Ahead of the World Cup getting underway in Qatar, we analyse the runners and riders in the race for the Golden Boot.
After winning the Golden Boot at the 2018 World Cup, Harry Kane is looking to go back-to-back in Qatar.
One of the world’s best goalscorers will lead the line for Gareth Southgate’s England, who were dealt a fairly generous hand, facing Wales, the USA and Iran in the group stage, and facing the runner-up of Group A (Netherlands, Senegal, Ecuador and Qatar) in the last 16.
However, should the results follow the odds, the Three Lions may well face world champions France in the quarter-finals, with recent Nations League results and performances leaving plenty to be desired.
While it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Kane bag five in the group stage, the value may lie elsewhere.
The undoubted focal point of a very strong-looking French side, Kylian Mbappe will be strongly-backed to claim the Golden Boot in Qatar this winter.
Still only 23, the PSG frontman boasts remarkable goalscoring pedigree, having netted 111 times for the Parisian club in the last three seasons in all competitions.
Scoring four times in France’s victorious World Cup campaign in Russia, including a goal in the final against Croatia, Mbappe will be looking to cement himself as one of the best players of his era by firing his nation to glory once more in Qatar.
Aged 30, this will likely be the last time we see Neymar at the World Cup, certainly at the peak of his powers at least.
The PSG star has had a very chequered history with the World Cup, making his debut in 2014 as the tournament’s poster boy, before being unfortunately ruled out of the semi-finals through injury. Neymar scored four goals, and may well have taken the Golden Boot had he remained fit for the remaining two games.
In 2018, Brazil found themselves on the wrong side of the draw, falling to Belgium at the quarter-final stage, with Neymar only notching twice.
But as always, there is plenty of talent in the Selecao, and if the tournament favourites do go deep, it may well be Neymar’s goals that get them there.
Hotly-tipped to win this year’s Ballon d’Or after a phenomenal year in which he scored a tournament-high 15 goals on the way to winning his fifth Champions League title, Karim Benzema will go to the World Cup in arguably the form of his life.
After taking no part in France’s victorious campaign in Russia in 2018, a World Cup medal is one of the few accolades the 34-year-old is yet to secure.
This could help spur Benzema on in Qatar, and freshen up a France side who will be eager to quell the holders’ curse which has seen recent World Cup winners fall at the group stage in the subsequent tournament.
In the illustrious career of Cristiano Ronaldo, a World Cup Golden Boot is one of the few awards he hasn’t won. But having won the award with five goals in the group stage of Euro 2020 (three of which came from the spot), he’ll have his sights set on the world stage once more.
Portugal don’t have the easiest group, facing Uruguay, South Korea and Ghana, though they’ll fancy themselves to progress, and ideally avoid Brazil in the last 16.
After narrowly escaping the group of death at Euro 2020, Portugal were unable to repeat their unlikely victory of Euro 2016, and while not one of the hot favourites for the World Cup, it’s hard to write off Ronaldo bagging a few more, becoming the first player to score in five World Cups.
Arguably the greatest footballer of all time in what will likely be his last World Cup finals. He couldn’t could he?
The ultimate romantic football fairytale would be written in Qatar should Argentina’s captain Messi lift the famous Jules Rimet trophy aloft and secure the one craved major honour which has always eluded him.
There is a chance it could happen too. Unbeaten in their last 32 internationals, Argentina won the Copa America last year with Messi picking up the Golden Boot.
Argentina’s talisman, on penalties, Messi will certainly be backing himself to lead his country’s goal charge in Qatar.
Boasting a frightening goal record at international level for Belgium – with 68 goals in 102 caps – Romelu Lukaku will be charged with spearheading his country’s attack in Qatar.
For Belgium’s golden generation of football stars, including Lukaku and teammates including Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard, it has been suggested that this winter’s World Cup represents a last chance saloon to collect some silverware.
Capable of being a flat-track bully and scoring big in matches against inferior opposition, Belgium’s favourable group draw against Canada, Morocco and Croatia could enable the 29-year-old to fill his boots early on in Qatar to put himself in the frame for the coveted Golden Boot.
It is perhaps in the orange of the Netherlands national team where the mercurial talent of Memphis Depay has been most visibly displayed.
With 42 goals in 80 caps for the Netherlands, Depay has been a leading player for his country for a number of years now, operating most efficiently through the middle in attack where he is adept at linking up with runners around him.
Set to lead the line for the Netherlands in Qatar, the kind group stage draw for Louis van Gaal’s men could make Depay a smart bet for the Golden Boot. In a group alongside hosts Qatar, Ecuador and Senegal, the Barcelona man could have ample chance to do some early damage, especially when you acknowledge he should take penalties.
