World Cup 2018 Preview: Who’ll Top the Goalscoring Charts? And a look at Past Golden Boot Winners
Apart from getting your hands on the trophy itself, there’s one other award that garners the attention of football fans worldwide and that’s the race for the coveted Golden Boot. And with some of the games top footballing talent on show in Russia this summer, it could well be one of the most hotly contested battles for many a year. However, it’s not always the case that the more obvious names top the goalscoring charts, as the transition from club to country proves difficult, and when you consider Mohamed Salah’s form this season albeit under the attacking influence of Jurgen Klopp, it will be extremely difficult for him to recreate such levels without the intuitive link up play he shares with Firmino and Mane, however, if he bags a few in the groups, who knows.
Of the household names Gabriel Jesus could feature, with Brazil expected to go deep into the tournament with group games against Switzerland, Serbia and Costa Rica, opportunity beckons, and with odds around the 16/1 mark, he looks like some serious value for punters. Elsewhere Harry Kane will be hoping England perform to their best early on as games against Panama and Tunisia represent a mouthwatering opportunity for one of Europe’s leading goal scorers and with a game against Belgium and his Tottenham teammates Vertonghen and Alderwiereld, Kane will think he can steal an early march. Once again with the bookies offering 16/1, if England can get anywhere near the semi-finals, Kane looks a sound bet.
If France go well so will Griezmann, and with games against Australia and Peru in the groups, his chances rated at 12/1 could earn you a few quid. Uruguay is an interesting prospect always promising so much, however, if they can get their act together led by Luis Suarez and with games against the hosts Russia, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, odds of 25/1 could come back to haunt the bookies. Further afield the talismanic Polish superstar Robert Lewandowski who will need a big tournament to secure a big move this summer looks great value at 30/1, particularly when considering group games against the inconsistencies of Japan, Senegal, and Columbia. Lewandowski was the top scorer in European qualifying with 16 goals and if he has a couple of big performances, he’ll certainly be in the reckoning.
Of course, Ronaldo, Messi, and Neymar might well continue normal service, but as history shows it’s not always the most obvious protagonists that prevail. In the last forty years, only one player has scored more than six goals at the World Cup and that was the brilliant and original Ronaldo who netted 8 times in 2002, bagging four in the group stage and another four in the knockout rounds, and we will add, was an example of the bookies favourite delivering on promise.
Indeed from 1986 up until Ronaldo’s exploits in 2002, none of the Golden Boot winners made it to the final. In Mexico ’86 it was, of course, Gary Lineker who came out top of the charts with 6 goals, however, three of those came against Poland in the final group game, which highlights the impact a big performance against lesser opposition can have a major impact on the final standings. To underline this fact, in 1994 Russia’s Oleg Salenko scored five goals in a 6-1 drubbing of Cameroon he also added another in the group stage but remarkably Russia didn’t even make it to the knockout stage. Salenko despite only playing three games shared the golden boot with Hristo Stoichkov, who also scored 6 as Bulgaria put in a memorable performance.
Sandwiched in between was complete unknown Salvator Schillachi who became something of a cult hero after bagging 6 goals for Italy as they hosted the 1990 World Cup. Davor Suker scored 6 goals in 1998 to be crowned Golden Boot winner as Croatia reached the semi finals. And in the last tournament in 2014 it was Columbia’s James Rodriguez who came out on top also with 6 goals, but again they fell short losing in the quarter finals. Rodriguez scored three in the group stage before netting a brace in the second round.
Tournament winners tend to share the goals about and if the opportunity arises may well rest a star player in the group stages, if you fancy making a few quid then perhaps look further afield, six goals seems to be a fair marker and many winners in recent years had one big game in the group stage that set them on their way. Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed Al-Sahlawi scored a ton of goals in qualifying, 500/1 anyone?
Who’s your money on for the Golden Boot? Let us know in the comments.