2018 FIFA World Cup – Top Goalscorer (Golden Boot) Analysis and Betting Tips

With the 2018 FIFA World Cup kicking off this week, a popular futures market is the tournament’s top scorer (Golden Boot award). Using goals data for both club and country, we’ve compiled a rough-and-ready model for the expected number of goals for the main contenders. Top goalscorer betting tips are provided.

The table below ranks each player based on the expected number of goals he will score this tournament.

The bookmaker odds are sourced from bet365 and the goals data are sourced from Wikipedia.

Teams with a 50% chance of reaching the Round of 16 have been given 3.5 expected fixtures. Note that four teams have been picked to play seven games due to the third place playoff.

The expected goals per game equals the average of:
– 2018 goal scoring record for his club
– 2016-18 goal scoring record for his country
– lifetime goal scoring record for his country

Player Club Statistics Country Statistics Expected Goals Per Game Expected Games Expected Goals bet365 Odds
2018 2016-2018 Career
Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
Junior Neymar (Brazil) 30 28 16 9 85 55 0.71 7 5.00 10.00
Iago Aspas (Spain) 37 23 10 5 10 5 0.54 7 3.78 67.00
Timo Werner (German) 45 21 14 8 14 8 0.54 7 3.76 15.00
Gabriel Jesus (Brazil) 42 17 17 10 17 10 0.53 7 3.69 17.00
Lionel Messi (Argentina) 54 45 19 15 124 64 0.71 5 3.56 11.00
Harry Kane (England) 48 41 16 10 24 13 0.67 5 3.37 17.00
Diego Costa (Spain) 23 7 8 6 18 7 0.48 7 3.37 26.00
Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) 44 44 27 26 150 81 0.83 4 3.34 17.00
Antoine Griezmann (France) 49 29 30 14 54 20 0.48 7 3.33 13.00
Romelu Lukaku (Belgium) 51 27 27 25 69 36 0.66 5 3.30 17.00
Edinson Cavani (Uruguay) 47 40 22 14 100 42 0.64 5 3.18 21.00
Olivier Giroud (France) 44 12 29 18 74 31 0.44 7 3.06 41.00
Moreno Rodrigo (Spain) 44 19 5 2 5 2 0.41 7 2.87 67.00
Alarcon Isco (Spain) 49 9 14 9 26 10 0.40 7 2.83 41.00
Robert Lewandowski (Poland) 48 41 22 21 95 55 0.80 3.5 2.79 34.00
Philippe Coutinho (Brazil) 42 22 23 9 36 10 0.40 7 2.78 51.00
Luis Suarez (Uruguay) 51 31 16 7 98 51 0.52 5 2.61 26.00
Thomas Muller (Germany) 45 15 23 7 91 38 0.35 7 2.46 34.00
Sergio Aguero (Argentina) 39 30 16 4 85 37 0.48 5 2.42 26.00
Mohamed Salah (Egypt) 52 44 18 11 57 33 0.68 3.5 2.38 51.00
Roberto Firmino (Brazil) 52 27 10 2 21 6 0.33 7 2.34 67.00
David Silva (Spain) 40 10 26 12 120 35 0.33 7 2.34 51.00
Kylian Mbappe-Lottin (France) 46 21 15 4 15 4 0.33 7 2.31 26.00
Gonzalo Higuain (Argentina) 50 23 16 6 70 31 0.43 5 2.13 41.00
Jamie Vardy (England) 42 23 18 7 22 7 0.42 5 2.09 81.00
Fedor Smolov (Russia) 24 14 21 8 31 12 0.45 4 1.80 67.00
Christian Eriksen (Denmark) 46 14 21 16 78 22 0.45 4 1.80 81.00
Radamel Falcao (Colombia) 36 24 9 4 71 29 0.51 3.5 1.77 51.00
Eden Hazard (Belgium) 51 17 22 10 85 22 0.35 5 1.74 41.00
Mario Mandzukic (Croatia) 38 10 19 10 82 30 0.39 4 1.54 67.00
Dries Mertens (Beglium) 49 22 28 6 69 14 0.29 5 1.44 67.00
James Rodríguez (Colombia) 39 8 22 8 62 21 0.30 3.5 1.06 67.00
Paulo Dybala (Argentina) 46 26 12 0 12 0 0.19 5 0.94 67.00
Xherdan Shaqiri (Switzerland) 38 8 26 5 68 20 0.23 4 0.93 201.00
Raheem Sterling (England) 46 23 18 0 38 2 0.18 5 0.92 67.00
Sadio Mane (Senegal) 44 20 17 5 49 14 0.34 2.5 0.86 81.00

 

Analysis

Market favourite Neymar comes out clear on top for the highest number of expected goals at 5.00. Iago Aspas stands out as the best value relative to the odds with 3.78 expected goals in contrast to his 67.00 odds. Werner and Jesus are next best.

In terms of expected goals per game, the top contenders are:
Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) – 0.83
Robert Lewandowski (Poland) – 0.80
Junior Neymar (Brazil) – 0.71
Lionel Messi (Argentina) – 0.71
Mohamed Salah (Egypt) – 0.68
Harry Kane (England) – 0.67
Romelu Lukaku (Belgium) – 0.66
Edinson Cavani (Uruguay) – 0.64

In World Cup history, only one player topped the goal scoring chart from a team that failed to make the quarter-finals, so a lot comes down to expectations of how far each player’s team will progress.

If you feel the respective teams for the likes of Ronaldo, Lewandowski, Messi, Salah, Kane, Lukaku and Cavani will go further than the form guides suggest, then these players represent excellent value. Note that there’s a huge difference between being knocked out in the quarter-finals and semi-finals, because quarter-final winners are guaranteed two extra fixtures due to the playoff for third place.

Due to their ageing squad I’m not sure Portugal will progress past the Round of 16 this year, which puts Ronaldo’s chances on the back foot. I’m also not convinced by Robert Lewandowski’s chances because he’s known for scoring freely in qualification but not during tournaments. He scored just 1 goal in Euro 2016. Mohamed Salah is fighting to regain fitness ahead of the tournament so he might not feature in all of Egypt’s 3 group stage games, which would hurt his chances.

While Edinson Cavani isn’t at the top of the list, Uruguay are in the easiest group, which will help his chances.

Antoine Griezmann is worth a mention. While the model rates him as just the 9th highest scorer, he scored 6 goals in Euro 2016 for France, which was twice as many as any other player in that tournament. France are in a relatively easy group, which will help his chances, and he will likely be the side’s designated penalty taker.

Betting tips

The players that appeal most in the top goalscorer market are:
Neymar (10.00)
Lionel Messi (11.00)
Antoine Griezmann (13.00)
Harry Kane (17.00)
Romelu Lukaku (17.00)
Edinson Cavani (21.00)
Iago Aspas (67.00)

If I had to pick three players I would take:

Neymar (10.00)
Antoine Griezmann (13.00)
Iago Aspas (67.00)

Odds are sourced from bet365.

Caveats

The data doesn’t take into account strength of opponent. Goals might be harder to come by in the English Premier League, for example, compared to the French Ligue 1. The same goes for European international opponents compared to Asian opponents.

Some teams are in easier World Cup groups than others, which will affect goal expectations.

I recommend using the above data as a starting point and then adjust player preferences based on individual circumstances.

 

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