Which boot will yield a golden harvest in Russia?

Fancy Tim Cahill to not only set a goalscoring record by netting in his fourth World Cup to top the race for the Golden Boot?

No, me neither.

But then his odds of around 350-1 to be top scorer in Russia reflect how unlikely that scenario is.

In fact few of the Socceroos are even quoted in the goalscorers market and the fact that Cahill is the shortest price on offer (the others, like Tom Rogic and Andrew Nabbout are around 500-1 and Massimo Luongo is even bigger in the market) show how little bookmakers and punters expect of Australia.

But blindly expecting the established stars of the world game to come to the fore and dominate the scoring charts in Russia might not be that smart either.

Occasionally well known strikers do emerge at the top of the goalscoring pile, as evidenced by the great Brazilian Ronaldo in 2002.

Stepping up: Brazil's Ronaldo after scoring against Germany in the final 16 years ago.

Stepping up: Brazil’s Ronaldo after scoring against Germany in the final 16 years ago.

But as often as not it's a highly talented individual who uses the World Cup in question as a platform from which to spring to international prominence.

The likelihood is that whoever top scores in Russia – if previous statistics are any guide – will play for a nation that does well (quarter finals or semi finals) but does not win the World Cup. He is as likely to be an attacking midfielder as he is a striker, and his final goal tally is expected to be around six.

However that statistic might change a little if the performance of Portugese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo is anything to go by. The Real Madrid legend smashed a hat trick in his opening game, that thrilling 3-3 draw with Spain in the early hours of Saturday morning, so he has put himself in pole position at this early stage of proceedings.


Two other players will also fancy their chances after opening nights to remember. Diego Costa notched two for Spain in that epic with the Portugese, while Russia's Denis Chrseyev also bagged a brace in the 5-0 win over a hapless Saudi Arabia.

James Rodriguez, the Colombian who won the Golden Boot in Brazil, and will be hoping to repeat the performance, is the perfect exemplar of the modern Golden Boot winner.

James Rodriguez scores against Uruguay four years ago.

James Rodriguez scores against Uruguay four years ago.

An attacking midfielder with terrific touch and vision, James showed his class during the group phase but could not inspire the Colombians to get past the quarter final stage, where they fell to Brazil. All up he scored six times.

Four years earlier, in South Africa, no one man emerged at the head of the scoring charts. Instead four players – Golden Ball winner (as best player in the tournament) Diego Forlan of Uruguay, The Netherlands' Wesley Schneijder, David Villa of eventual winners Spain and Germany's Thomas Mueller – all scored five times each. Forlan and Schneider operated as midfielders and Villa and Mueller were strikers but not traditional centre forwards.

However, both the 2006 and 2002 winners, Miroslav Klose and Ronaldo were classic number nines.

The German netted five times as his country, the host nation, reached the semi-final.

Ronaldo, who was known as The Phenomenon during his playing days, showed that tag to be totally on point in 2002 when he scored eight goals – the sort of total that was more common in the 1970s and earlier, the days before ultra defensive football and a time when emerging nations who qualified from Africa and Asia were nowhere near as organised and drilled as they are now.

Davor Suker, the Croatian hitman made his nation's first foray into the World Cup in 1998 memorable by scoring six times, while in the USA in 1994 it was Russian Oleg Salenko who took the title in rather strange circumstances, also with six goals.

Flashback: Croatian Davor Suker starred in France 20 years ago.

Flashback: Croatian Davor Suker starred in France 20 years ago.

Salenko shared the honours with the combustible but brilliant Bulgarian Hristo Stoichkov. What was unusual about Salenko's achievement was that he played for a team that had failed to get out of the group stages and that five of his goals had come in one game, when the Russians routed Cameroon 6-1. It was, sadly for him and this year's hosts, a result they could not build upon.

The Bulgarians were the surprise success story of that tournament in the USA. Having failed previously to ever get out of the group phase, Stoichkov, an attacking midfielder of the highest class, drove them to the semi-final where he was ably assisted by Bulgaria's other goalscorer, Yordan Letchkov.

The 1990 hero, Salvatore Schillachi, proves that a player doesn't have to be well known or even a regular starter for his country, just that he has to hit a purple patch of form at the right time.

Schillachi had only played once for the Azzuri before being drafted into the squad for the tournament in Italy in 1990 and started the first couple of games on the bench. But he seemingly could not stop scoring and netted six in total as the Italians lost in the semi-finals to a Diego Maradona inspired Argentina.

So who might shine this time?

Well, there are the usual suspects Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Both men are now into their thirties, so time is running out and this could conceivably be the last World Cup for both, so they will have plenty of incentive.

Ronaldo has made a great start, but the demands placed up on them by their team go far beyond just goalscoring: they are expected to be inspirational leaders, creators and playmakers as well, so topping the individual goalscoring charts would be a brilliant achievement.

Paris St Germain's brilliant Brazilian Neymar may be more of a chance. Yes, he too is his team's talisman, but he tends to play as more of a striker and in a Brazilian team desperate to atone for its failure at home last time he will get plenty of chances.

Antoine Griezmann, the main French frontman, is another strong candidate. The Atletico Madrid striker has proved himself one of Europe's top marksmen for several seasons now and with France expected to dominate their group games he too will have his admirers.

Of those further down the pecking order Harry Kane doesn't make much appeal simply because no-one can know for sure how far England might go.

If their teams get it right round them then Belgium's Romelu Lukaku and Poland's Robert Lewandowski could make a bold bid. Both play at the pointy end of team's who might rely on them, certainly in central areas, although the Belgians will prove dangerous from all over the park with men like Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne in their ranks.

It all depends who gets on a roll early, as Salenko did when he won the award. Multiple goals in early games are very hard for the chasers to peg back, so look to round one in the group phase to provide plenty of clues.

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