While there’s only ever likely to be one main man at Portugal, Diogo Jota shouldn’t be written off. He’s enjoyed a solid start to his international career, scoring nine goals in 27 appearances for the national side, and against decent opposition, such as Croatia, Sweden and Germany.
The 25-year-old has been a revelation for Liverpool since moving to Anfield, and his versatility will come in handy for Fernando Santos, though he’s likely to be withdrawn early in the majority of matches with five subs allowed, with Ronaldo likely playing the full 90 each time.
Tottenham summer signing Richarlison has performed very well for Brazil since making his debut in 2018, and will head to Qatar hoping to add a World Cup winners’ medal to go alongside his existing international honours which include an Olympic gold medal and Copa America title.
The 25-year-old is a favourite of Brazil coach Tite, and his versatility in attack could mean he is able to find a place in the starting XI amidst stacked competition for places in the forward positions.
Any starting forward for Brazil will be presented with a host of chances such is the plethora of creative players in their ranks, and Richarlison is certainly a capable goalscorer.
A largely unknown quantity outside of his native Brazil, Flamengo striker Pedro is laying down a claim to lead the line for his country in Qatar following a devastating run of form in the Copa Libertadores.
Helping to fire his club to the final of the South American equivalent of the Champions League with 12 goals in 12 games, the 25-year-old could be a wildcard option in attack for Brazil at the World Cup.
Tall and possessing great skill and deftness of touch, a strong World Cup showing for Brazil could earn Pedro a lucrative transfer to a top European club.
The lightning-fast left winger is perhaps one of the most likely starters of all of Tite’s forward options, with Neymar typically operating more centrally for the national side, while Raphinha and Gabriel Jesus vie for a place on the right.
It should lead to plenty of game-time, even if he’s unlikely to see the final whistle with five subs allowed at the World Cup, though his role is more likely to be that of creator than scorer, despite an excellent 17 La Liga goals for Real Madrid last term.
Any international striker with a goals to game ratio that is better than one in every two should be taken seriously. That’s the level Lautaro Martinez has been operating at for Argentina, with 20 goals in 38 appearances for his country.
The Inter Milan star is the latest in a long lineage of distinguished Argentine strikers, including icons of the game including Mario Kempes, Gabriel Batistuta, Hernan Crespo and Sergio Aguero.
A scorer in Argentina’s 3-0 Finalissima victory over Italy at Wembley earlier this year, Martinez could prove a shrewd bet for the Golden Boot should he nail down a starting berth amidst strong competition from the likes of Manchester City’s Julian Alvarez.
Martinez would become only the second Argentinian to ever win the Golden Boot at the World Cup, after Mario Kempes won it in the nation’s victorious home tournament back in 1978.
In a side littered with attacking talent, Antoine Griezmann is still an important part of Didier Deschamps’ French side.
He scored nine goals in 16 games last year, but his goalscoring has dipped considerably from its 2016 and 2018 peaks, that saw him win the Euro 2016 Golden Boot and the 2018 World Cup Silver Boot.
With Karim Benzema returning to the national side, he’s taken the primary goalscoring mantle, and it’s tough to see Griezmann being France’s top scorer, let alone the tournament’s.
Landing a dream move to Barcelona in the summer, Raphinha will be hoping to make a big impact for Brazil in the Qatar World Cup.
Although not guaranteed a starting place for the Selecao, the 25-year-old winger’s status in the national team will no doubt have elevated following his move to one of the biggest clubs in the world.
Should he nail down a place in the side, the former Leeds United favourite should be provided plenty chances to score in a Brazil side with one of the meanest-looking forward lines in the competition.
Portuguese forward Andre Silva has always looked like a player capable of developing into one of the top strikers in Europe, without ever really cementing such a reputation.
Operating at a Champions League level with RB Leipzig, Silva has also proven capable of bagging goals on the international scene with 19 goals in 51 appearances for Portugal.
With an obvious obstacle to playing time in Portugal’s attack in the form of the great Cristiano Ronaldo, Silva could find himself on the periphery of the side.
Were Ronaldo to get injured or need a rest, however, Silva is the exact type of player who could explode at a tournament if filled with confidence and given the opportunity to shine.
Undisputedly one of the best goalscorers in world football, Robert Lewandowski knows a thing or two about winning a Golden Boot having finished as the Bundesliga’s top scorer across seven seasons.
Having won almost every major honour up for grabs at club level, Poland’s all-time leading goalscorer will want to make his mark in Qatar after a disappointing tournament four years ago in which he failed to score as his country bowed out in the group stages.
