The 2014 World Cup has delivered on its promise of being a goal fest so far, and fans and punters couldn't be happier. Most of the matches so far have been wide-open affairs, and with goal differential looking like it could play a big role in the group stages, expect that trend to continue.
Some of the world's best strikers have already played their first match, while others will do the same in the coming days. Let's have a look at the odds for the tournament's top scorers, according to Odds Shark:
|Robin van Persie||25-1|
At the time of writing, Argentina were preparing for their opening match against Bosnia-Herzegovina, so Lionel Messi's time to shine hadn't yet arrived. Argentina haven't won a World Cup since 1986, and the pressure is on the four-time Ballon d'Or winner to live up to the legacy of being the next Diego Maradona.
No one can deny the sheer quality of Messi, even if his 2013-14 season didn't go according to plan on the club level. The Barcelona forward still enjoyed a productive campaign, scoring 36 goals in 38 La Liga and Champions League appearances, per WhoScored.com.
With 7-1 odds to win the 2014 World Cup's Golden Boot, punters should be wary of Messi. Iran and Bosnia-Herzegovina feature strong defences in the group stages, and those matches look like they could be close encounters.
More importantly, Messi is a victim of the awesome attacking unit La Albiceleste will be fielding. Angel di Maria, Gonzalo Higuain and Sergio Aguero are all magnificent finishers, and they'll take away some of the scoring opportunities for Messi.
Projection: Great tournament, but not a safe bet for top scorer.
The Brazilian striker already bagged two goals in the hosts' 3-1 win over Croatia and appears to be in fine form. He's not the focal point of Brazil's attack the way some other strikers are, but he'll be getting plenty of looks on goal regardless.
Cameroon and Mexico played each other very close in their first match, but the Brazilians should be able to overpower both defences comfortably. The schedule doesn't get any easier after that, however, with the Netherlands and Chile looking impressive in their opening fixtures and Spain still lurking as well.
Neymar carries odds of 10-1 and is flanked by Fred and Hulk, but those wingers play more in service of the striker in Felipe Scolari's system. Neymar looks like one of the early favourites to be the top scorer, but with so much pressure resting on his young shoulders, he does carry some risk.
Projection: Safer bet than Messi. Strong candidate.
Cristiano Ronaldo is the heart and soul of Portugal's squad, whether fans choose to accept it or not. The team looked underwhelming against Greece and Mexico without him and found a whole new gear when he returned to face Ireland.
Group G is a very tough group, and a date with Belgium or Russia in the round of 16 seems likely should the Portuguese progress. The Ballon d'Or winner will feature heavily in Portugal's plans, but concerns regarding injury and form remain.
There's a lot working against Ronaldo, but he wouldn't have it any other way. There's a reason he shared the European Golden Boot with Luis Suarez—the star winger can score from anywhere, at any given time.
Arguably the tournament's most complete attacker, the biggest danger for punters is an early exit for Ronaldo and his teammates given the difficult schedule Portugal will be facing.
Projection: Might not play as many matches as the competition. Will shine on the biggest stage, but unlikely to play enough to win the Golden Boot.
Karim Benzema, Robin van Persie
Looking outside of the top five candidates according to the oddsmakers, Karim Benzema and Robin van Persie both look like solid options for punters wanting to score big.
Benzema will play in a relatively easy group with France, and he enjoyed an excellent campaign playing in the shadow of Ronaldo at Real Madrid. He's France's main man in front of goal, and with the likes of Paul Pogba and Antoine Griezmann providing him with excellent service, chances are he'll bag his share of goals.
Van Persie scored twice against defending champions Spain, and he'll be leading the Dutch attack alongside Arjen Robben. Injuries are always a threat to derail his campaign, but he looked just fine when he soared through the air to head home the equaliser.
The Dutch are built around the partnership of Robben and Van Persie, so like Benzema, the Manchester United man will be getting plenty of looks at goal.
Neither France nor the Netherlands were favoured to make a deep run coming into the tournament, but both look like strong upset candidates at this point in time. As far as underdogs go, both are worth a look.
Projection: Worthy of a smaller investment that could pay massive dividends, but like Ronaldo, could be held back by a quicker exit from the tournament.