Gonzalo HIGUAIN, the underappreciated number 9 for Argentina


In the wake of Gonzalo HIGUAIN’s announcement that he was retiring from the Argentina national team, where does he rank among the all time greatest goal scorers for his country?


That was part of the statement which was released by the Chelsea forward when announcing his retirement. The year 2009 was 10 years ago but in a troublesome period for Argentina, HIGUAIN was seen by many as the real heir to Hernan CRESPO’s number 9 shirt and that of Gabriel BATISTUTA who came before him.

After months of Argentina fans worldwide clamoring to have the then Real Madrid striker finally wear his country’s shirt, Diego MARADONA rolled the dice on the 21 year old HIGUAIN. Gonzalo’s first match for his country came in an absolute must win World Cup qualifying match against Peru. With the score at 0-0 and nerves ever increasing, Pablo AIMAR sent in a pass to HIGUAIN and he made no mistake in scoring his first goal for his country.

Gonzalo Higuain Argentina
Gonzalo Higuain during his Argentina debut.

That goal was the first of 32 in an Argentina shirt, many of which proved to be crucial. In a time where no one had solidified and made the number 9 theirs, HIGUAIN grabbed it and ran with it. A friendly match against Germany prior to the 2010 FIFA World Cup saw him score his second goal for his country, the match winner in a 1-0 victory.

He had coach Diego MARADONA’s trust come the big tournament in South Africa a few months later. Gonzalo scored four goals, three of which against South Korea as he scored the first hat trick of the 2010 FIFA World Cup and a first hat trick scored by an Argentine since Gabriel BATISTUTA did it in 1998 against Jamaica.

Despite not winning the World Cup, the Albiceleste played world champions Spain in Buenos Aires shortly after La Furia Roja lifted their first World Cup trophy. A 4-1 win for Argentina and another goal by Gonzalo HIGUAIN.

By the time the 2011 Copa America had come around, Sergio AGUERO was in excellent form but it was Gonzalo HIGUAIN who gave Argentina a life line against Uruguay in the quarter finals. A cross sent in by Lionel MESSI and a goal by HIGUAIN.

He would score in a friendly match against Nigeria but the best was yet to come. A second career hat trick for his country, this time in a 4-1 win against Chile in the World Cup qualifiers. He had reached 12 goals in 19 matches.

Gonzalo Higuain Argentina
Gonzalo Higuain celebrating a goal for Argentina.

The team’s morale was absolutely shattered. Diego MARADONA stepped away as Argentina coach after the 2010 World Cup, Sergio BATISTA lasted less than a year as manager and the team was eliminated in the quarter finals on home soil at the 2011 Copa America.

All the pressure in the world was on the shoulders of Alejandro SABELLA’s men and HIGUAIN came up trumps in the first match when he scored the three goals. While the turning point of Argentina’s campaign may have come against Colombia in a 2-1 win, there was no denying HIGUAIN’s contributions to the team.

The year 2012 saw the emergence of the fantastic four. Lionel MESSI, Gonzalo HIGUAIN, Sergio AGUERO and Angel DI MARIA were a well oiled machine and at the time, the deadliest attack in world football on the international scene.

HIGUAIN would score against Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Chile and Venezuela (twice) in World Cup qualifying for 2014 and would finish the campaign with 9 goals, behind only Lionel MESSI (10 goals) and Luis SUAREZ who had 11 goals. And in between all of that, he managed a goal (or two, depending on your source) against Sweden.

Prior to the World Cup in Brazil, HIGUAIN would score against Italy in a friendly win. There was no opponent too big or too small for HIGUAIN to score against.

Come the show down in Brazil, it took him some time to get going. After having reached the quarter finals, he took matters into his own hands against Belgium. Having not surpassed the quarter final stage since 1990, HIGUAIN would put in a performance of a life time. He scored the only goal of the match in the 1-0 win and was one of the, if not the, best player on the pitch that day.

Unfortunately, what came after would go on to define his Argentina career for many. A clear through opportunity one on one against Manuel NEUER in the final of the FIFA World Cup against Germany. To this day, as an Argentina fan, a small piece of me dies when watching the opportunity he had at his disposal.

Gonzalo Higuain Argentina
Gonzalo Higuain in the 2014 FIFA World Cup final with Argentina.

The miss happened and sadly, it would be the first of a hat trick no player would like to have. A goal against Hong Kong in a money grabbing friendly was followed by two Copa America goals against Jamaica (the match winner) and against Paraguay.

