Goals, goals, everywhere there are goals. This year's World Cup has not lacked in that department, and we've seen some real beauties. But here, we aren't worried about quality so much as we are in quantity.
After all, there's a Golden Boot to be won.
So, let's see if we can't make a few projections about how that competition will play out, predicting the remainder of the World Cup along the way. For starters, let's take a look at the top scorers still in this year's tournament.
|Robin van Persie||Netherlands||3|
|Bryan Ruiz||Costa Rica||2|
|Kevin De Bruyne||Belgium||1|
|Angel Di Maria||Argentina||1|
|Joel Campbell||Costa Rica||1|
|Oscar Duarte||Costa Rica||1|
|Marcos Urena||Costa Rica||1|
|Stefan de Vrij||Netherlands||1|
While anything can happen at the World Cup—and never has this seemed more true than at this year's edition of the tournament—it seems likely that the Golden Boot will be awarded to one of the seven players with three or more goals.
In a few days, we'll be able to cut the contenders list in half. James Rodriguez is the leader in the clubhouse now, but were he and Colombia to lose to Brazil, it seems unlikely his five goals would stand up, especially considering Neymar would have at least two more games to catch up.
Either Karim Benzema or Thomas Mueller will move on. Either Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie or Bryan Ruiz (on two goals but sure to add more if Costa Rica continue their magical run) will move on.
Really, it's all up in the air.
At some point, you would expect Rodriguez's blistering goalscoring pace to wane. He's always had goals in him, yes, but he's as much a facilitator as he is a finisher. While his nine goals in 34 appearances for Monaco in Ligue 1 play this season was impressive, it was his 12 assists that seemed more indicative of his style of play.
But given his form to this point, it would be unwise to doubt him. He's earned his deserving share of plaudits from pundits, players and managers alike. After his two goals vanquished Uruguay, the country's manager, Oscar Tabarez, said the following, per Rob Hughes of The New York Times:
I know him—not personally, but I’ve seen him play for a while. Talents are those who do things which have nothing to do with their life experience—Maradona, Messi, [Luis] Suarez. They do things because they have certain gifts that make them special.
It’s not up to me, but from what I’ve seen he’s the best player in the World Cup. I don’t think I’m exaggerating.
Few would disagree. And Rodriguez is all alone in one very impressive stat, as Richard Jolly of ESPN tweeted:
No goal for Messi so James Rodriguez is alone in scoring in every game. No one done it in whole WC since Jairzinho in 1970.— Richard Jolly (@RichJolly) July 1, 2014
The scoring prowess of Neymar, Mueller, Robben, Van Persie and Benzema has been a little less surprising. Van Persie and Benzema are out-and-out strikers (and elite ones at that), after all, while Mueller has always had goals in him for Germany and Neymar and Robben have always provided a scorer's touch from their traditional positions on the wing.
And of course, Messi is Messi.
Should they remain in the tournament, the aforementioned players should continue to score goals.
But there's the rub—to project how many tallies these players will finish with, we have to project how far they'll advance. So let's pick some matches before making our goalscoring projections.
Germany will beat France and advance to the semis, although that game should be a cracker of a match. That will keep Mueller in the running.
In the other quarterfinal of that bracket will come one of the shockers of the tournament and a major disappointment for the host nation—Colombia will shock Brazil, with Rodriguez picking up his sixth goal. Brazil just haven't been convincing in this tournament, while Colombia have been one of the top teams thus far.
On the other side of the bracket, the Dutch will continue their excellent play, ending Costa Rica's run. That will leave them in a match with Argentina, which should be one heck of a contest. Messi and company will advance in a cracker, and awaiting them will be the balanced Germans.
In the final, Messi will make his case as the best player ever, helping Argentina to overcome a tough German side. The final Golden Boot chase will look something like this.
|Proj. Place||Country||Player||Proj. Goals|
|2 (tie)||Colombia||James Rodriguez||6|
|2 (tie)||Germany||Thomas Muller||6|
|4 (tie)||Netherlands||Arjen Robben||5|
Of course, there have been enough twists and turns in this World Cup to make you think something far different might happen. But until that happens, well, you could do worse than betting on Messi.