Lionel Messi (pictured) is the rightful 8/1 favourite in the top goalscorer market for the 2014 World Cup but there are other candidates who also offer good value on a outright or each-way basis (12th June-13th July, live coverage on BBC and ITV).
Five goals has been sufficient to win the Golden Boot in each of the last two World Cups. Miroslav Klose took the honours in 2006, while his German compatriot Thomas Muller did so in 2010. Klose’s 2006 success featured the lowest goals-to-games ratio (0.71) of any winner.
The bookies generally offer place terms of 1/4 odds for a top four finish on the each-way market. At the 2010 World Cup, four players finished equal first on five goals, with Muller’s superior assist record seeing him crowned the winner. However, three goals was enough for a top four placing in 2006, while four was sufficient in both 2002 and 1998.
The Golden Boot winner usually plays for a country who make it through to the last four, although a stellar performance in group play can sometimes overcome an earlier elimination. Russia’s Oleg Salenko was joint-top-scorer in 1994 after netting all six of his goals in the group stage, including five in one match against Cameroon.
Here are our picks for four players worth betting on in the top goalscorer market.
Lionel Messi (Argentina)
The bookies’ favourite at 8/1, Lionel Messi looks well-placed to live up to that billing.
Argentina received a favourable group stage draw – alongside Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iran and Nigeria – that should provide ample opportunity for Messi to get on the scoresheet. They are also likely face a relatively easy opponent in the Round of 16, and as the second favourites to win the competition can be expected to go far.
Messi was Argentina’s top scorer during qualifying, with 10 goals in 14 appearances. He has been criticised in some quarters for his performances at club level over the last year or so, but he still finished the season with 41 goals in 44 appearances in all competitions. He failed to score during the 2010 World Cup and will be determined to put that right in Brazil.
The hopes of the host nation rest squarely on the shoulders of 22-year-old Barcelona forward Neymar. He will, however, be glad to return to the familiarity of a national team setup that is based around his talents after an inconsistent first season in Europe.
The quality of the opposition has varied considerably, but Neymar’s record of 31 goals in 49 appearances for Brazil is nevertheless an impressive tally. Moreover, he scored four goals in five matches in last year’s Confederations Cup and regardless of overall performance, netted for Barcelona in some of their biggest matches of last season.
If Brazil are to go far, then Neymar and his goals are likely to play a large part in their success. He is justifiably second-favourite with the bookies at 12/1 – particularly so in light of Brazil’s relatively agreeable group stage draw (alongside Croatia, Cameroon and Mexico) – and can be backed as a viable alternative to Messi.
Gonzalo Higuain (Argentina)
Messi’s teammate Gonzalo Higuain can also be fancied to have a good tournament in front of goal. He scored nine times in 11 appearances during the qualifying campaign, recording a better minutes-per-goal ratio than Messi (95.56 to 114.1). As the central point of Argentina’s three-man attack he can be expected to have plenty of opportunities in Brazil.
Higuain enjoyed a good first season in Italy with Napoli and will benefit from the same advantages as Messi in terms of the quality of opposition he will face during the group stage and the first knockout round. With this in mind, he is a good outside bet at 22/1 for the Golden Boot.
Mario Goetze (Germany)
Germany are likely to play without a fixed central striker for much of this summer’s tournament. Miroslav Klose is the only genuine striker in their squad,with coach Joachim Low generally preferring to deploy an attacking midfielder such as Thomas Muller or Mario Goetze up front.
Goetze scored four goals in seven appearances during the qualifiers and has scored three goals in three friendly appearances this year. Germany are expected to progress from a group featuring Portugal, Ghana and United States and would also be favourites for their first knockout round tie against a team from Group H, providing him with at least five matches.
With assists – of which he produced nine in league play for Bayern Munich last season – acting as a tie-breaker in cases of equal goal tallies, we believe Goetze represents very good value at 66/1 on an each-way basis.