Argentina were in the final of the Copa America for the first time since 2007 and late in injury time, HIGUAIN had a chance to some what redeem himself for what happened less than 365 days earlier. A pass played in by Ezequiel LAVEZZI and HIGUAIN was at the end of the ball but from a difficult angle, he would miss. The match would go to penalties and HIGUAIN’s shot would go well over the bar. We all know what happened after.

A match winner in a friendly against Honduras was the preparation for the 2016 Copa America. HIGUAIN would score four goals in the knockout stages, two against Venezuela and two more in the semi finals against the United States.

A third final in just less than three years for Argentina and sadly, another final loss. HIGUAIN would have yet another glorious chance on goal but his shot, for the third time in a final, did not hit the net.

His goal scoring career for Argentina would come full circle in October of 2016 against Peru. His first ever goal for Argentina came against Peru and so did his last. In familiar fashion as well.

Gonzalo Higuain Argentina
Gonzalo Higuain scoring his last goal for Argentina.

The 2018 FIFA World Cup would be HIGUAIN’s worst one, scoring zero goals and generally not playing too well.

Despite the three finals, Gonzalo made that number 9 shirt his for close to a decade. For the better part of seven years, he was a proven goal scorer for his country. And when his goals started drying out for the sky blue and white, they have (and are continuing) to struggle finding someone to fill his boots.

Dario BENEDETTO, Mauro ICARDI, Lautaro MARTINEZ, Paulo DYBALA, Lucas PRATTO and a few others have all been tested but no one has shown the same type of conviction, hunger or link-up play that HIGUAIN showed during his tenure leading the front line with the Albiceleste.

If it wasn’t a final and Gonzalo HIGUAIN was in the starting line-up, there was a pretty strong chance that he would score. A massive 23 of his 32 goals were in official matches. Be it a World Cup, a Copa America or a World Cup qualifier, 23 of his 32 goals came in those games.

While on paper Argentina may have top names when it comes to strikers, such as the one’s mentioned, it will be very difficult to replace HIGUAIN’s goals. Many of which were very important.

Gonzalo Higuaín: Argentina International Goals – Senior Level

# Opponent Competition Date Result
1 Peru 2010 World Cup Qualifiers Octonber 10, 2009 Final 2-1 Argentina
2 Germany Friendly March 3, 2010 Final 1-0 Argentina
3 South Korea 2010 FIFA World Cup June 17, 2010 Final 4-1 Argentina
4 South Korea 2010 FIFA World Cup June 17, 2010 Final 4-1 Argentina
5 South Korea 2010 FIFA World Cup June 17, 2010 Final 4-1 Argentina
6 Mexico 2010 FIFA World Cup June 27, 2010 Final 3-1 Argentina
7 Spain Friendly September 7, 2010 Final 4-1 Argentina
8 Uruguay 2011 Copa America July 16, 2011 Final 1-1 (5-4 P) Uruguay
9 Nigeria Friendly September 6, 2011 Final 3-1 Argentina
10 Chile 2014 World Cup Qualifiers October 7, 2011 Final 4-1 Argentina
11 Chile 2014 World Cup Qualifiers October 7, 2011 Final 4-1 Argentina
12 Chile 2014 World Cup Qualifiers October 7, 2011 Final 4-1 Argentina
13 Ecuador 2014 World Cup Qualifiers June 2, 2012 Final 4-0 Argentina
14 Paraguay 2014 World Cup Qualifiers September 7, 2012 Final 3-1 Argentina
15 Peru 2014 World Cup Qualifiers September 11, 2011 Final 1-1 Draw
16 Chile 2014 World Cup Qualifiers October 16, 2012 Final 2-1 Argentina
17 Sweden Friendly February 6, 2013 Final 3-2 Argentina
18 Sweden Friendly February 6, 2013 Final 3-2 Argentina
19 Venezuela 2014 World Cup Qualifiers March 22, 2013 Final 3-0 Argentina
20 Venezuela 2014 World Cup Qualifiers March 22, 2013 Final 3-0 Argentina
21 Italy Friendly August 14, 2013 Final 2-1 Argentina
22 Belgium 2014 FIFA World Cup July 5, 2014 Final 1-0 Argentina
23 Hong Kong Friendly October 14, 2014 Final 7-0 Argentina
24 Hong Kong Friendly October 14, 2014 Final 7-0 Argentina
25 Jamaica 2015 Copa America June 20, 2015 Final 1-0 Argentina
26 Paraguay 2015 Copa America June 30, 2015 Final 6-1 Argentina
27 Honduras Friendly May 27, 2016 Final 1-0 Argentina
28 Venezuela 2016 Copa America June 18, 2016 Final 4-1 Argentina
29 Venezuela 2016 Copa America June 18, 2016 Final 4-1 Argentina
30 United States 2016 Copa America June 21, 2016 Final 4-0 Argentina
31 United States 2016 Copa America June 21, 2016 Final 4-0 Argentina
32 Peru 2018 World Cup Qualifiers October 6, 2016 Final 2-2 Argentina


