The World Cup is almost here. Settle down, settle down! The world's elite will all descend on Brazil in the coming days ahead of the tournament opener on June 12, and thankfully unlike the Olympics there is no seven-hour opening ceremony.
When it swings around every four years, there is always lots of debate over who will win the Cup and who will be the top scorer. Here I look at my main six contenders for the Golden Boot this summer.
6) Romelu Lukaku (Belgium)
The least likely of the six and a striker who hasn't been considered very much, however I believe he could have a very good tournament. Despite Belgium's 5-1 victory over Luxembourg being annulled as the Belgium coach made one substitute too many (something that made such a massive difference to the outcome of the game), Lukaku did still score a hat-trick.
Granted, Luxembourg are no world beaters, but then nor are South Korea, Russia or Algeria and at least two, if not three, of these game present great opportunities for Lukaku to help himself. With 20 goals this season, and with Belgium tipped to go far, he has a very decent outside chance for the Golden Boot.
5) Fred (Brazil)
While it has been Neymar who has been attracting all the attention for the hosts, Brazil's 30 year-old striker mustn't been overlooked, especially considering the brilliant Confederations Cup he had only a year ago.
Despite his name not sounding hugely Brazilian (ok ok, not at all), Fred has scored 16 international goals in just 30 appearances and netted 11 goals this season for his club while dealing with injury problems, so it's clear Fred can score goals. Yep, statements like that prove what an expert I am! However, whether he can upstage Neymar is another matter, as it is unlikely both of the players will be able to challenge for the Golden Boot.
4) Gonzalo Higuain (Argentina)
Higuain is Argentina's Fred, though a bit more Argentinian sounding. He too has been thrust out of the limelight due to the small (no pun intended) matter of Lionel Messi, but Higuain has come alive this season at Napoli, probably due to the fear of being attacked by their Ultras, with 25 goals.
He has a sensational scoring record for his country, with 20 goals in 36 games and he scored just one less goal in qualifying than Messi. Four years ago in South Africa Higuain finished just one goal behind the Golden Boot winners, despite playing two games less. Usually positioned in a central role, Higuain will be right up there come July 13th.
3) Diego Costa (Spain)
This summer Spain will play with a striker. Yes... a striker. Costa seemed determined to ensure this didn't happen though, as he used some miraculous horse placenta to allow him to play a whole nine minutes in the Champions' League Final, a decision which nearly cost him a place on the plane.
The Chelsea-bound striker appears to have recovered and though Spain have a very tough group, they always seem able to create chances. He doesn't need many chances, with a 25% shot-to-goal conversion rate enabling him to score just the 36 goals this season and if he can keep up that rate up this summer he has a brilliant chance of winning the Golden Boot.
2) Neymar (Brazil)
Neymar's sensational free kick against the hapless Panama took him up to 200 career goals, not bad for a 22 year old. He's endured a tough debut season at Barcelona, but has netted six times in eight matches for his country this season, and his 30 goals in 47 games for Brazil mean he is their 10th highest goalscorer of all time.
Games against decent opposition in the group stage mean Neymar may not score as frequently as he would like, but a player of his ability has the quality to score against pretty much any team. With a potential quarter-final against England providing an opportunity for at least ten goals and a country which will attack at every opportunity in Brazil, Neymar has every opportunity of being the tournament's top scorer.
1) Lionel Messi (Argentina)
"Messi had a poor season", they said. What they didn't say was that despite not being anywhere near his best the little maestro managed 41 goals in just 47 games. It is widely known that Messi hasn't managed to shine on the international stage yet during his career with 37 goals in 64 games, but the stage is set for him to shine.
He appeared to tail off towards the end of the season, perhaps with the World Cup in mind, and a South American tournament means that Messi is one of the favourites to top the scoring charts. All three group games against Bosnia, Iran and Nigeria provide opportunities for a few goals, and it doesn't get too difficult until the semi finals as they will line up most probably against Switzerland and then maybe Portugal in the knockout stages.
This kind draw is one of the reasons I think Messi will finish as the top scorer and win the Golden Boot.
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