The Golden Boot is just one of the most popular props you can bet at World Cup 2014, putting down some coin on which player will score the most goals in the tournament.
Odds for the World Cup Golden Boot can be inflated, so betting on the winner can prove profitable. Choosing the winner, however, requires more than simply identifying the best striker.
The importance of the draw
One of the main factors to consider when picking Golden Boot winner is the group that the player’s nation has been drawn in. The draw highlights which teams have the weaker groups or an easier passage to the final once qualified.
Being drawn in a group with one or more perceived weaker nations is an ideal opportunity for a player to score the bulk of their goals in the tournament. This can’t be underestimated - not only will a player expect to have more chances when playing against weak opposition, but scoring goals early in the tournament will boost confidence for the remainder of the World Cup.
Looking at data since the 1986 World Cup, there is clear evidence that the winner of the Golden Boot scores the majority of their goals in the group stages. In analyzing whether the previous eight Golden Boot winners – 1994 saw Oleg Salenko and Hristo Stoichkov share the award – scored a higher percentage of their goals in the group or knockout stage, we looked at each players minutes to goal scoring average in each stage.
The results highlight that despite playing fewer minutes, the Golden Boot winners scored more goals (26) at a better average (a goal every 71 minutes) in the group stages than the knockout stages (22 goals, scoring a goal every 100.8 minutes).
World Cup progression
The completion of the 2014 World Cup draw makes it possible to predict the likely route a Golden Boot candidate will take, thereby assessing how far you think their nation will go and goal-scoring opportunities.
Each nation will play a minimum of three games and a maximum of seven if they reach the semifinal. This is important, as all Golden Boot winners’ nations – apart from Oleg Salenko’s Russia in 1994 – have progressed into the knockout stages. Pitch time clearly equates to goals.
Since 1986, six of the last eight Golden Boot winners – including Salenko – have played seven games. However, just one has reached the final with the other five finishing their tournament in the third-place playoff.
Historically, the third-place playoff produces more goals than the World Cup final. In the last seven World Cup third-place playoffs, there has been an average of 4.28 goals compared to two goals in the final.
With no major prize for the third-place playoff teams, is the Golden Boot effectively the greatest motivation for any player involved?
Team tactics & motivation
Understanding the tactics and style of play a nation employs is vital when picking a potential Golden Boot winner. Nations that create more chances are more likely to have the winner of the Golden Boot in their squad. The last winners have played for the World Cup’s highest scoring teams.
A team must also play to the player’s strengths. Just because a player is prolific for his club side doesn’t mean he is guaranteed to score plenty on the International stage.
For instance, Uruguay’s Edinson Cavani is considered amongst the best strikers in the world, scoring on average a goal every 1.34 games since 2010 for his respective club teams. But on the international stage he struggles, finding the net on average every three games. One reason is that Cavani is instructed to lead the line and act as a foil for Luis Suarez – who scores a goal every 1.82 games for Uruguay.
Bettors must also consider motivational factors. National managers have little specific interest in their player winning the Golden Boot award (except perhaps for the third-place playoff,or in a game where they are winning comfortably and there is a penalty). They are solely determined, as are the other players, to win the World Cup.
If a team is winning comfortably they may substitute their star striker or rest them if they have already qualified from the group with a game remaining. A game missed due to being rested against weaker opposition could be detrimental to their chances of winning the Golden Boot.
Set piece specialists and favorites
On average it requires six goals to claim the World Cup Golden Boot. Players taking free kicks and penalties are more prolific, which can make all the difference between winning the award and not.
Looking back at the last seven World Cups, the Golden Boot winners have scored 14.5 percent (7) of their goals from penalties, while just 2 percent (1) of winners’ goals came from free kicks. This shows that being a team’s penalty taker could prove decisive, like it was for Hristo Stoichkov in 1994 who scored three (50 percent) of his goals from the penalty spot. Interestingly, Sergio Aguero has never taken a penalty in regular time for Argentina.
Bettors may be drawn to the three heavy favorites Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, and Neymar. However, apart from the Brazilian Ronaldo in 2002, none of the other seven Golden Boot winners have been majorly fancied to lift the trophy before the start.
Luck can also play a part in winning the Golden Boot award. In a domestic season there are 38 games with the best teams/strikers more likely to dominate. In contrast, the World Cup tournament is played over a maximum of seven games, so unusual results should be expected. Luck could have played a part for Salenko in 1994. Not only did the striker score five of his six goals against Cameroon in the final group game, but they were his only career international goals.
Intriguingly, of the eight most recent winners, all but Ronaldo (Brazil 2002) have been European, while Thomas Muller became the first midfielder to win the Golden Boot in the modern era in 2010.
Picking the 2014 World Cup Golden Boot winner is not simply a task of identifying the best striker. Instead, bettors must consider a number of factors such as the impact of the draw, the likelihood their nation will progress deep into the tournament, the tactics their respective national teams employ and luck.
By doing so, bettors will be in a good position to make an informed bet in picking the 2014 World Cup Golden Boot winner.