World Cup Predictions 2014: Early Projections for Golden Boot Winner

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistMay 22, 2014

Bayern's Mario Mandzukic of Croatia, left, celebrates scoring with Thomas Mueller during the Champions League Final soccer match between  Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich at Wembley Stadium in London, Saturday May 25, 2013. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)
Martin Meissner/Associated Press

Lionel Messi, Neymar and Cristiano Ronaldo are the top three favorites to win the Golden Boot, given to the highest scorer at the 2014 FIFA World Cup, per

But not one member of that trio features on this list of projections. Instead, there is room for two English Premier League stars.

That prolific duo is joined by a pair of Bayern Munich teammates, one a dark-horse candidate from an unheralded nation. Here are the four players who will most keenly contest the Golden Boot award in Brazil, finishing with the projected winner.

Thomas Mueller, Germany

The Germans are making the trip without a dominating natural central striker. But the presence of Thomas Mueller should compensate for that.

An intelligent and versatile forward, Mueller knows how to time his runs into the box. He also routinely catches defenders cold with his deceptive pace.

Mueller is a strong contender for top scorer because of the abundance of creative talent around him. Manager Joachim Loew's squad features supremely gifted creators like Arsenal's Mesut Ozil and Mueller's Bayern Munich teammate Toni Kroos.

Creative passers of that quality will frequently supply Mueller's movement. Additional space will also be created by the threat posed by fleet-footed forward Marco Reus.

Germany can always be relied on to make a statement in a major tournament. If they do it again, Mueller's goals will surely be a key factor.

Sergio Aguero, Argentina

Manchester City's prolific Argentine Sergio Aguero has the chance to end a personally frustrating yet professionally satisfying season on a real high.

Aguero has been magnificent for City this seasonthat is, when he has managed to avoid injury. Several spells on the treatment table couldn't stop Manuel Pellegrini's team from winning the EPL title, but did prevent Aguero from topping the scoring charts.

A fully fit Sergio Aguero will be a nightmare for World Cup defences.
A fully fit Sergio Aguero will be a nightmare for World Cup defences.USA TODAY Sports

He can put that right in Brazil, where a lot of attention will naturally be drawn to Messi. The elusive and diminutive skill demon will drag markers out of position, creating more room for Aguero to exploit.

Defences will also have to account for powerful Napoli striker Gonzalo Higuain. His subtle movement and decisive finishing will scare any opponent, leaving Aguero with even more space to plunder.

Playing for the second favorites, per, in a squad littered with forward-thinking flair will help Aguero dominate in Brazil.

Mario Mandzukic, Croatia

Mueller is still a teammate of Mario Mandzukic, even though the latter recently cleared out his locker en route to finding a new club, per Darren Lewis of The Daily Mirror.

The desire for a new home will inspire Mandzukic to put himself in the proverbial "shop window" with some strong performances. The bullish and towering 28-year-old will also have a season's worth of frustration, accumulated under Bayern boss Pep Guardiola, to vent on defences.

Like Mueller, Mandzukic will have a host of cerebral creators capable of supplying him. Inter Milan's Mateo Kovacic and VfL Wolfsburg's Ivan Perisic will join Sevilla's Ivan Rakitic and Real Madrid's Luka Modric to craft chances for Mandzukic.

With a creative force like that around him, Mandzukic could easily disrupt the established order and take home the award. His only disadvantage is missing the opening match of the tournament due to suspension, per

That makes Mandzukic a dark-horse candidate, but being an outsider has suited previous Croatia squads. The 1998 version made it all the way to semi-final stage in France, with striker Davor Suker scooping the Golden Boot.

Mandzukic can repeat that feat.

Robin van Persie, Netherlands

Unlike Mandzukic, Robin van Persie won't be looking to impress any potential suitors. But he will be keen to dazzle his new Manchester United manager, who also happens to be his international coach, Louis van Gaal.

Robin van Persie will be out to help club boss Louis van Gaal win a major international trophy.
Robin van Persie will be out to help club boss Louis van Gaal win a major international trophy.Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images

That motivation will be enough to inspire an already brilliant striker to great heights in Brazil. It will also help that mercurial winger Arjen Robben will be around to supply Van Persie with chances.

So is young central playmaker Jordy Clasie, a midfielder ideally suited to Van Gaal's possession-based game. Robben and Clasie can be counted on to supply Van Persie's slyly intelligent movement, which is as good as any player's at his position in the game.

The 30-year-old has had some injury woes this season, including a knee problem. But van Persie has declared he is fit and fresh for Brazil, per Jamie Jackson of The Guardian"Mentally I'm fresh. If you play a full season you can be a little bit tired at the end of the season. But I'm fresh, the knee is fine as well so I'm looking forward to it."

Projected Golden Boot Winner: Robin van Persie, Netherlands

In a team geared to feed his movement, playing a style that suits him best, a revitalized Van Persie will terrorize defences and set the scoring pace in Brazil.


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