The World Cup brings together the world’s best teams for the finest sports showpiece event every four years and the speculation and eagerness surrounding who will triumph is only rivalled to a certain extent by the speculation surrounding the uncertainty of who will be the tournament’s top scorer (the Golden Boot winner).
Four years ago in South Africa, Bayern Munich and German winger Thomas Muller was the unlikely hero, rising to the occasion to score five goals and contribute three assists in the tournament to earn the Golden Boot.
Many of the star players who were expected to lead the scoring charts failed to even threaten for the individual honour, and this list included the likes of Barcelona and Argentine ace Lionel Messi and Real Madrid and Portugal talisman Cristiano Ronaldo.
2014 promises to be a different story. Not so perhaps for all of the stars, but for a select few, the stage has been set perfectly for them to exploit their explosive talents and distinguish themselves from the rest right from the onset in the group stages. Below, I outline four stars who have the best shot at winning the Golden Boot in July.
Manchester City's mercurial forward and Argentine prodigy 'Kun' Aguero had an injury-laden season with the Citizens which only saw him start 20 games in the Premier League.
However, the Argentine maestro was still able to contribute 17 goals in those appearances. Even though he was unable to register a single goal in his debut World Cup in South Africa in 2010, Aguero looks set to put aside his injury woes and is convinced he can win the Golden Boot.
He will be especially buoyed by the fact that Argentina have been drawn into a very easy Group F with Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iran, and Nigeria. La Albeceleste should theoretically not have an issue putting a couple of goals past their group opponents and Aguero will be eager to capitalise on this opportunity early on.
Much like his fellow Argentine Aguero, Messi suffered with some niggling injuries throughout much of the last La Liga season. Despite this fact, he was able to start 27 of the 38 games and contributed 28 goals and 11 assists in the process.
Usually criticised for not being able to reproduce his club form with the national team, Messi was arguably the most productive player in the World Cup qualifiers, scoring 10 goals (only Luiz Suarez scored more with 11) and creating multiple chances to help Argentina finish first in the CONMEBOL qualifying zone.
With that in mind, Messi has set the perfect stage for a World Cup in which he finally finds himself in the limelight for the right reasons. He will also be aided by Argentina’s favorable group stage draw and his drive and hunger to fill his trophy cabinet with perhaps the single most important trophy missing from his collection.
With the World Cup being hosted on home soil for Neymar, there will be the extra incentive for the Barcelona winger to entertain the home fans that expect nothing less from anyone gifted the honour of wearing the Brazil #10 shirt.
Unlike most of the superstars heading to the World Cup, Neymar is one of just a handful of star players that have been known to play better for their national team than for their club team. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that with Brazil, Neymar is the focus of attack, meanwhile at Barcelona he is relegated to playing second or third fiddle to Messi and Spain’s Andres Iniesta.
Regardless, Neymar has already proven in the Confederations Cup that he is more than up to the task with some sensational performances and goals - especially the one against Japan, which ultimately saw him win the Bronze Boot for third-highest scorer in the tournament, as well as the Golden Ball reserved for the tournament’s best player.
Much like Argentina, Brazil should have no problem putting in a couple of goals past Mexico, Cameroon and Croatia, and Neymar will be eager to show the home fans that he is deserving of the jersey and the legacy associated with it.
Uruguay’s Suarez, perhaps more so than any player in the World Cup, is a hungry beast, literally and figuratively. This is a man that would do whatever it takes to win and score goals, be it violating fair play rules and handballing the ball intentionally to give his country a chance or biting defenders, his imagination knows no bounds.
It is no coincidence that Suarez ended up as the highest goalscorer in the Premier League last season with 31 goals, as well as the highest scorer in the CONMEBOL qualifying zone with 11.
Suarez guarantees goals and should he be able to shrug off fitness concerns and stay away from controversy, he will be one of the main players to watch at the 2014 World Cup and this could be very bad news for England.
Several other stars such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Robin Van Persie will always be mentioned when individual accolades such as the Golden boot are concerned, but it is my sincere belief that the groups in which these stars find themselves will limit their chances of winning this prestigious accolade.
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