A curious situation unfolded at World Cup 2014. Colombia’s James Rodriguez won the Golden Boot with a tally of six goals; three in the group stage and three in the knockout matches. Nothing unusual so far.
But the rest of the hotshots who completed the bookmakers’ each way places in the Golden Boot market – Thomas Muller, Neymar, Lionel Messi and Robin van Persie – all shared one bizarre characteristic.
Muller and Van Persie scored just one goal each after the group stage, while Messi and Neymar failed to find the net once from the last 16 onwards.
And the point is? We expect candidates for the 2018 Golden Boot to score the bulk of their goals in the group phase.
With one round of fixtures already played, who is looking most likely to get their hands on the prize?
Cristiano Ronaldo (23/10)
Given our new-found knowledge that the Golden Boot winner *may* do most of their heavy lifting during the group phase, perhaps Ronaldo is already on his way to picking up yet another trophy.
His hat-trick against Spain has him in prime position with group matches against Iran and Morocco to come, and while we don’t expect his Portugal side to go too far into the competition, we said the same about them at Euro 2016….and look how that panned out.
The Real Madrid man plays as a central striker for Portugal, with minimal defensive duties requested, and as long as his teammates provide him with plenty of ammunition you suspect that there will be plenty more goals to come for Ronaldo in World Cup 2018.
Harry Kane (13/2)
Our very own Harry Kane has been installed as the second favourite by the bookmakers following his double against Tunisia, although in truth he may need to blast another brace against Panama to have any chance.
Following that a match against Belgium – up against his Tottenham colleagues Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen – will offer few goalscoring opportunities, and a potential last eight date with Germany could scupper Kane’s progress in the knockout phase.
He might be worth a cheeky flutter now, ahead of the Panama clash, in the assumption that he will find the net once again.
Diego Costa (7/1)
The former Chelsea man notched a brace of his own against Portugal, and now he has group matches against Iran and Morocco in which to add to his tally.
You do wonder if his physical, all-action style of play really suits the Spaniards, but if he starts then he will have plenty of chances created for him by this outstanding midfield. Iniesta, Isco, Silva, Koke….it’s a striker’s dream.
At this kind of price, Costa is worth an each way flutter with most bookmakers offering four-place payouts.
Antoine Griezmann (14/1)
The Frenchman netted from the penalty spot in his side’s fortuitous 2-1 win over Australia, but Les Bleus were far from impressive.
They will find Denmark and Peru to be tough opponents in Group C, and with Griezmann looking uncomfortable in the false nine role he isn’t someone we’d be looking to back in the Golden Boot market.
Despite not finding the net against Switzerland, the bookies are holding their support for Neymar.
He looked dangerous against the Swiss, it must be said, and that foot injury that ruined his season has not affected his courage to run with the ball and take people on.
Group matches against Costa Rica and Serbia will present chances, you’d think, but three goals adrift of Ronaldo already you might be better off saving your cash than backing the Brazilian.
Denis Cheryshev (22/1)
The World Cup has a habit of throwing up unlikely heroes – particularly Russian ones, as readers who can remember Oleg Salenko will testify.
The hosts have found a new talisman in Denis Cheryshev, the Villarreal winger who has already scored three times in his side’s blistering start to the tournament.
History dictates that you only need to score four times to get into the each way places in the Golden Boot market, which means Cheryshev would need to find the net against Uruguay or in their last 16 fixture; assuming they don’t go further into the competition.
Can he do it? It’s certainly possible, and at 22/1 an each way wager is certainly worth a go.