between 1995 and 2009, when, in a warning to England of what Alex Popp might be capable of in 2022, she scored twice in Germany’s 6-2 win over England in the final. Prinz ended up with 128 goals in 214 internationals. However, mere statistics alone, however impressive they are, cannot do full justice to her greatness. As many German fans and football writers said of her, she should really have been called “Queenz”, because she was undoubtedly the doyenne of German women’s football.

1. Gerd Muller

When Gerd Müller died last year, no less a figure than Franz Beckenbauer said that he had been Germany’ s “MVP”. That was because Müller is the greatest goal-scorer in the history of football, both men’s and women’s, not just because of the number of goals he scored (although that was extraordinary in itself) but because of the number of vital goals that he scored in major finals, at both club and international level.

Between 1972 and 1976, when he was at his peak, Müller achieved an incredible quadruple, scoring goals (several of them winners) in the 1972 European Championship final, the 1974 European Cup final, the 1974 World Cup final and the 1976 World Club Cup final. No other player in the history of football has scored so many vital goals and it is almost certain that no-one ever will in the future, given that, as Beckenbauer also said after his friend’s death, Müller specialist position of “goal-scorer” (or goal-poacher) has been all but eliminated from modern football, certainly in the men’s game.

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Just as Some Like It Hot is the greatest film ever made that is rarely, if ever, considered in any debate about the greatest film ever made, so Gerd Müller is the greatest footballer ever who is rarely, if ever, considered in any debate about the greatest footballer ever. And yet his unmatched and almost certainly unmatchable goal-scoring achievements absolutely demand that he should be. Some Like It Hot is the screen comedy that always makes you laugh and Gerd Müller was the goal-scorer who always scored a goal.