Who will win the Golden Boot at Russia 2018?
Won by Colombia’s James Rodriguez in Brazil last time out, the Golden Boot (often referred to as the Golden Shoe and confused with the Golden ball) is awarded to the player who scores the most goals. So, who will take home the prize in Russia? Will be one of the favourites? Perhaps an outside bet from a less fancied nation? Maybe we’ll even see another Rodriguez scenario where a player unexpectedly leaps out of the pack to take the prize.
A heavy favourite with both the bookies and the betting public, Neymar is the man Brazil and their legions of fans around the world will be looking to score the goals to help the Samba Boys go one step further than four years ago. Coming off the back of an outstanding season with PSG, Neymar looks to have shaken off an injury that put his place in the opening game in doubt and should be primed for the tournament to start. With Brazil having been handed what many consider to be a favourable draw with Switzerland, Costa Rica and Serbia making up their group, Neymar could well be set to hit the ground running. If he does and he carries that form into the knockouts he will be a hard man to beat.
No discussion about the Golden Boot would be complete with Messi. There’s not much left to say about the brilliant Argentine that hasn’t been said. The man many consider to be the greatest of all time arrives in Russia with perhaps his last chance to leave a mark on the world’s biggest tournament and finally claim the international prize that has so far eluded him. If Messi, and Argentina, are to do so, then he will be the key and if he can finally transfer his club form to his national side and emulate the great Diego Maradona by inspiring his nation to victory, then the Golden Boot could well follow. Iceland, Croatia and perennial World Cup opponents Nigeria are unlikely to strike fear into his heart.
Like Messi this is not a discussion you can have without mentioning his great rival, Portugal’s captain will be hoping to transfer his outrageous club record to the biggest stage. Also, like Messi Ronaldo is probably playing in his last World Cup and will undoubtedly want to leave a mark. This Portugal side looks to be much stronger than that which claimed which claimed the European title two years which should ad Ronaldo in his quest. Although Spain will provide a stern test, depending of course on how they cope with a new manager in place. Morocco and Iran are unlikely to hold any fear for Ronaldo who will look to use these group games as his platform to shine.
He has already won it--can he do it again?
If you want to talk about sure-fire bets then how do you do back against a man with 10 goals in his two World Cups, top scorer in 2010, runner-up in 2014 and playing for the defending champions? Well, maybe you don’t. Mueller has an incredible knack of being in exactly the right place at exactly the right time to grab himself a goal. The term Raumdeuter (Space Investigator) was literally invented for him. A big game player of epic proportions Mueller seems to get better as he gets to the latter stages of tournaments, much like his nation. Germany have a knack for winning when it matters, Mueller has a knack for scoring when it matters, he will be confident of being the first man to ever claim two World Cup Golden Boots.
Considered by many to be the finest centre-forward in the world right now Lewandowski heads into the tournament on the back of yet another fine season. Poland has possibly one of their finest sides since the 1970s and Lewandowski is the crowning glory. In a group that is tough to call alongside Japan, Colombia and Senegal it seems like Poland have every chance of making it through. If they are to do so then Lewandowski will be critical. But, as we have seen, he is a striker capable of conjuring goals from nothing and he could lead Poland into the knockouts. It doesn’t need a team to go far in the tournament to claim the Golden Boot, just ask Oleg Salenko.
Perhaps the most sought-after player in European football right now, France’s talisman heads to Russia after helping Atletico lift the Europa league title. France meanwhile will be looking to put the disappointment of losing the European Championship final in their own stadium behind them. Griezmann is arguably a better player now than he was then and has begun to relish his role as France’s key man. In a group containing Australia, Peru and Denmark Griezmann will see it as an opportunity and could fly out of the traps, whilst a likely last 16 tie against Iceland, Croatia or Nigeria should allow him the chance to continue his roll. After that, he might only need one goal.
A man who really needs no introduction, but he’s getting one anyway. Scorer of over 30 goals for the third consecutive season - the newly appointed England captain will be looking to celebrate that, along with his new Spurs contract by doing what he does best, scoring goals. Kane might well be licking his lips at the prospect of playing Tunisia and Panama, whilst Belgium, although formidable on paper are vulnerable defensively. A youthful England go into this World Cup with no expectations and a defined style, something lacking for many years. If they can click then Kane has a chance to follow another Spurs and England striker, Gary Lineker and claim the Golden Boot and the World Cup.
Perhaps a surprising choice but then he’s spent his career surprising people. Often favoured more at international level than he was at club, Giroud has, nevertheless, proven himself to be a very effective goal scorer. His minutes to goals ratio at Arsenal was always high and he’s carried that on since moving to Chelsea, where he managed to claim a regular starting spot at the end of the season. Like his teammate Griezmann the group stages look ripe for the pickings for Giroud, who might also fancy penalty duties. With the creative talent around him, Giroud has the team, the pedigree and the fixtures to have a run at taking the Golden Boot. That would be quite a career swansong for an often under-appreciated striker.
Uwe Seeler, Gerd Muller, Karl-Heinz Rummeinege, Rudi Voeller, Jurgen Klinsmann, Miroslav Klose, Mario Gomez. Werner is the latest in a line of outstanding German strikers. Still only a raw talent the RB Leipzig man has found himself thrust into the role of main striker quickly, but he hasn’t looked out of place. Quick and strong Werner looks well capable of following in the footsteps of those famous predecessors. The defending champions look like they are undergoing something of a transition with many of the stars of 2014 having retired. Nevertheless, there’s still plenty of talent here and the likes of Reus, Brandt, Draxler, Kroos and Ozil offer a salivating supply line and we know the Germans save their best for the tournaments. Werner could surprise.
Another new kid on the block, Jesus’ rise has been quite incredible. Photographed painting murals and sweeping streets four years ago when his country hosted the World Cup he now finds himself leading the line for them in Russia. The Manchester City man is a talented youngster but still a very raw talent. Yet, he has shown himself to be an effective goalscorer and is surrounded by creative talents like Coutinho and Neymar. Furthermore, with Roberto Firmino waiting in the wings, Jesus knows he will have to be at the top of his game to maintain his spot. The top of his game could result in the top of the scoring charts.
Long considered a rising star of Spanish football, Isco looks to have finally come good on that potential. He has established himself as a key component of the Real Madrid side that just won its third consecutive Champions League and now looks to make his mark on the global stage. Spain are generally not considered to be free-scoring but Isco loves to make runs from deep to finish off moves and has stepped up his game this season. Spain are many people’s tips to reclaim the trophy they won eight years ago and Isco could well be at the heart of it.
Another name that needs no introduction, Salah heads into the World Cup on the back of one of the most remarkable seasons ever. 43 goals in all competitions, 33 in the league, a Champions League final, Salah has had an incredible 2017-18. To finish it by winning the World Cup Golden Boot would be the icing on the cake. Salah must first overcome the shoulder injury he suffered in Kiev but if/when he does he will hope to set the tournament alight. Games against Russia and Saudi Arabia are unlikely to cause him to lose any sleep and if Egypt can navigate their way out of the groups, who knows what might follow. Whatever it is Salah will be key to it.
Each of these four, Romelu Lukaku, Sergio Aguero, Diego Costa and Luis Suarez, certainly have the ability to claim the prize. I just have the feeling their teammates will be looking towards other players first, affording them less opportunity. Belgium, Argentina, Spain, and Uruguay will respectively look to work through Eden Hazard, Lionel Messi, Isco and Edinson Cavani.
Edinson Cavani. Who I didn't even mention.
Yeah, he'll definitely win it.