WhoScored Look At The Golden Boot Race

Which strikers are in with a shout of winning the World Cup Golden Boot? WhoScored's Ali Tweedale is backing a goal-fest in Brazil, with a host of top strikers in form...

Last Updated: 21/05/14 at 11:10 Post Comment

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The World Cup in Brazil represents a huge opportunity for the hosts to regain the trophy in front of their own fans, and after a disappointing 2010 campaign in South Africa hopes are high in the home of the five-time winners. As problems mount off the field, with Brazilians protesting over the cost of the tournament, there is growing pressure on the players to produce performances that will at least temporarily pacify frustrated fans.

With that in mind, the expectations of some 200 million Brazilians are rising. In turn, the pressure on Neymar - the eighth most expensive player of all time - has significantly increased. Brazil no longer have a frontline bursting with the kind of talent they had when Ronaldo, Rivaldo and Ronaldinho were at their disposal. Rather, almost all of their hopes rest on the shoulders of young Neymar.

The Barcelona forward endured a rather tough season, with sky-high expectations rocketing further when rumours emerged that the club had paid rather more than the original €57m reported. Despite being the main man at Santos prior to his move, Neymar had to submit to the main event that is Lionel Messi at the Camp Nou in his debut season. He had a mixed campaign, but while a return of nine goals and eight assists in 26 La Liga appearances doesn't repay the full transfer fee, he certainly has not lost his goalscoring touch. That the only hat-trick he scored for the Blaugrana came against Celtic in the Champions League when Messi was out injured hints further that Neymar enjoys being centre stage. He will have the eyes of the world on him and the hopes of his countrymen pinned on his shoulders this summer - so, in the race for the Golden Boot, Neymar is naturally one of the frontrunners.

His club teammate Messi is, of course, favourite to be the tournament's top scorer. There is a widespread feeling that the former Ballon d'Or winner has had a poor season, and maybe by his (extraordinarily high) standards this campaign has not quite been as impressive for the Argentine. However, 28 goals in 29 league starts and the third-best Champions League goal tally despite only making seven appearances hardly makes for a poor return. In fact, this calendar year he is by some distance the top scorer in Europe's top five leagues, scoring 20 goals in 20 appearances, and with the highest WhoScored rating (8.46) in 2014 he comes into the competition in form. With Iran amongst the teams he will face in the group stage, this could finally be the international competition at which Messi answers his critics.

Cristiano Ronaldo is second only to Messi in terms of his WhoScored rating this year (8.41) and, with 13 league goals, he has enjoyed an excellent 2014 so far. It has been a long and testing season for the Portugal captain, though, so fatigue might start to get the best of him. He has played nearly 65 hours of football for his club alone and still has a Champions League final to look forward to. On top of that, he almost single-handedly dragged his country through the World Cup play-offs, scoring all four of their goals against Sweden, and as a result the best player on the planet has succumbed to a hamstring injury in recent weeks. If he can overcome that after a brief rest between Saturday's game against Atl├ętico Madrid and the start of the tournament, he will certainly score goals in Brazil, but his tally may be hampered by how far an otherwise fairly average Portugal side can go in the competition.

It's often claimed that Italy are lacking in the goalscorers department, but ahead of this summer's World Cup their strikers seem to have hit form at just the right time. Ciro Immobile (14) is second in the goalscoring charts in the top five European leagues in 2014, while Mattia Destro (10) isn't far behind. It speaks volumes about the quality available to Cesare Prandelli that Luca Toni and Antonio Di Natale (13 strikes each) are joint-third in that list, along with Ronaldo, but both are considered too old to be selected. Immobile and Destro are not yet guaranteed a place in Prandelli's final squad, but should they make it onto the plane - and then the pitch in Brazil - they could well get goalscoring chances, with Italy averaging 18.3 shots per game at Euro 2012.

Luis Suarez is of course another one to keep an eye on having shared the European Golden Shoe this season with Ronaldo. The main (or only realistic) criticism of the Uruguayan this season has been that most of his goals have come against the Premier League's 'lesser' teams, so in a tough World Cup group questions remain as to whether Suarez can do it on the big stage.

Bosnia and Herzegovina's qualifying campaign was a roaring success, with Edin Dzeko netting ten of his side's 30 goals. The Manchester City striker is the Premier League's joint-top scorer in 2014 with Suarez and Daniel Sturridge (12), and in a group including Iran and Nigeria, the striker should score goals. He is an outsider for the Golden Boot but not a ridiculous shout.

England's goalscoring hopes will be pinned on Sturridge, Wayne Rooney and possibly Raheem Sterling too. Sterling came into form in the second part of the campaign and he could well prove Roy Hodgson's secret weapon at the World Cup. Rooney, though, led England's scoring charts in qualifying as England netted an incredible 31 goals in just 10 games. Take out the 22 goals scored against Moldova and San Marino, though, and you realise that the Golden Boot will probably be beyond England's players, who are far from the worst team at the tournament but unlikely to blow anyone away in Group D.

South Africa 2010 was the lowest scoring World Cup since the tournament changed to a 64-game format, but surely with the players on show at this year's event, we will be treated to a goal-fest. Messi, Ronaldo and Suarez all come into the competition on form, and should ensure the goals will flow at Brazil 2014.

Ali Tweedale - follow him on Twitter.

All statistics courtesy of WhoScored.com, where you can find yet more stats, including live in-game data and unique player and team ratings.

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