Finding the top goalscorer in this year’s World Cup is one of the most frustrating but potentially rewarding betting challenges on offer over the next month, and before even thinking of a selection, we have history on our side for trying to find a potential tournament winner.
The last three winners, either joint or alone, played for a side that reached at least the semi finals – vitally important given that there’s also a third place playoff to come – and that looks to be a suitable starting point.
Given that we are so keen on Argentina, it would seem folly not to have one of their strikeforce onside. Admittedly there’s the huge potential for goals to be shared around, but the potential for a high scoring tally has been given to them with a very fair group in Nigeria, Iran and Bosnia, along with a second round tie against what looks likely to be one of Switzerland or Ecudador gives them a likely progression to the quarter finals and by then a host of goals could have been scored before things get tighter from the quarter final stages.
Lionel Messi is the favourite and with penalties to his name, and obvious choice, but the whole side filled their boots in qualifying – they scored 35 goals on their way to Brazil – and Gonzalo Higuain’s international record makes a lot of appeal. The Napoli striker seemed to relish his first season in Italy, scoring 22 goals in the season and 17 in Serie A, indicating his strong run of form towards the finals here, and his qualifying record of 9 goals in 11 games bodes very well for a strong bid here. Higuain scored a hat-trick and one other goal to give himself four goals, just one off the winning tally of 5, and there’s no reason that he can’t do the same here as well. Argentina should go further than last time – not reaching the semi finals would be a disappointment given their draw and conditions – and at 22/1 he makes great each/way appeal.
Brazil aren’t exactly our choice for the trophy but they should take the beating through the tournament and have a group from which they would expect 9 points. The high tempo style of football used in the final of the Confederations Cup will be demanded by the home fans at every stage and goals should be racked up before the tougher knockout stages.
Neymar, with a superb goalscoring record for the Selecao – 31 goals in 48 games – makes him an obvious place to start but watch Brazil at least year’s Confederations and in general and you’ll see no-one has thrived from Scolari’s setup as much as Fred, the large target man who scored twice against Spain in the final and terrorised Italy when they met in the group stages, who finished the tournament as top scorer with 5 goals. Playing on his own, he has devolved a good relationship with Oscar and Neymar, and often finds himself with as many, if not more, scoring chances than his more illustrious compatriot. In a group where Brazil should coast to 9 points it would be disappointing not to see him get on the scoresheet and against the best he has proven himself tough to handle, so he could become the key man during the knockout stages for Scolari as well – he is capable of making a big run for top scoring honours at 20/1 and also topping the charts for Brazil at 7/2.
Germany are not as popular in the outrights as they were for the European Championships but to see them fail to make the quarters at least would be a disappointment and while there seem to be some notable striker problems, this is still a side that excels at scoring goals from all areas of the pitch. With mobile and powerful midfielders playing upfront, the absence of Miroslav Klose may not be a problem. Thomas Muller, after all, did score 5 goals in 2010, getting the golden boot thanks to all of those assists that he also provided, and the Bayern Munich man may be suited by the lack of a proper forward giving him an advanced role.
Muller scored 5 goals in this season’s Champions League along with 4 in the qualifying stages – where Mesut Ozil topped the charts – and when Germany have given him an advanced role he has generally profited with 17 goals from 47 caps.
In the same group, Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo is worth chancing. There have been injury worries but games against the USA and Ghana provide scoring opportunities for him a plenty and a last 16 tie against Belgium offers a realistic chance of progression to the quarter-finals. Ronaldo has 49 goals for the national side and scored 8 in qualifying, nearly half of their 20 goals, and seems to be the go to man for everything from the National side. When Portugal were in a similarly tough group in Euro 2012, he scored twice to beat the Netherlands and then scored the winner in their quarter finals against the Cezch Republic.
It’s now time to find the real big prices, the likes of Manuel Salas for Chile in 1998 – to name just one, with massive prices in the frame for every World Cup regularly winning or tying – springing to mind. A number of candidates make appeal, but Colombia’s very fair Group C makes them hard to ignore in terms of potential goalscoring. Radamel Falcao would have made great appeal had he made it to the finals but as it is, Carlos Bacca could have been given a glorious chance to light up the World Cup for Los Cafeteros.
Bacca played very little part in the qualifiers as Colombia progressed second only to Argentina, starting only 3 games, but with a spot now highly likely based on recent friendlies and a strong finish to the season with Sevilla in La Liga. Bacca scored 14 through the season, finishing much stronger than he began, and having played football for just 4 years, is finally reaching something like his peak for the national side. With strong wingers out wide in Rodriguez and Cudardo, chances could come a plenty for him during the group stages and Colombia do have the tools to me a sustained bid even with a tough draw through the tournament.
Last but not least, Karim Benezema is also added to a hefty portfolio. He went a year without an international goal for France but seems to be a new man for Real Madrid and playing at the head of an advanced lineup, is well worth supporting at 33’s. The supply coming from behind is high quality with Matieu Valubuena and Antoine Greizmann likely to play either side of him and if they top the group and avoid Argentina he could get 5 games under his roster which gives him a fighting chance.
Those who fancy Belgium are advised to support Romelu Lukaku, although horrendous last 16 tie makes things difficult for them in terms of going further. Bosnia have the same problem, which is off-putting for backing Edin Dzeko – it could be best to back them for their own top goalscorer awards rather than the overall.
It was hard to leave out any of the Spanish players but there seems to be uncertainty about who will play up front – Pedro makes the most appeal to start but I am none the wiser to who will actually start – while a defensively strong Group D takes appeal away from Italians, Englishmen, and either Luis Suarez or Edison Cavani of Uruguay.
1 pt each/way Cristiano Ronaldo (18/1 Bet Victor)
1 pt each/way Gonzalo Higuain (22/1 Coral)
1 pt each/way Fred (20/1 general)
1 pt each/way Thomas Muller (33/1 general)
1 pt each/way Karim Benzema (33/1 general)
1 pt each/way Carlos Bacca (125/1 Coral)