World Cup 2010: Who Will Win the Golden Boot?
It is the biggest individual prize that a forward can dream of: scoring the most goals in the World Cup.
There is much more at stake than winning a gold-encrusted boot; to be counted in the company of a select group, which includes Eusebio, Gerd Muller, Ronaldo, and Miroslav Klose, is not a bad achievement at all.
However, only one Golden Boot winner from the past six World Cups actually went on to win the World Cup—that was Ronaldo.
So who are the usual suspects to win this year's Golden Boot?
At 28, Villa is arguably at the peak of his career. Over the last five years he has been one of the hottest strikers in football. He scored three goals in Germany '06 and four goals in Euro 2008, where he won the Golden Shoe.
Fresh from a transfer to Barcelona and a 20-plus goal La Liga season, Villa is raring to help favourite, but perennial underachievers, Spain to their first World Cup.
Robin van Persie
Van Persie is my personal choice for the Golden Boot because he is fresh off injury and has had enough matches to regain match fitness. He is also a free-kick threat, not to mention his aerial acumen.
Since he missed almost six months due to injury, he doesn't have stamina and fitness problems. With able providers like Sneijder and van Der Vaart, I expect him to score quite a few this year.
Coming off his best individual season, Rooney is one of the safest bets for the Golden Boot award.
He has proved himself on big stages before, having starred in Euro 2004. But he had a forgettable '06, where half-fit Rooney was sent off against Portugal in the game England went on to lose on penalties.
The only concern is the series of injury layoffs during the end of this season, which may hamper his preparation.
Luis Fabiano was the leading goal scorer in last year's Confederation Cup held in South Africa, including two important goals in the Final. So he has done it for Brazil before in important matches, and most importantly on South African soil.
Coach Dunga showed great confidence in Fabiano by selecting him over stars like Pato and Adriano, and he has never disappointed.
Love him or hate him, he does score goals, and lots of them.
Portugal are in the "Group of Death" along with Brazil and Ivory Coast. If Portugal advance, Ronaldo should be scoring lots of goals. Moreover, he should be taking penalty and free-kick duties, meaning that he has a good chance of scoring a lot of goals.
He scored 34 goals in La Liga this season. Pep Guardiola called him the best he has ever seen. Arsene Wenger called him Playstation. And he is the world's best player by consensus.
If his erratic manager, Maradona, deploys him in a central role as he played for Barca this year, he should continue scoring a lot of goals.
He was the EPL's top scorer last year. This year he turned provider to Drogba while scoring 10-plus himself. However, he is expected to displace Henry for the central forward role.
Long absent from the international scene due to his publicized spats with coaches, thus missing out on many honours the last decade, he is desperate to make amends.
If France progresses deep, then Anelka should be on the scoring sheet often.