The Golden Boot in the FIFA World Cup goes to the player who has scored the most goals in the tournament, and with only eight teams left, the question remains, who will win the Golden Boot? In previous years, winners have been such prestigious names as Sandor Kocsis, Just Fontaine, Eusebio, Gerd Muller, Ronaldo, Klose and Thomas Muller. The most recent recipient of the Golden Boot at the FIFA World Cup in South Africa was Thomas Muller. He won by virtue of having more assists than the others tied with five goals in 2010, David Villa, Wesley Sneijder and Diego Forlan.
This year the race is tight again. The top scorer’s of the tournament so far are James Rodriguez of Columbia with five goals and two assists, Thomas Muller of Germany with four goals and two assists, Lionel Messi of Argentina with four goals and one assist, and Neymar of Brazil with four goal but no assists. Karim Benzema of France is lurking below with three goals and two assists, as are the Dutch pair, Arjen Robben with three goals and one assists and Robin van Persie with three goals.
Most other players who have two or three goals in the FIFA World Cup have been eliminated already except for Memphis Depay of the Netherlands with two goals and one assist, Jackson Martinez of Columbia with two goals and Bryan Ruiz of Costa Rica with two goals. There are a handful of players left in the tournament with one goal, but barring a miraculous outpouring of goals in the final few games from them, they are likely out of the running for the Golden Boot.
Five out of the last seven Golden Boot winners at the FIFA World Cup have been players from teams who finished in the top four of the tournament. Finishing in the top four means the players get the chance to play in the maximum seven games possible allowing the best chance to score more goals. In 1994 when the tournament was held in the United States of America, Oleg Salenko became the only player ever to win the Golden Boot and have his team eliminated in the group stages. He scored six goals in three games. In 1986 in Mexico, Gary Lineker won with six goals and England were knocked out of the tournament in the quarterfinals to Argentina. It was the game in which Diego Maradona had his infamous “Hand of God” goal, as well as his famous slaloming run through half the English team.
So it is very likely that a player whose team does not get out of the quarterfinals will not win the Golden Boot this year because their opponents will have two extra games to play. James Rodriguez of Columbia will play Neymar of Brazil on July 4, the winner of that game could very well take a big step in deciding who wins the Golden Boot because if Columbia are knocked out, Rodriguez will be at a disadvantage even if he does earn a goal. He is the only player so far in the tournament to score a goal in every single game he has played. In contrast, if Columbia upset the Brazilians on their home turf, James Rodriguez will take a big step in securing the Golden Boot and possibly the Golden Ball if Columbia can make it to the finals of the FIFA World Cup.
Many believe that Neymar will win the award, but he has so much pressure on him. Brazil has not been playing up to their high standards, but if they are to advance to the finals it will take some spectacular performances from the young Brazilian star. Likewise Lionel Messi has been carrying his Argentinian team on his back for most of this tournament. Messi already has four goals, but will likely need more to get past a tough Belgian defense on Saturday. He is a player who can find small gaps of space and exploit them with his exquisite dribbling skills and expert finishing.
Last, but not least, of the four leaders is Thomas Mueller, the defending Golden Boot winner, who began the tournament on fire with a hat trick against Portugal, but has since cooled off. He will have to face France and Karim Benzema in order to make it to the semi-finals. Benzema has taken up the mantle of leader this year, as Frank Ribery has been out injured for the French. Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben are two explosive players who can influence a game very easily as viewers saw in their first game of the tournament against Spain. They will be playing the minnows of Costa Rica on Saturday. The Netherlands and their high powered offense could exploit the lone CONCACAF team left in the tournament and put in a few goals, allowing Robben and van Persie a chance to rise in the goal rankings.
While anything can happen at the tournament, and never has it seemed more true than at this year’s edition, it seems probable that the Golden Boot will be awarded to one of the seven players highlighted above with three or more goals. The teams that can continue on their magical runs will surely help out their star scorers, so the quarterfinals will be the a big test for who will win the Golden Boot at the FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
By B. Taylor Rash