2018 World Cup: Betting Guide for the Golden Boot Race

Playing for powerhouse Brazil, Neymar is one of the odds-on favorites to capture the Golden Boot in Russia. Let's peep some of the other favorites as well as a few longshots who could be worth a roll of the dice.

The Golden Boot winner at the 2014 World Cup was an anomaly. James Rodriguez scored six goals for Colombia without playing the maximum number of games as Colombia was ousted in the quarterfinals. The previous four winners had all come from teams that made it to at least the final or the third-place game.

Year Winner Goals Scored
1982 Paolo Rossi (Italy) 6
1986 Gary Lineker (England) 6
1990 Salvatore Schillaci (Italy) 6
1994 Oleg Salenko (Russia), Hristo Stoichkov (Bulgaria) 6
1998 Davor Suker (Croatia) 6
2002 Ronaldo (Brazil) 8
2006 Miroslav Klose (Germany) 5
2010 Thomas Muller (Germany) 5
2014 James Rodriguez (Colombia) 6

Thomas Muller won the award in 2010 despite being tied with three others by virtue of having more assists. Aside from needing to play as many games as possible, the table also shows that the magic number has been six goals in most cases. It also helps to play for one of the powerhouse nations. Finally, most of these players over the last nine World Cup competitions were employed as center forwards.

The game is always evolving and many wingers and attacking midfielders are becoming the focal points of attacks. This increases the chances that the Golden Boot winner could come from a team that makes only the quarterfinals and from a position other than the traditional number-nine role.

With that in mind, let's weigh the favorites. Please note the numberFire odds for the player's nation to reach the quarterfinals and his current skybet odds to win the Golden Boot are listed next to each player.

Low Odd Bets

Lionel Messi (Argentina: 32.56% | 10/1): Argentina had a bumpy qualifying road as they finished third in CONMEBOL and had three different managers. Still, the pressure lies squarely on Messi to not only shine in Russia, but also deliver a title for his country in his likely final World Cup. This club season, he has 47 goals across all competitions for Barcelona with one match remaining. Everyone knows what he is capable of, and he could score three or four in one match. However, Argentina are filled with attacking power, and Messi will likely play off of Sergio Aguero, who will probably be deployed as a center-forward. Also, nations like Croatia and Nigeria come into Argentina's group on good defensive form. Argentina's lineup is far from settled, and they could face Spain, Portugal, or Uruguay in the quarterfinals. Despite Argentina being expected to win the group, this might not be easy sledding for Messi and a team that struggled for most of qualification.

Neymar (Brazil: 81.71% | 10/1): Not only are Brazil heavily favored to reach the quarterfinals, they are the outright favorite to win the World Cup, per our numbers. However, Neymar has not played since breaking his foot in February. He is slated to play in a June 3rd warmup match for Brazil, but his fitness and touch will be closely examined. Brazil do have a favorable Group-Stage draw against Switzerland, Serbia, and Costa Rica. However, it may take the first few matches for Neymar to get up to match fitness.

Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal: 45.96% | 12/1): This discussion would not be complete without Ronaldo. For Portugal, the game runs through Ronaldo even though the supporting cast has improved. However, the defense is aging and can be exposed against Spain in the group and other top teams as the tournament progresses. Ronaldo has scored 44 goals across all competitions for Real Madrid this season and will have the Champions League final to focus on before joining his national team. Portugal will feed Ronaldo the ball, but there may be too many concerns around him to secure the Golden Boot.

Value Bets

Antoine Griezmann (France: 67.66% | 16/1): This tier has the best value options and possibly the best returns. It starts with Griezmann, who just starred in Atletico Madrid's triumph in the Europa League final. He has scored four goals for France over the last year, but only one has come while playing as the center forward. Griezmann finished with 29 goals in all competitions for Atletico while adding 15 assists. He was clearly a pivotal point of their attack, and he can be the same for France, as well. Griezmann may have lost a key teammate during the Europa League final as Dimitri Payet was in tears. That could impact the service Griezmann and other French attackers get during the World Cup. It may also mean that Griezmann is rotated further wide to showcase his play making abilities.

