So the round of 16 is over and we’re down to 8 teams. That’s bad news if you’re Greek, but great news if – like me – you’re writing a blog predicting who’ll win the Golden Boot (the award given to the top scoring player). No chance of Xherdan Shaqiri scoring three more hat tricks and humiliating me now! I can speculate with impunity!
And speculate I will. To me there are four really outstanding candidates left in the tournament. With all due respect to Karim Benzema and Arjen Robben I think it’s doubtful they’ll win. And as an Arsenal supporter I refuse to consider Robin van Persie. So let’s have a look at the four I rate with a chance…
Football fans – non Real Madrid supporters, anyway – are generally of the opinion that Lionel Messi is the best player in the world. Over the past five years he’s scored goals at a rate, which is simply unprecedented in the modern era. However, when discussions arise about whether or not he’s the greatest of all time, the common criticism is that he’s yet to do it on the world stage. 42 goals in 90 games is a good record, but before this tournament he only had one World Cup goal to his name. This tournament has changed that. He’s scored four goals against teams, which – while not the strongest – have largely set out to defend.
Also having a great tournament is Colombia’s James Rodriguez. Rodriguez is the current top scorer with five goals, and his brilliant performances have set pulses racing and surely sent his price tag skyrocketing (for context, this is a player for whom AS Monaco paid €45,000,000 just over a year ago). Colombia have probably been the team of the tournament so far, cruising past Uruguay while all the other sides received scares in the round of 16, and Rodriguez has been their star. At 22 years old, he has a great future ahead of him.
Standing in Columbia’s path are the hosts, Brazil. Their own 22-year-old talisman Neymar is also a contender for Golden Boot. With his four goals he’s shouldered the huge weight of the Brazilian public’s expectations, and he’s been one of the bright sparks of the team, which has yet to get into high gear. It will be an amazing narrative if Brazil win the World Cup at home with Neymar top scoring.
And finally, Thomas Müller – Müller’s record is great, but he won’t excite you in the same way that the other three do. He just doesn’t have the same brilliant technique and ability to take players on. What he does have is an amazing knack for popping up in the right place at the right time and scoring. He has four goals at this World Cup, and was the Golden Boot winner in 2010.
So who of these four do I think will win the Golden Boot? Unfortunately for James Rodriguez, I think Brazil will knock Colombia out. As I mentioned, I do think Colombia are the form team so far, and Rodriguez has by far the best minutes-to-goal ratio of all four players:
But I don’t think Brazil’s journey is over just yet. I will hedge my bets a little here and say that I think this will be the game of the tournament, and if Colombia win Rodriguez will go on to easily claim the Golden Boot.
Müller’s goal scoring has slowed quite a bit after his hat trick against Portugal in Germany’s first game. Germany have looked a bit ordinary since then, and I believe they will struggle against France. There is another interesting subplot here too – Müller’s teammate Miroslav Klose is currently the joint top goal scorer in World Cup history with 15. At 36 this will be his last tournament, so perhaps he will be given some time ahead of Müller in search of the goal he needs to claim the record for himself?
Which leaves us with Barcelona teammates Messi and Neymar. As mentioned, neither Argentina nor Brazil have looked amazing so far, and both players are hugely important to their respective teams. In terms of goal scoring Messi has probably been the most important player for any team at the tournament, as demonstrated by the percentage his team’s goals he’s scored:
I think he will revel in the pressure and end the tournament as top scorer, as Argentina progress further than the rest of the squad deserves to. If they win then Messi’s World Cup achievements will be considered equivalent to his compatriot Maradona’s at Mexico ’86.
So, deep breath, I feel like it’s risky, but I’m betting on the best player in the world over the last five years to be the Golden Boot winner at Brazil 2014 – Messi is the man for me.