World Cup 2010 Predictions: Place Your Bets for Top Goal Scorer
The World Cup kicks off in South Africa on Friday, and apart from the eventual winners, one other man will take home a golden trophy on July 11. Some unlikely names have lifted this trophy, as finding a rich vein of form at just the right moment—or an easy opponent in the group stage—can prove to be enough to etch an unexpected name into history.
From Just Fontaine's amazing 13-goal haul at the 1958 edition, through Toto Schillachi's eye-bulging arrival in the public imagination, to Ronaldo's redemption in Japan and Korea, these men always capture fame and glory, if only for a brief spell.
The following slideshow is a run-down of the favorites, the outsiders, and hopefully, somewhere among these names will be the one who emerges as the goal-scoring hero of 2010 and South Africa.
Who will be his partner up front? Can Gerrard and Lampard play together? How much does Rio Ferdinand's absence hurt England? Will he actually stay on the field long enough to score goals and lead his country?
So many questions surround the England striker, and his temperament. But he still carries the hopes of his nation as he enters his second World Cup. History suggests it will end in tears, either following injury or a red card, as that is his tournament record so far.
But his exploits in front of goal and in carrying a Ronaldo-less Manchester United are good reasons why he could lift the prize.
The African Dream
With Didier Droga among the many high-profile casualties before the competition even begins in earnest, the mantle of being the most likely African to win the Golden Boot on his home continent falls to Samuel Eto'o of Inter and Cameroon.
In a group also containing Denmark, Japan, and the Netherlands, he has a chance to start notching goals immediately, but his strained relationship with many people surrounding the team—such as Italia '90 hero Roger Milla—will harm his chances.
So too will the fact his international teammates are far below the level of those he plays with at club level, making chances hard to come by.
Antonio Di Natale's international career spans eight years, but only 33 caps, with many of those appearances coming as a substitute. This is largely due to the plethora of other strikers Italy possessed as he made his way through a career that has passed largely under the radar.
Now 32, the Udinese striker is coming to his first World Cup on the back of his best season, notching 28 league goals as he claimed the top-scorer prize in Serie A.
His place in the starting lineup for Italy is far from assured, but if he can get onto the field, he may steal the headlines. A group containing New Zealand, Slovakia, and Paraguay followed by a potential second-round match with Denmark means there will be plenty of opportunity if Di Natale—and indeed Italy can find their usual confidence.
An outsider, but one with proven qualities. His fellow Italian Giampaolo Pazzini and perhaps England's Peter Crouch also fall into this category.
Luis Fabiano of Brazil stands to win the Golden Boot for one simple reason: He is the only true striker on the pitch in Coach Dunga's system. With the talent Brazil possesses, he is a genuine contender for the prize.
He has an impressive 25 goals in just 38 games for his country and was the top scorer in last summer's Confederations Cup, also held in South Africa and won by Brazil.
However, not only has Fabiano inherited the No. 9 shirt worn with distinction by Ronaldo at the last three World Cups, the same figure represents the number of months which have passed since his last international goal.
A drought, but similar things have happened before, and seeing the Seville hitman top the charts here would be no surprise.
The Goal Twins
Spanish strikers David Villa and Fernando Torres are rightly among the favorites to end the tournament as leading scorer. But can Spain score enough goals for both to be in contention?
As logic dictates, probably not. Indeed, during their impressive run to the European Championship title in 2008, the two were their nation's joint top scorer, but with only three goals each.
Villa is the more likely candidate to lift the Golden Boot, with a national record 38 goals to his name. Torres has played 15 games more than his partner, but scored 14 fewer goals.
A selfish outlook is a vital attribute in any striker, Spain just becomes proof of that if one of their men wins this award.
Better Than the Boss?
Lionel Messi is so often compared to the man in charge of Argentina, Diego Maradona, that both men are rightly growing weary of it. Even more troublesome is the Barcelona star's inability to match his feats at club level with his displays for his country.
A meager return of 13 goals from his 44 caps makes for grim reading, and Diego's seeming inability to mould a settled side doesn't help. But, a World Cup is only a month long—a mere seven games in which legends are born, as the coach himself proved in Mexico in 1986.
Group games against North Korea, Mexico, and Greece provide arguably the world's best player with the idea platform to launch his own bid for immortality.