Who will win the Golden Boot at the 2022 Qatar World Cup?

The world's top strikers will be at Qatar over the next month, all hoping to help their team lift the World Cup, but also with one eye on being the top goal scorer. But who will win the Golden Boot?

A feature of every World Cup tournament has been those replays of memorable goals that are regularly looked back on for years and decades to come. 

We've all got our favourites, with the names of Pele, Maradona, Cruyff, Zidane, Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo springing readily to mind. However, legendary as those names are, they all have one thing in common, and that is that the World Cup Golden Boot awarded to each tournament's top goalscorer has eluded them throughout their sparkling careers.

So what does it take to win the Golden Boot?

Firstly, the winner will probably need to stay fit in a good team that creates plenty of chances en route to (hopefully) the semi-final stage to maximise the number of matches in which to score.

Virtually every Golden Boot winner has come from a team that reached those latter stages, with one notable exception being Oleg Salenko, whose Russian team was already knocked out when he scored five of his six goals in a meaningless 6-1 group game victory over Cameroon to win the 1994 award.

Being the designated penalty-taker doesn't hurt either, as Harry Kane proved in Russia, where three of his six goals came from the spot, while a couple of comfortable group games can also help a goal scorer to hit the ground running (eg Salenko again, or Kane's hat-trick against Panama in 2018).

Perhaps sadly, the kind of football that allowed Just Fontaine to score his record 13 goals in six games for France in 1958, is behind us, and indeed, since 1974, only Brazil's Ronaldo has found the net more than six times at a tournament.

He bagged 8 en route to Brazil's 2002 triumph, and we're hopeful that one of the contenders listed below can set the 2022 tournament alight in similar fashion to lift the Golden Boot with a goal feast in Qatar.

Top 10 Golden Boot contenders

Harry Kane (England)

England captain Harry Kane - October 2022

England captain Harry Kane is looking to become the first player to win a second Golden Boot, so it might appear churlish to point out that three of his six goals in Russia came from the penalty-spot, that the third of his hat-trick against Panama was a fortuitous deflection off his heel, or that he failed to find the net after scoring from the spot in the last-16 tie with Colombia.

If he is to get anywhere near that tally, he will need England's creative midfield talent to be much more productive than they have been throughout a disappointing 2022 so far. That said, but for being overshadowed by Erling Haaland's phenomenal start to the current campaign, Kane's impressive tally of 14 goals from 23 games so far in all competitions would have earned much more attention.

  • England record: 51 goals in 75 games

  • This season: 14 goals in 23 games

Kylian Mbappe (France)

France have an embarrassment of attacking riches, and the likes of Karim Benzema and Antoine Griezmann might just as easily end up as contenders for the tournament's top scorer. However, the way Kylian Mbabbe burst onto the world stage four years ago in Russia, where he bagged four goals and became the first teenager since Pele to score in a World Cup final, suggests he could once again take the World Cup by storm.

He thrives alongside Messi and Neymar in a formidable front three at PSG, and for France he is given similar licence to use his electric pace and mobility to get behind defensive lines, often cutting in from wide positions to create chances for himself and others.

  • France record: 26 goals in 54 games
  • This season: 20 goals in 22 games

Lionel Messi (Argentina)

It would be difficult to imagine this list without the inclusion of Lionel Messi, despite the fact that his goalscoring talents have never quite shone in any of his four previous World Cups (6 goals in 19 matches). Even when reaching the final in 2014, Messi's three goals in the group stage signalled the end of his contribution in front of goal, as Argentina ground out 1-0 wins in their first two knockout games, while both their semi-final and the final were decided on penalties after goalless draws.

That said, the little genius is still weaving his mercurial magic alongside Neymar and Mbappe at PSG, and although perhaps not the best value at 12/1 to lift the Golden Boot, it would be a brave man who wrote off his chances of signing off his World Cup career in style.

  • Argentina record: 90 goals in 164 games
  • This season: 15 goals in 20 games

Neymar (Brazil)

Neymar in action for Brazil

There has been talk of Neymar retiring from international football after the 2022 World Cup, and if that is the case he will want to sign off his Brazil career with a Brazilian bang. Six goals from 10 games at the 2014 and 2018 tournaments gave glimpses of his talent, and with Brazil much-fancied (again!) to go the distance, a fit Neymar should continue to prove a nightmare for opposing defenders.

Playing alongside Messi and Mbappe at PSG, he has so far contributed 11 goals and 9 assists in 14 Ligue 1 appearances, extending his reputation as goalscorer and playmaker rolled into one. Sometimes infuriating with his showmanship and playacting, there is no disputing his prodigious talent, and the World Cup will be all the brighter for having a fit in-form Neymar strutting his stuff.

  • Brazil record: 75 goals in 121 games
  • This season: 14 goals in 21 games

Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)

It could be said that there is perhaps something rotten with the state of Portuguese football if Cristiano Ronaldo is still their best attacking option, but nevertheless the ever-young 37-year-old is again likely to be marshalling the youngsters around him in Portugal's front line, especially given the enforced absence of the injured Diogo Jota.

Despite finding the net in four different tournaments since 2006, Ronaldo's overall World Cup tally is just seven goals, and that includes his unforgettable hat-trick in Portugal's dramatic 3-3 draw with Spain in the group stage in 2018.

