MX23RW : Saturday, October 20 15:41:32

Who will win the World Cup Golden Boot?

With less than week to go until the start of this summer's World Cup, Sports Mole looks at some possible contenders to win the Golden Boot.

With less than a week to go until the start of the 2018 World Cup, the usual buzz of excitement is surrounding the biggest spectacle in football with plenty of questions waiting to be answered.

Which team will hold the trophy aloft on July 15? Who will be this year's surprise package? And, of course, which player will write his name into the history books by winning the Golden Boot?

The top gambling sites in the UK will be welcoming the guesses of football fans around the world - from those backing their own favourites to those who fancy a dark horse.

The World Cup is littered with great names to have picked up the award - from Eusebio, Gerd Muller and Gary Lineker to Ronaldo and Miroslav Klose - but there are also plenty of examples of an unexpected name emerging as a star from the tournament courtesy of their goalscoring exploits.

Few will have foreseen James Rodriguez winning the award in Brazil four years ago, for example, so an outside bet could well yield profit for those brave enough to chance their arm.

Here, Sports Mole runs through a number of possible contenders.

Lionel Messi (Argentina)

Argentina and Barcelona forward Lionel Messi in action during an international friendly with Haiti on May 29, 2018© Reuters

Having single-handedly dragged his side to the World Cup following a disappointing qualifying campaign, there will be plenty of neutrals willing Lionel Messi to get his hands on the trophy in what could be the final tournament in which he is close to his prime.

The Argentina and Barcelona forward was instrumental in leading his country to the final four years ago, and picked up the Golden Ball for the World Cup's best player in the process, but his side fell short and the Golden Boot remains one of the few individual accolades he is yet to amass.

However, even accounting for the fact that other nations have stronger squads, you cannot count Messi out. The 30-year-old is his country's leading scorer of all time with 64 goals in 124 appearances and is coming off the back of a club campaign which saw him win the European Golden Boot for a record fifth time.

Argentina have been drawn in a group alongside Croatia, Nigeria and tournament debutants Iceland, all of whom they will be expected to beat.

Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)

Cristiano Ronaldo in action for Portugal during an international friendly with Egypt in March 2018© Reuters

Whenever Messi is mentioned, Cristiano Ronaldo is never far behind, and the Real Madrid forward will also be amongst the frontrunners for the Golden Boot this summer.

Fresh off the back of winning his fifth Champions League title, Ronaldo is aiming to take Portugal to the World Cup crown just two years after they clinched their first ever major trophy at Euro 2016.

Despite his assertions that he can play on until his 40s, this may well be the final chance we get to see Ronaldo on the biggest stage in football, and the 33-year-old boasts an incredible goalscoring record at this level with 81 in 149 appearances.

Portugal have been drawn against Iberian rivals Spain in Group B at the World Cup, but Ronaldo is no stranger to turning up in big games and he will be expected to add to his tally against Morocco and Iran too.

Neymar (Brazil)

Brazil and Paris Saint-Germain forward Neymar in action during the World Cup warm-up match against Croatia at Anfield on June 3, 2018© Reuters

Any concerns over the fitness of Neymar were emphatically blown away when he marked his first appearance since February with a dazzling goal against Croatia at Anfield in a warm-up friendly, and while Messi and Ronaldo may be in a different stratosphere to anyone else, Neymar is surely next in line to their thrones.

At the age of just 26, the Brazil talisman is only one goal short of Romario's international tally and looks a very good bet to break Pele's all-time Brazil record of 77, having already struck 54 times in just 84 games.

Neymar was in scintillating goalscoring form for Paris Saint-Germain before his season was curtailed by injury, but he should be well-rested and is set to be one of the main attractions in Russia.

Brazil's group at the World Cup includes Switzerland, Serbia and Costa Rica, all of whom the five-time champions will be expected to overcome.

Antoine Griezmann (France)

France's Antoine Griezmann celebrates scoring their second goal against Italy in a friendly on June 1, 2018© Reuters

France are fancied by many to repeat their heroics of 20 years ago by winning the tournament this summer, and it is hard to argue considering the strength in depth at their disposal.

Youngster Kylian Mbappe could be an outside bet for the Golden Boot, but their most likely candidate still looks to be Antoine Griezmann, who will be just as determined as the rest of his side to make up for their Euro 2016 final defeat on home soil two years ago.

Griezmann has 20 goals in 53 appearances for his country and is not the standout star of his side as much as the three players listed above, but he proved at Euro 2016 that he loves the big stage, winning the Golden Boot and Golden Ball courtesy of six goals in just seven games.

France have also been handed one of the kinder draws in the group stages, being placed alongside Australia, Peru and Denmark.

Thomas Muller (Germany)

Germany's Thomas Muller during training ahead of the 2018 World Cup© Reuters

One can never count out the Germans at a major tournament, and it just so happens that no player in Russia 2018 has more World Cup goals to their name than Thomas Muller.

Five-goal hauls at both the 2010 and 2014 tournaments means that only seven players in the history of the competition have scored more than him, and his 10 goals have come in just 13 games too - a fantastic strike rate on the grandest stage.

Indeed, Muller could become the first player to ever win the Golden Boot twice, having scooped the award in 2010 (not to mention the Silver Boot four years later), and needs only six goals to equal compatriot Klose as the top scorer in World Cup history.

Germany have been drawn in Group F at this summer's tournament, alongside Mexico, Sweden and South Korea.

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Who will win the Golden Boot at this summer's World Cup?

Lionel Messi
Cristiano Ronaldo
Antoine Griezmann
Thomas Muller
Harry Kane
Diego Costa
Luis Suarez
Romelu Lukaku
Lionel Messi
Cristiano Ronaldo
Antoine Griezmann
Thomas Muller
Harry Kane
Diego Costa
Luis Suarez
Romelu Lukaku
The Brazil team line up before their friendly game with Croatia on June 3, 2018
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