Making World Cup 2018 football predictions months in advance of the great tournament is a tricky business; we still have a good few weeks of domestic action to watch unfold as yet, and simply cannot second-guess who may get injured or suffer a lack of form in the interim period.
But one area in which we are on steadier ground is in making informed World Cup 2018 Golden Boot winners predictions, because we have a sound idea as to who will be finding the net on a regular basis when the beautiful game’s premier competition heads to Russia in the summer.
We can peruse the history books to reveal the identities of the winners of the Golden Boot from yesteryear:
2014 – James Rodriguez (Colombia)
2010 – Thomas Muller (Germany)
2006 – Miroslav Klose (Germany)
2002 – Ronaldo (Brazil)
1998 – Davor Suker (Croatia)
So what do all of these goal-grabbers have in common? Firstly, they all played for nations that went deep into the tournament, with Colombia reaching the last eight, Croatia and Germany (twice) losing in the semi-finals, and Brazil going all the way to lift the Jules Rimet Trophy.
This is common sense, of course, and a phenomenon noted by the bookmakers in their World Cup 2018 Golden Boot odds.
And football buffs will note that four of the five on the list are strikers. Rodriguez is the anomaly, although he did occupy an advanced role for the Colombians in ’14, and Muller – while a winger by trade for his club side Bayern Munich – does lead the line for Germany.
So, by narrowing our search to strikers playing for countries expected to go deep into the tournament, we have naturally shortened out hitlist of potential World Cup 2018 Golden Boot winners.
Our next port of call in our World Cup football predictions then is to consider the runner and riders for the tournament itself, and draw up a shortlist of potential Golden Boot winners who we expect to have ample opportunities to find the net.
Golden Boot Predictions: Neymar (Brazil)
According to the World Cup odds, Brazil and Germany are the most likely winners of the tournament this summer.
The Brazilians are a particularly interesting case because they have a galaxy of attacking stars to call upon: how do you whittle down a list containing Neymar, Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino, Willian, Gabriel Jesus, Douglas Costa and Fred down to three or four starters?
That’s a tricky task in itself, but one guaranteed starter is Neymar, football’s most expensive commodity.
The winger joined PSG in a deal worth a reported €222 million last summer, and while that is obviously a ludicrous amount of money, in football’s own unique micro-climate you’d have to suggest he’s worth every penny.
He bagged 28 goals in just 30 appearances for the French side before picking up a season-ending foot injury, and that return is reminiscent of his outstanding record for the international side; 53 goals in 83 games.
Four of those came in a successful World Cup campaign in 2014, and so Neymar really is a live contender on our list of World Cup 2018 Golden Boot winners at odds of around 10/1.
Golden Boot Predictions: Lionel Messi (Argentina)
The probability of Lionel Messi winning the Golden Boot will be near the top of most pundits’ World Cup football predictions, and certainly the Argentine is an obvious contender.
He’s won the European Golden Shoe award in four of the last nine seasons – an award handed out to the continent’s top club goalscorer – and blasted seven goals in qualifying.
Will Argentina progress deep into the tournament? There’s every chance given that they finished runners-up at both the World Cup in 2014 and Copa America in 2016, and with a frontline of Messi-Aguero-Dybala – and the likes of Higuaín, Pastore and Di Maria in support – goals are unlikely to be in short supply.
Group D is not the most straightforward to fathom – Croatia, Iceland and Nigeria have been twinned with the Argentines – but you would expect the South Americans to prosper. From there, who knows how far they can go….and as such Messi’s World Cup 2018 Golden Boot odds of 10/1 look very generous indeed.
Golden Boot Predictions: Harry Kane (England)
Anyone backing England to win the tournament perhaps needs to get out more – their World Cup odds of 16/1 confirm that, but it’s not beyond the pale that Harry Kane might just get into the mix for the Golden Boot.
When James Rodriguez took the spoils in 2014, he tucked in to a tasty set of group stage opponents that included Japan, Greece and the Ivory Coast. He notched three in three, and his Golden Boot campaign was up and running.
It’s interesting because England’s group contains Tunisia and Panama; surely two of the weakest sides in the competition. You would anticipate that Kane should have plenty of chances to find the net here….just how many he scores is anybody’s guess.
If we hypothesise that Kane bags four goals in those two matches – tough, but certainly not impossible – then he would become a hot favourite for the title. England expects, and Kane is able to make a mockery of his World Cup 2018 Golden Boot odds.
Golden Boot Predictions: Luis Suarez (Uruguay)
Here are some impressive and dare we say overly generous World Cup odds: the bookmakers have installed the Barcelona and Uruguay hitman as a 30/1 longshot for the prize.
It’s curious because the Uruguayans have a fairly agreeable group – they’ll come up against the hosts Russia, Saudi Arabia and Egypt – and as Rodriguez played in 2014 you only need to progress as far as the quarter-finals to give yourself a chance of winning the Golden Boot.
They qualified in style for the tournament too, finishing second in the notoriously tricky South American CONMEBOL qualification campaign and blasting 32 goals in 18 matches in the process.
The former Liverpool hotshot links up well with Edinson Cavani in attack, and realistically ticks every box that we would expect any prospective World Cup 2018 Golden Boot winners to. As mentioned, his World Cup 2018 Golden Boot odds of 30/1 are an absolute steal.
Written by Craig Simpkin
A sports journalist with a smorgasbord of experience writing for a variety of publications, Craig is a Leicester fan hoping that England can also achieve the impossible this summer.