World Cup 2018: Revealing the hot-shots from every nation

Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku
Belgium's Romelu Lukaku is one of the hottest strikers going into the 2018 World Cup
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The World Cup pull-outs show us the top scorers in qualifying but how about more recent form? Dave Tindall looks at all 32 teams to see which players have been finding the net during recent warm-up games...

"The two hottest strikers heading into this World Cup are Belgium's Romelu Lukaku and Serbia's Aleksandar Mitrovic so combining them in a Top Team Goalscorer double at 6.53/1 looks good business."

3pts Top Team Goalscorer double on Romelu Lukaku (Belgium) & Aleksandar Mitrovic (Serbia) @ 6.53/1 (Sportsbook)

The hypothesis

Goalscorer odds for World Cups are generally based on how players performed in qualifying. In one sense it makes sense as those goals were scored in competitive conditions.

However, with qualification starting such a long time ago, some of the data is two years old. Is 2016 form really a useful guide?

This discrepancy in goals scored in qualifying against the more recent thermometer check of goals scored in build-up friendlies was highlighted in the last World Cup.

Enner Valencia hadn't troubled the scorers in qualifying but had fired home in four straight friendlies ahead of the World Cup in Brazil.

Despite one of the goals coming against England, he was 8/1 to be top scorer for Ecuador and that was a ludicrous price given that he was in sensational form.

He carried his hot run into the World Cup and left his backers laughing all the way to the bank. Ecuador scored just three goals in the 2014 finals and Valencia got the lot of them!

So is there an Enner Valencia hiding in plain sight this time?

Time to examine recent results and find out...

Group A - Salah an odds-on fav not worth risking

Uruguay

The two standouts - Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez - have both scored in two of Uruguay's three friendlies in 2018. Both Suarez goals were penalties, the latest coming in last week's 3-0 win over Uzbekistan.

Russia

No standout performer in recent friendlies with the hosts managing just two goals in four games. Fyodor Smolov (clear 7/5 fav) got one of them and also netted two v Spain in November.

Egypt

If Mo Salah (5/6) misses the opener or isn't quite right, there could be an opportunity elsewhere. Egypt's only goal (1-1 v Kuwait) in the last three friendlies came from defender Ayman Ashraf and he's 66/1.

Saudi Arabia

Taisir Al Jassim (8/1) scored a consolation v Germany in their final pre-World Cup game. Yehya Al Shehri (10/1) has two in five after goals v Italy and Algeria last month.


Group B - Belhanda of interest, Costa and Ronaldo aren't

Spain

Isco (4/1) bagged a hat-trick in March's eye-popping 6-1 win over Argentina while the two June friendlies saw goals for forwards Rodrigo (10/1) and Iago Aspas (10/1). The latter, on as a sub, was set up by Diego Costa (7/4), who managed just a single strike in Spain's four 2018 friendlies so he looks opposable.

Portugal

If you want to oppose 4/7 Cristiano Ronaldo (no goals in two latest friendlies), Goncalo Guedes scored twice in their final warm-up game, a 3-0 win over Algeria. He's 10/1 to top score and leave Ronaldo and his backers in a stroppy mood.

Morocco

Current man of the moment is Younes Belhanda. The Galatasaray star wears No.10 and scored in the two June friendlies against Slovakia and Estonia. Looks an interesting option at 11/1.

Iran

Sardar Azmoun (7/2) got the winner in last week's 1-0 win over Lithuania. That added to goals in friendlies v Algeria and Russia and he has three in eight overall. Ashkan Dejagah (9/1) has two in four, both goals coming from the spot.


Group C - Goals shared around for France but Eriksen looks solid

France

Antoine Griezmann (6/5) is all the rage in the market but, like England, France's latest six goals were shared around. Kylian Mbappe (4/1) scored the latest (1-1 draw v USA) and has three in his four recent friendly starts. Griezmann will take penalties.

Denmark

Tottenham's Christian Eriksen (21/10) was their star in qualifying and he added another in last week's 2-0 friendly win over Mexico. Doesn't seem to face much competition.

Peru

Goalless v Sweden last time while Jose Paolo Guerrero (5/2) netted twice in the 3-0 win over Saudi Arabia prior to that. Jefferson Farfan (7/2) scored in two of their four recent friendlies.

Australia

Mathew Leckie scored twice in a 4-0 friendly win over the Czech Republic at the start of June. He's 17/2 to be top Aussie scorer.


Group D - Aguero a decent price to steal Messi's thunder

Argentina

Hard to oppose you know who but Sergio Aguero (7/1) has netted in his last three starts (all friendlies) for his country. Lionel Messi (4/6) bagged a hat-trick in Argentina's latest start, the 4-0 win over Haiti.

Croatia

Lack of goals is a concern for Croatia, as highlighted by just three in their four recent friendlies. Ivan Rakitic takes penalties (netted one in 1-0 against Mexico) so could be value at 14/1.

Nigeria

Just three goals in their five friendlies since March - scored by Alex Iwobi (5/1), William Troost-Ekong (50/1!) and Victor Moses (5/1). The latter plays much further forward than he does for Chelsea and takes Nigeria's penalties.