Despite being in 6th place in Argentina’s all time scoring list, many will remember him more for his misses than the goals he did score. Behind only Gabriel BATISTUTA, Hernan CRESPO, Sergio AGUERO, Diego MARADONA and Lionel MESSI on that list, HIGUAIN’s career with his national team is far from being a failure.

As mentioned, when Hernan CRESPO retired, Argentina struggled to find a replacement. But they found one in Gonzalo HIGUAIN. But you know what they say. You don’t know what you have until it’s gone.


  1. 🔊 Lionel Messi: “My son always asks me – Dad, why do people in Argentina want to kill you?”

    “I want to win something important with my country. I’m going to play all the important games.”


  2. I still remember his goal against Ecuador. Sabella’s man was having a bad day but that goal still managed a draw. Higuain’s sweetest involvement for me.

    He just breaks down when it matters most. So adios and good riddance to Higuain.

  3. I will always admire him for his off ball movement. Yes!!! He missed those opportunities and believe me it will hunt him rest of his lives. He will suffer more than anyone. It could been with anyone unfortunately it happened to him every time. But his scoring stats is quite something for National team.
    Cut some slack g. Believe me even 2 years old knows those missed opportunities of Higuain but very few people knows about what was written by Roy. What happened it can’t be undone!

  4. Everyone critisied him when he played for NT now suddenly they are liking him. Two-faced fans.They do not know when to support or when to hate.Double standard

  5. We will remember him for those 3 costly mistakes but not for those goals which made us dream of winning a cup, like against Peru in 2010 Qualifiers, against Belgium in Q.F 2014. He always had to be the scapegoat. I hated this guy throughout my whole life, now I feel like a small part of me died. Thank you El Pipita, we will miss you No.9

  6. I love how the article skipped Argentina lost to Germany in 2010 quarterfinal but didnt forget to mention his goal against Germany and Spain in friendlies.

    Yea, because that’s what he’s good at, scoring goals when it not matter. He did score one vital goal in 2014 quarterfinal but that was it (he played every game and that’s his only goal as a forward). He’d always be remembered for missing those sitters in 3 finals.

    • Exactly, poor man gave all he could only to be harshly judged by those who cannot even reciprocate what he did.

      Thank you Higuain for your services and may God reward you with a jolly mind and heart.

      The fact that he missed those 3 opportunities in the finals only points to the aspect that we should not rely on only one source for goals, and also create as many opportunities as possible.

  7. I wasn’t criticized higuain for 3final misses, it was Argentina midfield who failed to create more chances even Aguero missed many easy chance for Man city ending with scoring hattrick. But Higuain was finished in 2016 and 0 goals in next two year neither performed at world cup how Higuain was selected ahead of Icardi being a sere A top scorer, in India Argentina squad selection higly criticized and aged squad with players past their best cost the tournament

  8. Agree, and well written, balanced article. Last sentence is poignant and it’s what we see us lamenting and missing. The right thing is really to assess his involvment and career as a whole and the entire package. Unfortunately, the recency and focus on negativity effect dictates that he will most likely be remembered as the one who missed not that one but three chances. Hypothetical but he would be viewed differently if he had just made one. Sigh….

  9. What a wonderful article! Always felt he would be able to take us over the hump but it was not to be.
    Grateful for having being able to see two of those 32 live.
    Thank you for everything pipita!

  10. Great Post, this is what I want to say all time, he at least bring the team into 3 finals. I started watching Argentina in 1998 WC. Only those time, we saw this team bring to WC final. They might fail at some point but at least admit that that was the only time we reached final in past decade or two.

    Good luck have fun, Higuain. You did pretty well wearing no 9 shirt. It is hard to fill right now.

Comments are closed.