PARIS, June 8 – The world's deadliest finishers will be out prospecting over the coming month in South Africa as they look to land the World Cup golden boot award.
Ronaldo, Gerd Muller, Gary Lineker, Paolo Rossi – the roll call of previous winners trips off the tongue and at least a dozen of today’s top strikers will be vying for the honours at this year’s finals in South Africa.
Brazilian legend Ronaldo wrote his name into the history books four years ago in Germany when he bagged his 15th World Cup goal, beating the record of Germany’s Muller set in 1970.
Ronaldo top-scored in 2002 on the way to lifting the trophy as he brilliantly left behind memories of the 1998 final loss to France, in which he was largely anonymous after suffering an apparent seizure before kickoff.
The former Inter Milan, Barcelona and Real Madrid star was the fifth Brazilian to top the goal charts at a finals – Vava and Garrincha shared the award in 1962 with four other players.
Four years ago, it was German sharpshooter Miroslav Klose, who bagged seven goals in qualifying for this year’s event, who won the accolade on home soil even though his country only reached the semi-finals.
Klose will be looking to become the only man to win the golden boot for a second time as the Germans – always there or thereabouts – hunt down a fourth World Cup win.
But he has competition aplenty, not least in the shape of England’s Wayne Rooney, who has averaged just under a goal every other game in winning 60 caps to date.
Injury cut short his breakthrough international tournament at Euro 2004 and he was not fully fit going into the 2006 World Cup but if any of Fabio Capello’s men can emulate 1986 golden boot winner Gary Lineker it’s the Manchester United forward.
In normal circumstances, the odds would be fairly short on his former United teammate Cristiano Ronaldo, who netted 42 goals in all competitions while still at Old Trafford in 2008 and top-scored (in all competitions) for Real Madrid in his maiden season in Spain.
Nonetheless, a quirk of Portugal’s laborious path to the finals was the 25-year-old’s failure to the hit the target at all.
Sevilla’s Luis Fabiano will likely be the auriverde’s main candidate to finish top of the goalscoring charts having hit five goals in five games in Brazil’s Confederation’s Cup victory last year.
For rivals Argentina, take your pick from Lionel Messi, Carlos Tevez, Gonzalo Higuain – who outscored Ronaldo in the league – and Sergei Aguero – son-in-law of coach Diego Maradona.
Fabiano doesn’t think Messi will be the man taking home precious metal footwear, however, despite his 34 goals for Barcelona.
"He is ruthless with Barcelona, but he becomes more timid with Argentina," the Brazilian said in a recent interview with Italian media.
Mario Kempes – six goals for 1978’s champions and Guillermo Stabile – eight in the inaugural event in 1930 – are Argentina’s previous golden boot winners.
Anyone looking for a two-way bet on the top scorer might like to try Spain, with both Fernando Torres and sidekick David Villa as cute as they come when it comes to finding the net.
Torres needs no introduction as the man whose goal won Euro 2008 for the Spaniards while Villa is now Spain’s second all-time top-scorer and his 21 La Liga goals for Valencia earned him a move to Barcelona.
In scoring the goals which won Atletico Madrid the Europa League title former Manchester United misfit Diego Forlan will be out to spearhead Uruguay’s assault on a first World Cup win in 60 years while Roque Santa Cruz will assume the gunslinger’s role for Paraguay.
Then there’s France, whose Just Fontaine scored a record haul of 13 in 1958 but who this time qualified rather ignominiously following Thierry Henry’s handball against the Republic of Ireland in their playoff.
Nicolas Anelka is coming off a strong season with Chelsea but has never been prolific in the national shirt.
However, the French do things a little differently.
On the way to glory in 1998 their centre forward Stephane Guivarc’h did not score a single goal.
That mattered little, as the likes of midfielders Zinedine Zidane and Emmanuel Petit assumed the responsibility of putting the ball in the net.