With the obvious exception of the outright winner, the ante-post market punters most like to sink their teeth into ahead of major tournaments is the top goalscorer betting. The 2014 World Cup in Brazil is unlikely to be any different in that respect.
Predictably, the likes of Neymar, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Luis Suarez are proving extremely popular in the Golden Boot betting. However, one thing that recent World Cups have taught us is that we should expect the unexpected.
Indeed, while many a punter collected in 2004 when Brazil’s Ronaldo topped the goal-scoring charts, it’s unlikely that many were left counting their winnings after the two renewals of the World Cup either side of that year.
In 1994 Oleg Salenkov of Russia and Bulgarian Hristo Stoichkov shared the Golden Boot: four years later it was the turn of Croatian legend Davor Suker: and Germans Miroslav Klose and Thomas Muller emerged as the top scorers in 2014 and 2010 respectively.
Half-a-dozen could be the golden ticket
Generally speaking, six goals is sufficient for a player to claim the prize. Ronaldo netted eight times 10 years ago but that is the exception rather than the norm – and Ronaldo was a truly exceptional striker in his pomp.
If there is a Brazilian that will come close to matching Ronaldo’s haul it is Neymar. The 22-year-old scored four times in five matches for the Selecao en route to their triumph in the Confederations Cup last year, and walked away with the Golden Ball accolade.
If at his best this summer, Neymar could emerge with a Golden Boot award to sit alongside it. Luiz Felipe Scolari’s side have been drawn against Cameroon, Croatia and Mexico in Group A and will be expected to score plenty.
However, it’s slightly concerning that Neymar wasn’t at his best for much of his debut season in La Liga with Barcelona and, at around the 10/1 mark, he is too short in the betting for my liking.
Will Magical Messi light up Brazil?
In previous World Cup appearances Lionel Messi has failed to produce the magic that he is synonymous with at club level for Barca. But this, perhaps, be due to the weight of expectations on young shoulder – he was aged 18 and 22 respectively at the start of the last two World Cup.
Now 26, Leo is very much in his prime and is equipped with broader shoulders. He surpassed Diego Maradonna’s goal tally for Argentina when netting a hat-trick against Guatemala in a friendly last year but, for many, to be perceived as Maradonna’s equal – or to be considered the better player – he needs to shine on the biggest stage.
Given that the Argentinean’s have been drawn against Bosnia, Iran and Nigeria in Group F, Alejandro Sabella’s men will be expected to amass a healthy goal tally in the group stage. In addition to Messi, Gonzalo Higuain and Sergio Aguero add to a potent Argentina strike-force.
2014 World Cup top goalscorer – conclusion
This may well prove to be Lionel Messi’s yard in terms of the World Cup, but at a top-priced 8/1 he’s not much value. Meanwhile, Neymar is also a cramped price and Luis Suarez’s recent injury scare has cast a shadow of doubt over his participation in the tournament. In any case, Suarez and fellow Uruguayan hitman Edinson Cavani may find goals hard to come by in a group which also includes England and Italy.
This is Cristiano Ronaldo’s last opportunity to make his mark on a World Cup while in his prime and the 29-year-old, fresh from Champions League glory with Real Madrid, is expected to make waves individually in Brazil. However, Portugal lack the requisite strength in depth to make a realistic bid for glory in this tournament and Ronaldo could lack the support he needs to emerge as the top goalscorer in South America this summer.
Robin van Persie averages a goal a game for Holland and he is tempting at 35/1 with 888sport, but he’s endured a torrid season with Manchester United, which is a concern. Columbia striker Radamel Falcao would be an appealing option but, like Suarez, his participation is in doubt and, though the nation has provided the Golden Boot winner at the last two World Cups, I can’t envisage any one Germany player netting six goals or more in Brazil.
The host nation won’t be relying solely on Neymar and Fred, currently a 22/1 chance with SkyBet, is worth a second look, and Wayne Rooney, 50/1 with the same firm, is likely to be the subject of plenty of patriotic wagers.
However, the recommendation is Sergio Aguero at a tasty 16/1 with Ladbrokes. Paradoxical though it may sound, the fact that the 25-year-old missed 19 of Manchester City’s last 33 games this season could be a good thing, as he will carry less mileage than many other players into the tournament.
Despite missing such a sizeable chunk of the Citizens’ campaign, Aguero still managed to score an impressive 28 times, and he will be in confident mood ahead of the World Cup following City’s Premier League title success. He’s a natural goalscorer and I’m expecting him to score plenty this summer.
2014 World Cup betting advice
Sergio Aguero to be the top goalscorer in the 2014 World Cup – 16/1 (Ladbrokes)