With the group stages now done and dusted, now’s the ideal time to take stock in the battle for this summer’s Golden Boot. Before the tournament, all eyes were obviously on the big names – Ronaldo, Messi, Griezmann et al – but so far only Cristiano has really come to the party.
Instead, as we approach the knockout stages, the table is headed by England’s Harry Kane, with Ronaldo and Belgium’s Romelu Lukaku breathing down his neck. Let’s take a look at the runners and riders, how many goals they have scored so far, their chances of claiming the award and their best odds:
Harry Kane – England (5 goals) – 9/5
Kane has literally led the English charge from the front, both in terms of his goals and the wearing of the captain’s armband. He even had the luxury of sitting out their final group game and yet was still able to head to the second phase in pole position for the Golden Boot. His goalscoring record at club level has been staggering – Tottenham’s arrival in the Premier League’s top four due in no small part to his goals – and after a fairly slow start he’s recently been able to bring his club form to the international stage.
No-one expects him to continue at a rate of 2.5 goals per game, but if England are able to beat Colombia on Tuesday and go deep in this tournament then Kane will almost certainly be in the shake-up for this award.
However, it’s worth noting, he’s yet to score in open play (at least a goal he knows about) and two tap-ins from set pieces against Tunisia and two penalties against Panama (his third was a complete fluke) means the English will need to start creating more chances if Harry is to go home with the Boot.
Cristiano Ronaldo – Portugal (4 goals) – 5/1
In what is most likely his final shot at World Cup glory, Ronaldo has, not for the first time, led his nation almost single-handedly. Seldom has one man led his country with such dominance and in this tournament, and only Ricardo Quaresma has had the audacity to also chip in with another Portuguese goal.
A hat-trick in a thrilling 3-3 draw with Spain kick-started his tournament in the most Ronaldo way possible, and many a punter will have lumped on as his third goal rocketed into the Spanish net. And with good reason. He’s full of goals. He followed this up with an early header to claim the three points in their second game against Morocco.
Having now sampled success at international level after leading his country to success in Euro 2016, he’s clearly desperate to replicate that on the world’s biggest stage. His scoring record has remained consistently high for the best part of a decade, spurred on in part by his Ballon d’Or battle with Lionel Messi. In addition to scoring frequently for Real Madrid, his scoring for his national side is exceptional scoring 15 times from nine games during qualifying.
Whether or not he is able to challenge Kane for the Golden Boot boils down to how long Portugal remain in Russia. If they go all the way, it’s difficult to see anyone getting close to him but, either way, he may live to regret his missed penalty in their game against Iran.
Romelu Lukaku – Belgium (4 goals) – 19/4
Most of the experts and pundits threw Lukaku’s name into the mix in the build-up to the tournament when the Golden Boot protagonists were being discussed, and he hasn’t let them down. Like Kane, he was rested for his side’s third group game – against England – but still managed four goals in his first two games. A second-half brace in Belgium’s opener against Panama was followed up a few days later with another double in their 5-2 demolition of Tunisia.
So, a not dissimilar record to Kane’s but even the most ardent England fan would probably admit that where the two differ is when you consider who have they have around them in their respective supporting casts. England have youth, enthusiasm and energy, but providing the ammunition for Lukaku is a midfield brimming full of world class talent, in the form of Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne, and Dries Mertens.
The flip side, however, is that if the service dries up, or is contained by an astute opponent, there aren’t too many other goalscoring options in the Belgium squad. They need Lukaku to be firing on all cylinders and he needs the big names to be at their creative best. If both of those boxes are ticked, expect Belgium to go far and for Lukaku to push Kane all the way.
Find the best odds for the Golden Boot with our top World Cup bookmakers below:
Denis Cheryshev – Russia (3 goals) – 80/1
Who saw this coming? In their unexpected march to the knockout phases, the hosts have been well supported by the goals of Cheryshev, who has chipped in with three of his side’s eight so far. But, on the basis the Russians have already exceeded expectations and meet the Spanish in the Round of 16, this could well be the end of the line for Cheryshev and his countrymen. Yet three goals in a World Cup tournament means he’s already carved his name into Russian football history. He is, though, the longest of long shots.
