World Cup 2018 Top Goalscorer: Favourites worth considering in strikers' paradise

Germany and Bayern Munich striker Thomas Muller
Thomas Muller was joint-top scorer in South Africa eight years ago and will be a contender again this summer
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Long-priced midfielders and wingers doing well in the Golden Boot market are the exception to the rule, writes James Eastham...

"There've been 16 Golden Boot winners since 1970. Of those 16, only three played for a side that didn't make it to the last four."

The World Cup Top Goalscorer is one of the most popular markets and requires a look at the history book before making your selections.

With so many runners in the field it can be difficult to separate potential wheat from the chaff. Tournaments gone by provide the clearest pointers about the types of player profiles to focus your attention on.

By looking back across the last 12 tournaments - from 1970 onwards - certain trends emerge to inform your Top Goalscorer selections for Russia 2018.

Semi-finalists provide the best returns

There've been 16 Golden Boot winners across the last 12 tournaments (the award was shared in 1994 and 2010).

Of those 16 winners, only three played for sides that didn't make the last four: Gary Lineker (England, quarter-finals, 1986), Oleg Salenko (Russia, first round, 1994) and James Rodriguez (Colombia, quarter-finals, 2014).

Of the other 13 players, eight played for teams knocked out in the semi-finals, one for the runners-up and four for teams that lifted the trophy.

The first pointer therefore is to heavily favour players who feature for teams that you feel will make the final four.

This may seem obvious - the more games a player plays, the more goals he's likely to score - but the trend is so strong it's worth underlining.

The second trend may seem equally obvious but is worth noting: Golden Boot winners tend to be primary goalscorers rather than secondary attacking players.

Thirteen of the previous 16 winners can be labelled bona fide finishers whose primary job was to provide goals. Exceptions include Wesley Sneijder, joint-winner in 2010 from his midfield role, and James Rodriguez, who claimed the prize in Brazil four years ago despite going into the tournament as primarily a creator rather than taker of chances.

It's tempting to let the bigger prices on offer on midfielders and wingers lure you in. Examples such as Sneijder and Rodriguez show it's not impossible for such players to top the scoring charts, but these winners are rare.

Forget midfielders - it's all about the front men

With those two criteria in place - a team likely to make the last four, and looking for a genuine goalscorer - it's time to look draw up a list of realistic candidates.

Brazil, Germany, France, Spain, Argentina and Belgium are the favourites for the tournament. Of the next six - England, Portugal, Uruguay, Croatia, Colombia and Russia - Portugal arguably have the best chance of disrupting the predicted order thanks to past tournament success and the presence of Cristiano Ronaldo in their ranks.

Running through those teams, Neymar, Gabriel Jesus, Roberto Firmino, Thomas Muller, Timo Werner, Antoine Griezmann, Olivier Giroud, Kylian Mbappe, Diego Costa, Lionel Messi, Gonzalo Higuain, Sergio Aguero, Romelu Lukaku and Ronaldo are the players to focus on as they're likely to the ones leading the attacks for the tournament's top guns.

Four of the contenders - Messi, Neymar, Griezmann and Ronaldo - head the market with odds of between [13.0] and [16.5]. They shouldn't be ruled out simply because they're favourites.

Werner, Lukaku and Jesus are all between [17.0] and [20.0], while Costa is [26.0] at the time of writing.

Mbappe and Muller worthy of attention

Players available at longer odds will attract attention. Muller - a previous winner - is [36.0] and Mbappe [38.0]. Higuain is [40.0] and Giroud and Aguero [50.0] each, while Firmino is [100.0].

Among the shorter-priced players, Griezmann appeals. He excelled at Euro 2016, and by scoring two goals in Atletico Madrid's 3-0 Europa League final win over Marseille earlier this month yet again underlined that he's the man for the big occasion.

Another big-game player, Muller is worth considering at long odds. Germany are a good bet to go a long way in the tournament and Muller has tremendous experience.

Mbappe is also worth looking at for different reasons. He finished the season in fine form for PSG and may play as a striker for France.

If les Bleus manager Didier Deschamps uses Mbappe in a central role it increases the chances of the teenager scoring freely for a side sure to play some of the tournament's most exciting football.

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