A tough ask in an unfancied Poland side who will do well to progress past a group including Argentina and Mexico, the presence of Saudi Arabia alongside them may just present the 34-year-old an opportunity to fill his boots.
Another player with a stellar international record, Serge Gnabry has hit 20 goals in 34 caps for Germany.
Naturally a winger, Gnabry has regularly played through the middle to devastating effect for his country, with his blistering pace causing havoc in behind opposition defences.
His starting berth in Qatar is by no means secure at present given the level of talent in the Germany squad, but Gnabry’s Golden Boot credentials ought not to be sneered at if he does indeed occupy the most advanced position in attack.
An often bewildering player, who endured a largely torrid time in front of goal with Chelsea, Timo Werner has continued where he left off at RB Leipzig in his homeland after re-joining his former club.
With an international goal record of 24 goals in 53 caps, Werner is a valued member of Hansi Flick’s squad as Die Mannschaft prepare to launch a bid for their fifth World Cup title.
Possessing blistering pace in behind which can stretch the opposition and open up space for his teammates, Werner can offer this Germany team a different dimension which could provide him with opportunities to play.
A player who appears to depend on confidence to get the best out of him, especially when it comes to his finishing, Werner could represent a shrewd left-field bet for the Golden Boot should he get off to a good start in Qatar.
As Roberto Firmino moved down the pecking order, it allowed Gabriel Jesus to move from the wing to a more central role for the national side.
That move hasn’t brought many goals, however. Jesus came off the bench against South Korea in June to end a three-year, 19-game drought for the Selecao, despite starting 15 of those games, losing his place to Atletico Madrid’s Matheus Cunha at the start of the year. He was also one of the few Brazilian strikers to go through an entire World Cup without scoring a goal in 2018.
But there are goals in the Brazil team, with Jesus, Neymar, Vinicius Jr, Raphinha, Cunha and Richarlison all filling the attacking ranks, and should Brazil go all the way, Jesus – now finally a starting No. 9 at club level – may well find himself amongst the goals.
A resurgent Spain scored 18 goals at Euro 2020, but Alvaro Morata only managed three, and while he’s set to lead the line in Qatar, he doesn’t have the goalscoring pedigree of many of those in the betting.
His record for the national side is decent however, and should Spain reach the latter stages, Morata bagging three or four certainly isn’t out of the question.
Reaching the latter stages isn’t a foregone conclusion though; drawn with Germany, Costa Rica and Japan, should Spain reach the last 16, they’ll likely face Belgium or Croatia.
One of the most talked-about players of the summer will head to Qatar hoping to have established himself as a first-choice striker. Luis Suarez remains a regular member of the starting XI, and while Edinson Cavani doesn’t feature quite as regularly as he once did, he may still lead the line at the World Cup.
Nunez’s international pedigree falls someway short of the 265 combined caps between Cavani and Suarez, with just 10 caps and three starts to his name, but Nunez only really burst onto the scene last season, and may well have moved up the pecking order by November.
The last two seasons have seen Dusan Vlahovic take Serie A by storm, scoring 38 goals in 18 months for Fiorentina, earning a move to Juventus, where he scored seven more.
There’s been something of a bedding-in period, adjusting to a new style of play in Turin, but his form last year for the national side was excellent, scoring four goals in his last four games.
He may also be on penalty duties, and as one of the top strikers in Europe, will likely attract some each-way money.
If it’s not Alvaro Morata, it may be Ferran Torres who scores the goals for Spain. Should Luis Enrique not place his faith in the Atletico Madrid man, Torres may move from the wing to a more central role, with the likes of Mikel Oyarzabal and Ansu Fati as options out wide.
Torres has a decent record for the national side with 13 goals in 28 games, sharing the UEFA Nations League top scorer with Romelu Lukaku, both scoring six goals.
With the likes of Pedri, Thiago, Gavi in the midfield ranks, there’s no shortage of creativity for Spain, but who will score the goals remains uncertain.
The fact that Pep Guardiola was so willing to let Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus go may give you some insight into how highly he regards Julian Alvarez.
Although Erling Haaland’s fitness concerns have yet to materialise, Alvarez may get plenty of opportunities at club level, and a chance to impress Argentina manager Lionel Scaloni.
However there are a pair of world class forwards in his way, named Lautaro Martinez, and Lionel Messi. While Alvarez has nine caps, the first seven came off the bench, making his first start in a win over Ecuador, in which the 22-year-old also bagged his first goal for La Albisceleste.
