WC Golden Boot - Best Bets
June 8, 2018
By Toby Maxtone-Smith
World Cup 2018 - Top Goalscorer Betting Preview
International football is very different from elite European club football.
In the latter stages of the Champions League, pressing is all-important. Teams defend high up the pitch, meaning pace is very important for the best strikers. It also means that wingers and wide forwards pitch in with more and more goals.
Do not expect many games like the Roma vs Liverpool tie at this World Cup. Almost all the minnows will defend deep, meaning very different types of striker often thrive.
In the group stages, the ideal striker is a big, skilful target-man who can win battles in the box. And for that type of player, there are few better than Belgium’s Romelu Lukaku.
Despite the critics, Lukaku actually had a very good first season for Manchester United, scoring 27 goals. He also hugely improved his hold-up play and is much more skilful than he is given credit for.
Belgium’s first two matches see them play Panama and Tunisia. These are two perfect teams for Lukaku to face. Both will be very unambitious and defend in their penalty box.
This means that Belgium, however tricky some of their players might be, are bound to end up putting in a lot of crosses for Lukaku to get on the end of. The winner in this market often scores relatively few goals. No one scored more than five in 2006 and 2010, while James Rodriguez managed six in 2014. If Lukaku can help himself to a few in those first games then he may be out of sight before the lower-scoring knockout rounds.
At 18/1 he looks a good bet.
Another player in this mould is France and Chelsea striker Olivier Giroud, who is appealing at 40/1.
The situtation is very similar. Peru, Denmark and Australia will both adopt defensive mindsets in their matches against France, meaning that Deschamps will likely continue his loyalty to Giroud and resist the temptation to play a more fluid front three of Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappé and Ousmane Dembélé.
Giroud was very good at the end of the season for Chelsea and he can repay Deschamps’s faith in him by scoring bags of goals in Russia. Germany look good value to score the most goals in the tournament. They are likely to play the maximum seven games - an important thing to remember when betting on this market.
Leipzig striker Timo Werner is their big emerging talent up front, but he looks plenty short enough at 16/1.
Instead you should turn your attention to Thomas Müller at 33/1. The Bayern Munich forward’s career has stalled a bit over the last few years. He has never been the most technically gifted player and has found himself in and out of a Bayern team that has become more technical and less physical in recent years.
However he has a very good goalscoring record for Germany and was their top scorer in qualifying along with Sandro Wagner with five goals. Müller has a knack of being in the right place at the right time and is an accomplished, if unorthodox finisher.
The favourite here is Lionel Messi at 9/1. This is not a surprise. An in-form Messi is capable of scoring ten goals at this tournament if Argentina go far. That, however, is the big question. There are too many questions over this Argentine side and they may not even make it out of the group.
Their other strikers, Gonzalo Higuain, Sergio Aguero and Paulo Dybala are easily passed over for this reason and because all will have to play second fiddle to the big man.
Next in the betting is Neymar. He will definitely score a few, but there are two reasons that 10/1 is not a great price. One is that Brazil are much less reliant on him than previously. The other are nagging injury doubts.
Cristiano Ronaldo has effectively become a centre-forward and is a 14/1 shot. But Portugal have a nasty group against three good defences in Spain, Iran and Morocco. They would likely play Uruguay in the last 16, so Ronaldo’s chances might be limited.
Romelu Lukaku at 18/1
Thomas Müller at 33/1
Olivier Giroud at 40/1
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