By William Hill
Last Updated: 5th June 2020
Whether he bags against Belgium or not, World Cup 2018 top goalscorer pole position will almost certainly be occupied by Harry Kane once the group stage finishes.
The England ace netted five goals in his opening two matches against Tunisia and Panama and can now be backed at 6/4 to outscore all of his peers in Russia.
He leads Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo and fellow Group G marksman Romelu Lukaku by a single goal and, with the latter poised to miss Belgium’s clash with the Three Lions through injury, it’s unlikely Kane will lose his standalone spot at the top of the scoring charts before the knockout phase starts.
Despite his hegemony, however, it’s worth backing one of the chasing pair – either Ronaldo at 9/2, or Lukaku at 4/1 – to overthrow the Spurs sharpshooter.
It’s been rare indeed for a World Cup top goalscorer to lead the way by himself upon the conclusion of the group stage.
Since France ’98, only Germany’s Miroslav Klose has claimed the prize having led from the group stage to the final, doing so in his homeland in 2006, having notched four before knockout football kicked off. What’s even more surprising here is Klose’s total (five) was the joint-lowest of any top scorer since 1962.
Casting the 2006 edition aside as an anomaly, it seems a slow-burning campaign is more beneficial to realising World Cup top goalscorer aspirations.
In 2014, James Rodriguez won the award, but the three goals he managed in the groups was matched by four other players and surpassed by three. A knockout stage treble allowed him to successfully fend off closest challengers Lionel Messi, Thomas Muller and Neymar.
The honour was split between four players in 2010, with Wesley Sneijder, Diego Forlan, David Villa and Muller sharing most-prolific status having scored five goals apiece. None of them, however, were ahead of a chasing pack once the group stage finished and all needed at least two knockout goals to ensure they weren’t outdone.
Ronaldo’s eight strikes fired Brazil to 2002 glory, but his four-goal group stage haul was bested by five from Klose, while no one expected Davor Suker to top the scoring charts in 1998 after he managed just two goals in Croatia’s pre-knockout pool. His four goals in the knockouts were the driving force behind his country’s third-place finish in France.
So recent history doesn’t favour Kane then, and with Ronaldo’s Portugal set to face the watertight Uruguay before a tricky tie against one of France or Argentina should they advance, it could pay to back Man Utd talisman Lukaku.
He’s well in touch with Kane, has a more navigable last-16 assignment compared to Ronaldo’s and, depending on what happens in Belgium’s final group game against England (which the Red Devils are 21/10 to win), could end up facing one of Sweden or Switzerland in the quarter final should his side get there.