The FIFA World Cup 2018 gets into the crucial knockout phase with the France-Argentina round-of-16 clash today (Saturday). As the teams battle it out for the prestigious golden FIFA World Cup trophy, some interest will also be centred around the magical craftsmen, who are emerging as the Adidas Golden Boot contenders.
Englishman Harry Kane is the top scorer in the FIFA World Cup 2018 Group stage with five goals from two outings. Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku comes next with four from two appearances followed by the Portugal star Ronaldo, who has played three games for his four goals.
But the bigger question is who can emerge the top scorer for the FIFA World Cup 2018 to take home the Adidas Golden Boot.
The world governing body for football, FIFA has shared the list of strong contenders on its official website, with an interesting trivia. Lukaku is in the lead, but the scenario in all likelihood with change with the elimination rounds starting today (Saturday). Here are the top five Adidas Golden Boot contenders.
HARRY KANE – 5 goals, 2 matches
The top scorer in the World Cup knockout stage with five strikes from two outings, England captain Kane will next face Colombia in the round of 16 with the possibility of a quarter-finals date with either Sweden or Switzerland.
The man to score 18 goals in his 26 games for England will also be chasing Gary Lineker’s England records for most goals at a World Cup Finals – six at Mexico 1986 – and most goals overall in the competition (ten). How many of those accolades will the former Tottenham Hotspur and England striker lose to the current one?
Another treble would make Kane just the fifth player to score multiple hat-tricks in the World Cup after Sandor Kocsis, Just Fontaine, Gerd Muller and Gabriel Batistuta.
Kane requires one goal to equal Diego Maradona’s record for goals as captain in the World Cup.
ROMELU LUKAKU – 4 goals, 2 matches
Lukaku with 4 goals from two games is on course to surpass fellow Belgian Marc Wilmots as Belgium’s leading scorer in the FIFA World Cup. He needs just one more, in the round of 16 tie against Japan or possibly the quarter-final clash with the winners of the Brazil-Mexico match.
Lukaku needs one goal to outrank Marc Wilmots and become Belgium’s outright leading marksman in the World Cup. If the Manchester United striker scores twice more in Russia he will set a new Benelux record for the most goals in a World Cup. Arch-rivals the Netherlands boast three players who registered five goals at one edition of the tournament: Johan Neeskens in 1974, Rob Rensenbrink in 1978 and Wesley Sneijder in 2010.
Wilmots stands as Belgium’s best for netting in the most successive World Cup appearances (three). Lukaku has scored in his last two run-outs to take his overall international tally to 40 goals from 71 caps.
CRISTIANO RONALDO – 4 goals, 3 matches
The man with Midas touch, Ronaldo will be in action today (Saturday) against Uruguay with an eye on the quarter-finals clash with France or Argentina, who are scheduled to play the first round-of-16 match – also today.
The Portuguese football icon, with 85 strikes in 153 internationals, Ronaldo needs a brace equal Eusebio’s nine-goals as leading Portuguese marksman in the World Cup. If Ronaldo finds the target in the knockout phase, he will become just the seventh player to score World Cup goals over 12 years apart after Uwe Seeler, Pele, Diego Maradona, Michael Laudrup, Miroslav Klose and Ivica Olic. The CR7’s header against Morocco came 11 years and 363 days after his maiden goal in the competition – just two days shy of the milestone.
If Ronaldo bags a brace against Uruguay he will equal Maradona’s record for most World Cup goals as the captain before Kane gets the chance.
DIEGO COSTA – 3 goals, 3 matches
The Spaniard faces his next major test against hosts Russia in his quest to emerge the top scorer for the FIFA World Cup 2018. Costa requires two goals to equal the record for the highest goals scorer for Spain at a World Cup. Emilio Butragueno in 1986 and David Villa in 2010 have accomplished the feat.
Since Geoff Hurst hit a hat-trick in the Final in ’66, only two men have scored more than twice in a knockout match. Czechoslovakia’s Tomas Skuhravy did it against Costa Rica at Italy 1990, and encouragingly for Costa the other was a Spaniard. Emilio Butragueno, indeed, incredibly bagged four goals against Denmark, who had established themselves as one of the Trophy favourites, in the Round of 16 at Mexico 1986.
Only three No19s have scored more goals in a World Cup than Costa has in 2018: Vava got four in 1962 (he finished as the joint-leading marksman), Igor Belanov got four in 1986, and Salvatore Schillaci got six in 1990 to seize the Adidas Golden Boot. With 10 goals in 23 matches in the Spanish colours, Costa will be gunning to add to the tally.
Russia’s Denis Cheryshev (3 goals) along with Philippe Coutinho of Brazil, Artem Dzyuba of Russia, Belgian Eden Hazard, Uruguayan star Luis Suarez – who all have scored two goals apiece – Argentine icon Lionel Messi (1 goal) and Brazil’s top star Neymar (1 goal) too cannot be ruled out completely from the race for the prestigious Adidas Gold Ball.
Argentine Mario Kempes and Italian Paolo Rossi both failed to score in their first-phase groups at Argentina 1978 and Spain 1982 and yet ended up with the Adidas Golden Ball.