Predicting the Top 10 World Cup 2014 Goalscorers
The World Cup's Golden Boot is one of the most prestigious individual accolades in international football.
Some of the game's greatest forwards have crowned distinguished careers by topping the scoring charts on FIFA's grandest stage.
This year, two of modern football's greatest and most prolific forwards will target the 2014 trophy, in Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi—a win for either would help complete their legacy.
Looking back at previous winners, most recipients tend to reach a tournament's latter stages.
Since the format grew to a 32-team event in 1998, every Golden Boot winner has been a semi-finalist, at worst.
Aside from Oleg Salenko in 1994, each of the past six winners have made the final four, and just five goals were enough to collect the past two awards.
Keeping this in mind, here's a look at the potential top 10 goalscorers at World Cup 2014—each looking to follow in the footsteps of Ronaldo, Mario Kempes, Gerd Muller and Eusebio.
10. Luis Suarez
Regardless of a testing group and a potential last 16 clash with Argentina, Luis Suarez's domestic form is hard to ignore.
Scoring almost a goal-a-game (31 goals in 33 games) the Liverpool man was key to his club's successful season and will be similarly integral for his country.
Even if Uruguay fail to emerge from Group D, Suarez can bag enough early goals to finish among the top 10 scorers in Brazil.
9. Diego Costa
A fully fit Diego Costa would feature higher on this list. Spain are one of the favourites for this tournament and will undoubtedly score plenty of goals along the way.
Their front man will almost certainly lead the scoring, rounding off the work of one of the most creative midfields in the tournament.
However, whether or not that front man will be Costa remains unclear, for now.
With his exact prognosis uncertain, he remains an outsider for the Golden Boot, with his full participation far from guaranteed.
8. Romelu Lukaku
The Chelsea striker will lead the line for Belgium and, given the defences in Group H, must be a dark horse for the Golden Boot.
Russia, South Korea and Algeria lie waiting in the group stages, providing Lukaku a great chance of leading the scoring charts early on.
His hopes of staying there rest on Belgium overcoming either Germany or Portugal in the last 16 and progressing further in the tournament.
7. Karim Benzema
France's inconsistent showings during recent finals will leave many wary of backing Les Bleus in Brazil.
Memories of poor form at Euro 2012 and a dismal 2010 World Cup remain strong, yet Didier Deschamps' charges find themselves in a winnable group with a clear path to the quarter-finals.
Leading the line will be Karim Benzema, who should enjoy facing the likes of Honduras, Ecuador and a Swiss sides whose weaknesses lie at the back.
At 26, the Real Madrid man is at the peak of his powers and can flourish on the world stage.
6. Gonzalo Higuain
The first member of a triumvirate of Argentine strikers is Gonzalo Higuain.
As with Belgium and France, Alejandro Sabella's side have a favourable group draw and should score plenty of early goals this summer.
Higuain is the least creative of his fellow forwards and may well be the one capitalising on the industry of others.
The only issue is the sheer volume of Argentina's attacking options; they are all capable of finding the net and sharing the goals.
Fred's the least heralded of any striker on this list, yet the Brazilian will almost certainly be in the running for the Golden Boot.
In Brazil's 4-2-3-1 system, the Fluminense striker leads the line, often converting chances laid off by the likes of Oscar, Hulk and Neymar.
This was the case at the 2013 Confederations Cup, where he finished joint-top scorer with five goals—including two strikes in the final against Spain.
In familiar conditions and with rampant support, expect Fred to regularly find the net this summer.
4. Sergio Aguero
Sergio Aguero is another star name in Argentina's stellar attacking line-up.
The Manchester City striker maintained a goal-per-game ratio for much of the season and, if his nation finds form, will challenge for the Golden Boot.
As with Higuain, an inviting draw and familiar conditions should improve his chances. That said, Aguero will need to maintain better fitness levels in Brazil than he did during the Premier League season.
3. Cristiano Ronaldo
Portugal seem slightly underrated going into this tournament. Paulo Bento's side will garner strong local support and, if they can better Germany, have a smooth passage through to the final eight.
Leading their line will be the world's (current) best player, Cristiano Ronaldo, desperate to fire on the major stage.
The Real Madrid forward was inspirational during a play-off with Sweden, scoring all four goals to single-handedly secure qualification.
If Portugal reach the latter stages, he will most certainly be a front-runner for the Golden Boot.
Neymar comes into this tournament under a severe amount of pressure.
As the host nation's pin-up boy, the Barcelona forward is expected to lead his country to glory, scoring the decisive goals along the way.
While this may hamper some, Neymar seems to thrive as his team's main man. He seemed more comfortable at Barcelona during Messi's absence and is used to such pressure for both Santos and Brazil.
A favourable group will provide him with plenty of early chances and, if Brazil find their rhythm, don't bet against Neymar matching these lofty expectations.
1. Lionel Messi
Even after a supposedly mediocre season, Lionel Messi remains favourite to land the 2014 World Cup Golden Boot.
Since the disaster of the 2011 Copa America, he's been a rejuvenated figure on the international stage. Messi's found a more central role under Sabella and has subsequently maintained a goal-per-game ratio over the past three years.
While the Barcelona man was not quite at his rampaging best at club level—hurt by his previous high standards—he still struck 36 goals in 36 starts, per WhoScored.
At 26, this World Cup sees him arrive at his peak—and at the same age Diego Maradona was in 1986.