He might be unsettled at Manchester United, but if Portugal can go deep into the Qatar tournament, then it's hard to imagine Ronaldo's instinct and ability in front of goal won't see him increase his World Cup tally, especially if he can link up with his (former?) United team-mate Bruno Fernandes in and around the box.

  • Portugal record: 117 goals in 191 games
  • This season: 3 goals in 20 games

Romelu Lukaku (Belgium)

If Belgium's golden generation are to convert their talent into long overdue silverware, then they will probably need Romelu Lukaku to turn up fit and firing on all of his powerful cylinders. However, although making Belgium's squad, he might represent a brave bet to be top scorer after a hamstring injury has severely limited his appearances for Inter Milan this season.

The much-travelled striker looked odds-on to lift the Golden Boot in Russia four years ago, when he bagged a brace in each of Belgium's first two group games against Panama and Tunisia, only to fail to find the net in any of four further outings.

Although adept at holding the ball up, Lukaku's game is built around his ability to bully defences with his power and pace, and if he starts, he will hope that the likes of Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard can provide the kind of service that he thrives on down the channels.

  • Belgium record: 68 goals in 102 games
  • This season: 2 goals in 5 games

Memphis Depay (Netherlands)

Another Golden Boot hopeful in a race against time is Dutch striker Memphis Depay, who will be looking to replicate the form that brought him a dozen goals in nine World Cup qualifiers. Following the arrival of Robert Lewandowski,

Depay has slipped down the Barcelona pecking order, and since returning from September's international break with a hamstring injury, he has been criticised in some quarters for delaying his club comeback in order to save himself for the World Cup.

If fit, Depay should spearhead the attacking threat in Louis Van Gaal's exciting young Netherlands team, and his strength, pace and ability with both feet will make him a real handful for opposing defenders, whether operating out wide or as a target man. If fit, that is!

  • Netherlands record: 42 goals in 81 games
  • This season: 2 goals in 10 games

Alvaro Morata (Spain)

Often much-maligned for his occasional profligacy in front of goal, Alvaro Morata has emerged as Spain's hero in recent times, firstly bagging the late winner to clinch World Cup qualification against Sweden a year ago, and then repeating the feat against Portugal in September, when the same 1-0 scoreline earned a spot in next year's Nations League finals.

Never the most prolific goal scorer (his best tally for a domestic season is 15), he averages almost a goal every other game on international duty, and Spain coach Luis Enrique seems to favour his experience and work rate above the younger players at his disposal. If Spain do well and express some adventure going forward, Morata might just emerge as a dark horse at the top of the goalscoring chart.

  • Spain record: 27 goals in 57 games
  • This season: 6 goals in 22 games

Robert Lewandowski (Poland)

Poland striker, Robert Lewandowski

Often lauded as one of the best strikers in the world, Robert Lewandowski will be desperate to erase the memory of the 2018 World Cup, when he failed to find the net in any of Poland's three games. That sad group-stage exit belies his legendary status at club level, highlighted at Bayern Munich where he bagged 110 goals in 93 Bundesliga outings over his last three seasons before departing for Barcelona.

His record for Poland is all the more remarkable for the fact that he spearheads a team that are 125/1 to lift the World Cup - odds that would probably double without the presence of Lewandowski up front. It's hard to imagine Poland going deep in the tournament, which suggests that if Lewandowski is to win the Golden Boot, he might need to do a Salenko and fill his boots in the early stages.

  • Poland record: 76 goals in 134 games
  • This season: 18 goals in 22 games

Aleksandar Mitrovic (Serbia)

Much like Lewandowski, Aleksandar Mitrovic will probably need his team to punch above their weight if he is to contend for the tournament's premier goa-lscoring award. He will also need to shake off a foot injury that has not excluded him from selection, but has prevented him from appearing in Fulham's last two Premier League outings.

His record for club and country speaks for itself, and comes from his strength on the ball, his predatory instincts in the box and a belief and willingness to shoot from anywhere. Before getting injured, he was enjoying his best ever spell in the English Premier League, and is also in hot international form after banging in six goals in his last four Nations League outings in June and September, including a hat-trick against Sweden.

  • Serbia record: 50 goals in 76 games
  • This season: 13 goals in 12 games

Possible Dark Horses

Darwin Nunez (Uruguay)

  • Uruguay record: 3 goals in 12 games
  • This season: 9 goals in 19 games

Serge Gnabry (Germany)

  • Germany record: 20 goals in 26 games
  • This season: 9 goals in 24 games

Sadio Mane (Senegal) 

  • Senegal record: 34 goals in 93 games
  • This season: 11 goals in 24 games

Gareth Bale (Wales)

  • Wales record: 40 goals in 108 games
  • This season: 3 goals in 17 games

Heung-Min Son (South Korea)

  • South Korea record: 35 goals in 104 games
  • This season: 7 goals in 21 games

As you can see, our shortlist only allows one striker per country, so unfortunately we've had to omit the likes of Frenchmen Karim Benzema and Antoine Griezmann , Richarlison and Gabriel Jesus of Brazil, Argentina's Lautaro Martinez and Germany's 2010 Golden Boot winner Thomas Muller. Any of these, plus other unnamed dark horses, could be more than capable of challenging for the ultimate striker's award.

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