Diego Costa – Spain (3 goals) – 17/2
In contrast to Cheryshev, Costa was expected to be the mix for the Golden Boot. He got his tournament off to a flier with a double against Portugal and then followed it up with a fortuitous one against Iran. Given that most expect Spain to be there or thereabouts when the tournament reaches its conclusion, there is every reason to expect Costa to also be there at the final reckoning of the Golden Boot. Supported by a midfield of the highest quality, he’s virtually guaranteed to be created plenty of chances and so it’s perfectly reasonable to assume he’s going to push Kane all the way.
Philippe Coutinho – Brazil (2 goals) – 40/1
Despite Neymar being the name in the frame before the tournament began, it’s been Coutinho who has carried the hopes of his nation on his slender shoulders. A stunning strike against Switzerland in his country’s opening game and another late one against Costa Rica that turned a point into three have propelled him into the frame. But, he remains a long shot and is only one for the speculative punter.
Luka Modric – Croatia (2 goals) – 100/1
Another with two goals to his name but who was not expected to be among the Golden Boot contenders, Modric is central to Croatia’s hopes of a good run in the tournament. He opened his account against Nigeria by scoring the crucial penalty in a 2-0 win but went one better a few days later with a late stunner to put the cherry on top of their 3-0 win over Argentina. Like Coutinho, even a prolonged spell in the tournament is unlikely to see him trouble Kane. As a ‘quarter-back’ he’s as valuable for his assists as he is for his goals.
Artem Dzyuba – Russia (2 goals) – 100/1
One of the characters of the tournament so far, the big Russian made his mark with a goal in each of the host’s first two games. He’s big, strong and is a handful for any defender, but with the Russians unlikely to progress beyond the Round of 16, it’s hard to see him troubling the front-runners.
Eden Hazard – Belgium (2 goals) – 40/1
Although not noted as a prolific goalscorer, Hazard has chipped in with two goals to date – both in the 5-2 win over Tunisia. He’s a brilliant player but a creator rather than a regular scorer so, while he may chip in with a couple more, don’t expect him to catch Kane and Lukaku.
Luis Suarez – Uruguay (2 goals) – 35/1
The Uruguayans are a good side and if they are to go far in this tournament, there is every chance that Suarez will be amongst it. But, with France their opponents in the Round of 16, this may be the end of Suarez’ hopes in the race for the Golden Boot.
John Stones – England (2 goals) – 75/1
Another surprise! Who expected Stones to be ahead of Messi, Neymar and Griezemann after three games? Don’t expect his run to continue, but with England’s reliance to date on set pieces, there is a possibility that centre-back Stones could yet add to his tally.
The Best of the Rest
France have in their ranks, two players who were expected to be in and around the Golden Boot high-flyers, but so far Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe have managed just a goal apiece. And with France now facing a very tricking Round of 16 tie against Argentina it is conceivable this could be the end of the road for them. Either way, both are already four goals adrift of Kane and it’s difficult to see them making too much impression on the Golden Boot leaders.
Perhaps the biggest surprise so far is that the little maestro, Lionel Messi, has only one goal and a missed penalty to his name so far. In what has been a largely disappointing tournament for both Argentina and Messi himself, he did arrive at the party in the crucial must-win tie against Nigeria. For most, to close a four-goal gap would be impossible but for Messi, who knows.
Neymar is another who has disappointed so far and has just a single goal to his name. He’s struggled to make the impression many had predicted, and he appears unlikely to catch Kane and co, but with Brazil expected to go all the way he will likely be back amongst the goals at some stage.
Uruguay’s Edinson Cavani is in a very similar boat and left it until the final minute of their third game to finally open his account. Despite heading into the tournament with a big reputation, he’s not delivered and is very unlikely to trouble Kane, Lukaku and Ronaldo.
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- golden boot
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- Romelo Lukaku