As a kid playing football in the backyard, we all dream about scoring a goal in a world cup. For a footballer, the joy derived from fulfilling this dream is unrivaled. But how about finishing the world cup as it’s top-scorer?
Winning the Golden Boot is one of the biggest individual honors a footballer can achieve. Over the years, many legendary footballers have been the recipient of this award. We are talking about names like Eusebio, Gerd Muller, and Ronaldo.
Today, in no specific order, we list down five strongest contenders for the Golden Boot. The names included have either been performing well in front of goal or have a history of top-scoring in such tournaments. Also, the players need to be from a strong team, giving them the chance of playing in as many matches as possible.
#5 Lionel Messi
Not turning any younger from here on, Lionel Messi could get well past his prime by the time we approach 2022. Therefore, it’s safe to say that 2018 FIFA World Cup marks his last chance to win the trophy. And no one understands this better than Messi himself.
With that in mind, fans can expect the Argentinian to enter Russia with all guns blazing. Over the last couple of years, Messi’s role as a creator has amplified. But we also know that he scored 47 goals this season. 34 of these came in the La Liga, winning him his fifth European Golden Shoe and validating his lethality as a top-notch goal-scorer.
Messi’s world cup career was up to a slow start. In his first two world cups, he managed to find the net only once. He did much better in 2014, scoring four goals in seven matches. Will Messi surpass his numbers from Brazil? We’ll be finding out soon.
#4 Thomas Muller
There is something about Thomas Muller and World Cups that goes beyond the understanding of football fans. He has undoubtedly been a great performer for both Bayern Munich and Germany. But world cup seems to take him into an entirely different zone.
In South Africa 2010, he shocked the world by winning the Golden Boot at the age of 20. In Brazil 2014, he lifted the FIFA World Cup trophy alongside winning a couple of individual accolades. This time at Russia, Muller will be looking forward to defending Germany’s crown. If successful, they will become the first team to pull this feat off since Brazil in 1962.
Since Euro 2016, Muller’s goal-scoring has been below-par, although he maintained a healthy assists-per-match ratio. He scored 16 goals this season and assisted the same number. So, should we consider him a Golden Boot contender? Absolutely! Because, as they say, world cup Muller is the best Muller.
#3 Harry Kane
Kane will be playing his debut world cup.
It has been more than 50 years now since England, the country that gave us football, won a FIFA World Cup. Despite having strong squads over the years, they seem to be caught in a jinx. In Russia, the onus to break this jinx will be on their captain, Harry Kane.
At Tottenham, Kane has been finding the net consistently for the last four seasons. His numbers justify his market valuation as world’s most expensive striker. With Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford playing alongside him, the English attack can run riots over oppositions.
The 2017-18 season saw Kane score 43 goals in 50 matches. He achieved his career-best tally in EPL, scoring 30 goals, just two behind top-scorer Mohamed Salah. Playing his first world cup, 24-year-old Harry Kane will be under tremendous pressure to deliver. Nevertheless, he has what it takes to achieve success on a stage like this.
#2 Antoine Griezmann
Going into the 2014 FIFA World Cup, France was far from the favourites. They ended up having a decent tournament, losing to eventual winners Germany in quarter-finals. One of their notable performers happened to be a little-known youngster from Real Sociedad named Antoine Griezmann.
Four years later in 2018, Griezmann enters Russia as the nucleus of a strong French squad. He has gained significant ground in the last four years, averaging 28 goals per season for Atletico Madrid. Adept in all aspects of the game, Griezmann’s biggest strength lies in his versatility as a forward.
After a slow start, he found his form in the latter half of the 2017-18 season. Griezmann scored 29 goals and assisted 13 in all competitions, including a brace in the Europa League final. Apart from helping them win the tournament, he carried Atletico to a second place finish in La Liga as well.
Griezmann was at his best for France during 2016 Euro. With a total of six goals, he was the recipient of the Golden Boot as well as Player of the Tournament award. If Griezmann could emulate that performance in this world cup, France will become unstoppable.
A young Brazilian leading his country to their first world cup win at home, that was supposed to be Neymar’s fairytale story four years back. But halfway through it, he got injured, leaving us on a cliffhanger. 2018 FIFA World Cup presents him the opportunity to complete that story.
Since day one, Neymar has been performing well for Brazil. At just 26 years of age, he has racked up 53 international goals. The only Brazilians ahead of him are Pele, Ronaldo, and Romario, all of whom have been world champions. In the coming years, Neymar can easily surpass their tally. But to match their legacies, he needs to win a world cup.
In his debut season for PSG, Neymar was off to a brilliant start. He had 27 goals and 16 assists in just 28 appearances. This run came to a halt in February with an injury in his right-foot.
Neymar is currently facing a race against time to achieve full fitness. Once he’s through with that, the sky is the limit for the enigmatic playmaker. The Brazilian is yet to hit his peak, and something tells us it’s going to happen soon.