We’re almost there. At the time of this writing there’s under a month to go before the World Cup begins and an entire world’s worth of football fans looks to Russia. Naturally much of our audience will be paying close attention to the Super Eagles. But the truth is most people who are interested in one team or one group wind up paying pretty close attention to the whole event. And, aside from which teams will advance to the knockouts and contend for the Cup, one of the most important aspects of the tournament to track is who’s scoring the most goals.
It’s a tournament perpetually packed with stars who will be remembered for generations, as well as young up-and-comers hoping to make names for themselves on the biggest international stage imaginable. But only one man will earn the Golden Boot. And with the action approaching so quickly, we’re looking at some of the top contenders.
Lionel Messi (Argentina)
Messi hasn’t been quite as dominant in major international competitions – strictly from a goal scoring standpoint – as his chief rival Cristiano Ronaldo. However, there are a few reasons to consider him the overall favorite. The first is that Argentina is generally expected to go further than Portugal, which will give him more opportunity. The second is, as an Irish site’s preview phrased it, Russia could be the Barcelona man’s final World Cup, so he’ll be looking to make it count. Messi has a surprisingly average record of accomplishment with Argentina, so expect him to pull out all the stops this summer.
Brazil is a small tier above Argentina in most people’s eyes in terms of contention. Neymar has a legitimate chance to be playing on the final day, which means he could have as much opportunity as anybody. And those who believe he had a lackluster season in Ligue One might want to look again. Neymar missed time due to injury and finished nine goals behind league leader Edinson Cavani. However, he nearly matched Cavani at 94 minutes per goal (with Cavani at 92). Neymar is as deadly as ever scoring the football, so long as he’s healthy.
Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)
Ronaldo’s place in this conversation will depend largely on how far Portugal is able to get. There’s a realistic argument to be made that he’s the top goalscorer on the planet in terms of pure scoring ability, but he hasn’t really made a dent in the World Cup history books because Portugal tends to underwhelm. This year they’re favored to get out of their group alongside Spain, in which case he’ll have a chance to start mounting a decent tally.
Harry Kane (England)
Kane has a situation not unlike Ronaldo’s. He’s asserted himself in the last couple of seasons as a legitimate rival to the others on this list as one of the top scorers in Europe, and has been the most consistent threat in the Premier League. Provided a deep run, he’ll have every chance at the Golden Boot. But he may well be held back by the English team’s general limitations (though, as always, there’s some cautions optimism that England will get back on track as an international power this summer).
Antoine Griezmann (France)
Antoine Griezmann, to the casual fan, isn’t quite as famous as the names that appear higher on this list. However he’s expected to be among the offensive leaders for a France team that is loaded with talent, and he did win Golden Boot at Euro 2016 – the most recent major international competition for many of these players. There appears to be a broad spectrum of possible outcomes for France, with some expecting the team’s talent to result in Cup contention and others feeling more cautious due to the group’s relative inexperience. But again, with a deep run Griezmann will be in the mix.
Timo Werner (Germany)
Germany may be the overall favorite, or at least the nearest we have to one, which, one would think, would result in top scorer Timo Werner being the Golden Boot favorite. As tends to be the case though, Germany is expected to have a dynamic, balanced attack, meaning even if the team goes to the final and scores the most goals along the way, Werner may be sharing the scoring load more than the others listed here.
There is of course also no guarantee a man on this list winds up with the award! But these are the six players generally being given the best odds, and with good reason. They’ll all be very exciting to watch come June and July.