It's one of the more enjoyable traits of the World Cup that even against all odds, any team is capable of taking home football's biggest prize, irrespective of how slim their chances may appear.
The presence of nations such as Costa Rica, Greece and Algeria in this year's round of 16 has given the tournament a feel of the unexpected. Italy, Ivory Coast and Russia were supposed to be too good for these teams.
However, the knockout stages are where the World Cup favourites will really come to play. Brazil, Argentina, Germany and the Netherlands will all take some beating, and they boast among their ranks Neymar, Lionel Messi, Thomas Muller and Robin van Persie respectively.
Below we look at the top contenders for this year's Golden Boot award and whether the big guns can be slain along the way.
All odds come courtesy of Oddschecker.com.
|World Cup Outright Winner Odds|
Title-Chasers to Watch
What began as a quiet mount into public view has now become a glaringly obvious powerhouse in this competition. Colombia have won the favour of many thanks to their prolific group-stage performances.
No team boasted a more impressive goal difference than Jose Pekerman's outfit at the end of the group stage—joint highest with the Netherlands at plus-seven—and Squawka illustrates just how impressive they have been in all facets of their game:
A Uruguay team without newly suspended Luis Suarez won't be the most difficult round of 16 opponent, having been exposed by the likes of Costa Rica, Italy and even England on occasion, while the South American climate will work in their favour against any teams not used to such conditions.
The biggest outside bet of our selections, Colombia can still be caught at 18-1 to claim their first World Cup. Given the golden generation of playing talent at their disposal, if ever they were to have their moment, now might be it.
One can analyse their road to the final all they like, but the fact remains that a Colombia side not short of in-form superstars like James Rodriguez and Juan Cuadrado look like they can beat anyone on their day.
The argument is certainly there to say Louis van Gaal's Netherlands played some of the most dazzling football in the first round of this summer's tournament, not least of which was their startling 5-1 opening win over Spain.
At 8-1, the European representatives are far from highest in the rankings to win a Rio de Janeiro final, but then that only makes their prospect all the more enticing to back.
The Oranje have already surmounted the odds in progressing from Group B, as Betting Expert shows, and with a terrifically intelligent manager at their helm, this group of players is capable of greater accomplishments:
Admittedly, the defence is the chink in Dutch armour, but it's also true that a "we're going to score one more than you" mentality has worked wonders for others in the past.
And what better platform to promote such ethics than at a World Cup? The Netherlands can hope to at least make the semi-finals if they overcome Mexico and then either Costa Rica or Greece, but the sky is the limit for a force led by Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie.
Alejandro Sabella has watched his squad win all three of their group games, but the Argentina coach will be under no illusions that such a feat wouldn't have been possible were it not for Lionel Messi.
However, there's nothing wrong with relying on one player's talents (and what talents they are). After all, it's not like Argentina haven't done it before.
Messi's rise to the World Cup stage has long been seen as the missing link to any Argentinian fortunes at a World Cup, and as Club Metro's Sam Kelly points out, the prospect of missing Germany in the quarters makes their journey that much less daunting:
As of right now, La Albiceleste are picked at odds of 4-1 in going all the way, and wouldn't it be poetic for Argentina to win football's greatest honour in the backyard of their greatest foes?
A round of 16 fixture against the Swiss should be overcome with relative ease, and the potential opponents of Belgium or the United States won't be seen as impossible, either.
Golden Boot Candidates
|2014 World Cup Leading Scorers, Golden Boot Odds|
|Robin van Persie||Netherlands||11-1|
The race for the Golden Boot is as tense as ever after the group stages, with Lionel Messi, Neymar and Thomas Muller all on four goals apiece.
And that's the order of their current ranking in the top goalscorer odds, with Messi at 2-1, Neymar at 3-1 and European outsider Muller the 4-1 underdog of the three.
However, with Muller having already won the award in 2010, ex-England goalkeeper David James thinks it may be written in the stars for the Germany attacker to become the first player ever to win the accolade in back-to-back World Cups:
These figures are a peculiar troop of leaders when one considers that none are strikers in the purest sense of the term, albeit taking up the forward-most central positions on occasion for their respective teams.
Muller often roams as the middle man in Joachim Low's front three but also tends to lend a hand in the creation of chances, as do Neymar and Messi.
The BBC's Stuart Rowson illustrates the tight margins by which the South American pair are currently separated:
Were there to be a pick for who might break up their engagement, it might be Van Persie, the leading star of a Dutch team that's currently scoring goals for fun. He's one behind in the chase, with three goals to his name.
The Dutchman is 11-1 to escape his confines and win the Golden Boot—a very tempting price before Van Gaal's side take on Mexico.
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