Iceland

Hottest current goalscorer for Iceland? Alfreo Finnbogason with two in two (v Norway and Ghana) and one was a penalty. Could be value at 10/3 given that 11/4 market leader Gylfi Sigurdsson is struggling for fitness.


Group E - Hot club form continuing for Mitrovic, Neymar a strong fav

Brazil

He's back! After being sidelined since February, Neymar (11/10) has returned to action with goals in both his friendly starts against Croatia and Austria. Not that he'll have it all his own way as Gabriel Jesus (3/1) has netted two in three and Philippe Coutinho (7/1) two in four.

Switzerland

The Swiss have played two friendlies in June and Raul Rodriguez found the net in both. The Milan defender now has four in nine for his country. He's a 9/1 chance. Haris Seferovic (3/1 fav) also netted against Japan in the final send-off game last week.

Serbia

Along with Messi, Aleksandar Mitrovic (7/4) is the only other player heading to the World Cup with a hat-trick in his final warm-up game! That came in Saturday's 5-1 win over Bolivia and gives him five goals in Serbia's last three friendlies.

Costa Rica

Market leader Bryan Ruiz (7/2) scored in the 4-1 defeat to Belgium on Monday but that was his first goal in 14 matches for his country. No-one else standing out.


Group F - Will Mr World Cup come up trumps again?

Germany

You know for a fact that Germany will score plenty of goals when it really counts so their friendlies don't offer as many good clues as other teams. Timo Werner (15/8), with two in five, is the only player to have scored more than once in five recent friendlies. Mr World Cup Thomas Mueller is 5/2.

Mexico

Mexico have managed just a single goal in three recent friendlies, scored by ex-Spurs star Giovani do Santos. He's 11/1. Javier Hernandez (7/2 fav) hasn't registered in any of Mexico's five recent build-up games.

Sweden

June brought 0-0s against Peru and Denmark and they also fired blanks against Romania at the end of March. Can't recommend anyone on current form in this post-Zlatan era.

South Korea

Another team not exactly finding goals easy to come by. Just one in three June friendlies. Tottenham's Heung-Min Son scored in a 2-0 win over Honduras at the end of May and is 15/8 favourite.


Group G - Tunisia's Badri worth a bet, Lukaku in red hot form

Belgium

They shared out 43 goals in qualifying but it's been all about Romelu Lukaku (11/8) in recent friendlies. He's bagged eight in six starts with three braces. Eden Hazard (4/1) has managed just one in four 2018 friendlies but he will take penalties.

England

Harry Kane (8/11) will be seen as a banker by many but his record in tournaments is poor so far and England's last six goals have been netted by six different scorers - Danny Welbeck (25/1), Marcus Rashford (11/1), Kane, Gary Cahill (80/1), Jamie Vardy (10/1) and Jesse Lingard (14/1).

Tunisia

Before Saturday's 1-0 loss to Spain, Anice Badri had slotted home in back-to-back friendlies against Turkey and Portugal. He looks interesting at 8/1.

Panama

The tournament's rank outsiders are struggling badly in front of goal, scoring just one in their five friendlies in 2018. No Panama goalscorer is favourite at 7/2!


Group H - Lewandowski the strongest odds-on fav of them all?

Colombia

Drew their last two friendlies 0-0 (v Egypt and Australia). Last goal was scored by Juan Quintero (from the spot) in the 3-2 win away to France. The midfielder is 16/1 for top Colombia scorer. 2014 Golden Boot winner James Rodriguez (13/5) has fired blanks in Colombia's last four starts.

Poland

You guessed it, it's all about Robert Lewandowski (4/7). And it's not just based on reputation, it's about the hard facts of four goals in his last three friendlies, including a double in the 4-0 win over Lithuania on Tuesday. Midfielder Piotr Zielinski (14/1) has two in three.

Senegal

Sadio Mane (2/1) scored in the Champions League quarters, semis and final for Liverpool but is without a goal in six games for his country. Moussa Konate (10/1) netted a penalty v South Korea on Monday, adding to a friendly goal v Uzbekistan so has two in five.

Japan

Were struggling for goals until the 4-2 win over Paraguay in which Takashi Inui netted a brace. He's 20/1 to top score for Japan although they were the first goals for his country since 2014.


Conclusion

There isn't an exact replica of Enner Valencia this time although several players are of interest. The value, as you'd expect, lies with the unfancied teams who are flying under the radar.

Younes Belhanda looks way too big at 11/1 to top score for Morocco, as does Anice Badri for Tunisia at 8/1.

Both have scored in recent back-to-back friendlies for their nations so they're doing something right and both could win or finish tied first in their respective markets with a single goal.

The two hottest strikers are Belgium's Romelu Lukaku and Serbia's Aleksandar Mitrovic so combining them in a Top Team Goalscorer double at 6.53/1 looks good business.

Some of the others named in the team-by-team analysis above are hopefully good options or at least worth checking out for anytime scorer punts.

***

The Racing Post's chief football tipster Mark Langdon provided his best World Cup bets at Betfair's recent Preview Night...


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