Harry Kane (England: 53.20% | 16/1): Kane lost out on the Premier League Golden Boot, but he did reach 30 goals on the final day of the season. Kane played as the center forward in all of his national team matches, resulting in five goals in World Cup qualifying. Kane also scored in four of his last five Premier League matches, so he comes into the World Cup in good form. Much of England's hope is on Kane's shoulders, and if the Three Lions can make a deep run, Kane will almost certainly be a huge part of it.

Gabriel Jesus (Brazil: 81.71% | 18/1): Jesus may be the main beneficiary of Neymar's recovery during the Group Stage. Jesus and Roberto Firmino will battle for the front striker position, but Brazil manager Tite has stated that Jesus will come into the preparation camp as the starting number-nine. Jesus has scored nine goals in 15 appearances for his national team and seemed to shine during World Cup qualifiers. If Neymar isn't fully fit, more of the goal-scoring duties could fall to Jesus.

Timo Werner (Germany: 58.51% | 18/1): The defending champions finally make the list with Werner, the Bundesliga 13-goal scorer. RB Leipzig had a down year as a team, and Werner's goal scoring was down. Nils Petersen, the top-scoring German in the league, was called up on the preliminary roster after managing 15 goals for a Freiburg team that had trouble creating opportunities. However, Petersen lacks experience with the national team, and Werner is still the top-choice striker for a very potent German side. That alone makes him an appealing option as Germany have the third-best odds (20.86%) to reach the final, per our metrics.

Risky Bets

Romelu Lukaku (Belgium: 75.23% | 20/1): Lukaku's move to Manchester United was a success as he scored 16 goals in league play and 5 in the Champions League. However, he is dealing with an ankle injury ahead of the FA Cup Final. He may get a place only on the bench and have to battle to recover before the World Cup. Lukaku has been vital to Belgium's attack, including scoring two goals against Saudi Arabia in the March international window. Belgium and England should both advance out of the group, but the team that wins their face off will take an advantage into the knockout rounds and thus give the advantage to their lead striker in the Golden Boot race. Of course, Lukaku must find a way to shake off the injury to even be in the conversation.

Diego Costa (Spain: 83.06% | 25/1): Spain has the highest chance of reaching the quarterfinals, according to our projections, and the second-best odds to make the final. They are favorites to advance out of their group along with Portugal. Morocco have not been at the World Cup since 1998 while Iran qualified easily but struggled to score throughout qualifying. Meanwhile, Spain have not lost since Euro 2016 under manager Julen Lopetegui. They scored 17 goals in their six qualifying matches, but Costa accounted for only one due to an injury-riddled and inconsistent season. The lack of playing time and form should hinder Costa, making him a risky choice as the Golden Boot winner, but if he goes into the World Cup as Spain's starting number-nine, he's firmly in the conversation for the Golden Boot.

Long Shots

Mo Salah (Egypt: 6/07% | 40/1): Salah was the Golden Boot winner in the Premier League, and he led Liverpool all the way to the Champions League final. He scored 44 goals in 51 appearances and gives Egypt a legitimate chance to get out of the Group Stage. They would likely face Spain or Portugal in the knockout stage, and Egypt's supporting cast may not be enough to see Salah and the Pharaohs advance. However, with Salah averaging a goal every 83 minutes and his eight multi-goal performances for Liverpool this season, it is not out of the question that he could score six goals in four matches.

Radamel Falcao (Colombia: 22.24% | 50/1): Falcao missed out on the last World Cup in devastating fashion, but he has returned to great form at Monaco. Falcao opens up the Colombia attack to allow more space for James. The Colombia captain scored 24 goals across all competitions for Monaco this season. Aside from Senegal, Group H is up for grabs, and there is a chance that Colombia does not make it to the knockouts.

Iago Aspas (Spain: 83.06% | 80/1): Aspas may end up with the most minutes among Spain's attackers at the World Cup, which would have seemed far-fetched last summer. Aspas had a great year with Celta Vigo and shined in a La Liga match against Barcelona, a performance that put him into the discussion for top Spanish striker and starter this summer. He finished with 20 goals in La Liga, making him the top scoring Spaniard in the league for the second season in a row. In 45 minutes as the center forward for Spain in a friendly against Argentina in March, Aspas had a goal and three assists. The battle to be Spain's number-nine will be one to watch prior to the start of the World Cup, and a bet on Aspas at these odds could pay off in a big way if he lands the role.