A keenly-contested race for the 2022 World Cup Golden Boot is heating up, with three players going toe-to-toe in the battle for the prestigious award.
With only four games left to play, France’s formidable attacking duo, Kylian Mbappe and Olivier Giroud lead the charge, with five and four goals, respectively.
Starting with Cristiano Ronaldo becoming the first player in World Cup history to score in five different tournaments, several other prominent records are begging to be taken this winter.
Most of them ought to be by Mbappe, but watch out for history-chasing Argentina talisman Lionel Messi, who’s hellbent on leading La Albiceleste to the podium for the first time since 1986.
Like Giroud, La Pulga has four goals under his belt after slotting home a penalty against the Netherlands in the quarter-finals and can still whittle down the gap on his Paris Saint-Germain teammate Mbappe.
Argentina’s Julian Alvarez, Croatia’s Andrej Kramaric and Morocco’s Youssef En-Nesyri, all with two goals apiece, are the only viable candidates to spoil the party down the final stretch.
However, that prospect looks highly unlikely, so we’re looking at a three-way race for the Golden Boot unless some unrealistic developments change the narrative in the final four fixtures.
#1 Kylian Mbappe
Mbappe opened his account in Qatar during France’s come-from-behind 4-1 romping of Australia on matchday one before chipping in with a pair of braces against Denmark and Poland.
The 23-year-old’s nine-goal World Cup tally is already only seven shy of Miroslav Klose’s outright record of 16, and with Les Bleus set to play two more games in Qatar, the gap may soon melt down.
Didier Deschamps’ men will have to overcome the tournament’s surprise package Morocco to become the first defending World Cup champions to reach the final since Brazil in 1998.
Mbappe will be at the thick of France’s bid to retain the crown as he aims to become the fifth player to score in back-to-back World Cup finals following his well-documented exploits against Croatia in 2018.
#2 Olivier Giroud
Initially projected as a benchwarmer, AC Milan marksman Giroud has massively benefitted from Karim Benzema’s injury, growing into an unlikely Golden Boot candidate.
The former Arsenal and Chelsea star hit the ground running with a match-winning performance against Australia, scoring on either side of half-time to inspire France’s comeback.
Equally lethal in the knockout stages, the 36-year-old first broke the deadlock in a 3-1 thumping of Poland before heading home a late winner in a 2-1 win against England in the quarter-finals.
Having taken his tally to four goals, Giroud could become the oldest player to score five in a single edition of the tournament if he troubles the scoresheet against Morocco.
#3 Lionel Messi
Unlike his Golden Boot rivals, Messi has amassed two of his four goals from the spot, missing one in the process.
Had he not spurned a penalty during Argentina’s 2-0 win over Poland, the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner would’ve been on a par with Mbappe.
If he wastes a spot-kick in the next two games, he’ll set a new record for the most missed penalties in World Cup history, an unwanted milestone he currently jointly holds with Asamoah Gyan.
Messi’s scoring exploits in Qatar account for 44% of Argentina’s total goals (4/9), so it won’t be surprising to see him add to his tally against Croatia in the semi-finals.
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