Capable of playing out wide, up top or as a #10, Kai Havertz’s versatility will come in handy in Qatar.
While Serge Gnabry often occupied the central zones at Euro 2020, Havertz also found himself in amongst the action, particularly against Portugal with two close-range finishes.
It isn’t a vintage Germany side, going through something of a transition, but there are youthful attacking options, with the likes of Karim Adeyemi, Jamal Musiala and Havertz, and though we don’t quite know how Germany will line up in Qatar, the Chelsea man should find himself amongst the team’s top scorers if nothing else.
Arguably the best midfielder in the world at the moment, Kevin De Bruyne will go to the World Cup primed for peak performance.
If Belgium are to finally take the next step towards securing international silverware, they will likely require an inspirational tournament from their main man. More typically a creator and assist king, the Manchester City man is also more than capable of providing goals.
As a midfield player it will perhaps be difficult for De Bruyne to acquire the volume of chances required to make a push for the Golden Boot, but should Belgium go deep into the tournament, he would have more matches in order to do so.
A wily old veteran at this stage, Luis Suarez could join a distinguished list of players to have scored in four separate World Cup Finals in Qatar this winter.
Given a tricky-looking group stage draw against Portugal, Ghana and South Korea, Uruguay will be leaning on the experience of Suarez and long-time striker partner Edinson Cavani to fire them through to the knockout rounds, not to mention new kid on the block Darwin Nunez.
Ever the man for the big occasion, 35-year-old Suarez would love nothing more than to go out with a bang in what will almost certainly be his last World Cup appearance.
Bruno Fernandes will be keen to put a disappointing Euros behind him when he heads to Qatar. The Manchester United man scored 18 goals and laid on 12 more when heading into Euro 2020, but two underwhelming performances against Hungary and Germany saw him dropped to the bench for Portugal’s remaining two fixtures.
He’s still a regular starter for the national side, but doesn’t see as much action in the area as he does at club level, and will do well to replicate his United performances at the World Cup.
It says a lot about the embarrassment of riches Argentina have in attack when a player of Paulo Dybala's quality will likely find it difficult to get a look in.
Such is the case ahead of the World Cup in Qatar, with Roma’s marquee summer signing seemingly behind the likes of Inter hitman Lautaro Martinez, Man City new man Julian Alvarez and the great Lionel Messi in the pecking order in the forward positions.
Having said this, Dybala certainly has the ability to force his way into Lionel Scaloni’s side, and demonstrate the ability he has arguably failed to display at the real elite level of the sport so far in his career.
A player who has displayed world-class promise for Pep Guardiola’s swashbuckling Manchester City side in recent years, Phil Foden has comparably largely flattered to deceive so far in his international career.
Regarded as one of the most technically gifted players England have produced in many a year, Foden will be hoping to finally pin down a starting place in Qatar in order to showcase his talent on the biggest stage of all.
Having shown glimpses of his world-class ability at Champions League level, notably wreaking havoc on a star-studded PSG side in the quarter-finals last season, the World Cup could afford Foden the perfect opportunity to make a statement with the whole world watching.
One of England’s star players as the Three Lions reached the final of Euro 2020, scoring three goals along the way, Raheem Sterling is a firm favourite of manager Gareth Southgate.
At 50/1, Sterling may represent good value for the Golden Boot when you consider he will likely be nailed on in England’s frontline alongside captain Harry Kane.
England’s group stage draw also offers up opportunities for goals, with Iran, Wales and the USA very beatable opposition for the Euro 2020 runners-up.
Liverpool frontman Roberto Firmino could provide an ideal foil for the Selecao’s star players such as Neymar Jr and Vinicius Jr in Qatar with his link-up play and industry.
Although not a striker renowned for his prolific goalscoring and thus a long shot for the Golden Boot in Qatar, should Firmino find himself in Brazil’s starting XI he will undoubtedly find himself in the positions to find the net.
With a fight on his hands to lead the line for his country at the World Cup, with competition in the form of players such as Spurs’ Richarlison and Arsenal’s Gabriel Jesus, Firmino is perhaps no more than an option to monitor in the top goalscorer market at present.
A rising star in European football, Milan’s Rafael Leao certainly fits the mould of a player capable of exploding at a World Cup finals.
23-year-old Leao was a key figure in Milan’s Serie A-winning side last season, contributing with 10 goals and 11 assists.
Typically deployed wide in a front three, Leao’s form for Milan has attracted strong interest from Premier League giants such as Manchester City and Chelsea, so don’t be surprised to see the forward earn a big money move should he thrive for Portugal in Qatar.