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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 24 June 2018

World Cup 2018: 10 Golden Boot contenders beyond Messi and Ronaldo

It hasn't always been the big names claiming the top scorer title at the tournament

Timo Werner of Germany runs with the ball during the friendly between Germany and Saudi Arabia at BayArena on June 8, 2018 in Leverkusen, Germany. Werner could be in the running for the golden boot at the World Cup. Martin Rose/Bongarts / Getty Images
Timo Werner of Germany runs with the ball during the friendly between Germany and Saudi Arabia at BayArena on June 8, 2018 in Leverkusen, Germany. Werner could be in the running for the golden boot at the World Cup. Martin Rose/Bongarts / Getty Images

Who remembers Oleg Salenko? If you don't, he was the Russian striker who was top scorer, along with Bulgaria's Hristo Stoichkov, at the 1994 World Cup.

Amazingly, Salenko didn't play beyond the group stage as Russia were knocked out, but that didn't stop him from notching six goals - including five in one match against Cameroon.

He hasn't been the only surprise top scorer at a World Cup; the Netherlands' Wesley Sneijder, a recognised midfielder, was joint top scorer in 2010 with five, and in 2014 who would have plumped for Colombia's James Rodriguez as the outright winner with six, among them a stunning volley against Uruguay.

A trawl through the archives of World Cup top scorers brings only a smattering of names you would say were truly prolific on the international stage - Brazilian Ronaldo in 2002 and Germany's Miroslav Klose in 2006. Croatia's Davor Suker won the Golden Boot in 1998, and although a top-class striker, it was a surprise Croatia made it as far as the semi-finals. Italy's Toto Schillaci, meanwhile, was largely unknown before Italia '90 having started just one match for his country before he went goal crazy on home turf.

So, going into this summer's tournament, the message here is don't necessarily look straight to Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi as the obvious candidates for the Golden Boot, and don't expect too much from Mohamed Salah as he continues his recovery from a shoulder injury suffered in the Uefa Champions League final.

Here's five players you should expect to be in the running for the Golden Boot at Russia 2018, and five less obvious but totally capable choices:

Leading candidates

England's Harry Kane controls the ball ahead of the international friendly soccer match between England and Costa Rica at Elland Road stadium in Leeds, England, Thursday, June 7, 2018. (AP Photo/Scott Heppell)
England's Harry Kane. Scott Heppell / AP Photo

Harry Kane: His England career has a been a slow burner compared to his juggernaut effect at Tottenham Hotspur where he has enjoyed four prolific seasons in a row. He endured a frustrating Euro 2016, where the lasting image was of him taking corners as England stumbled out of the competition in embarrassing fashion against Iceland, but Kane has scored eight in his past seven internationals and is fit, firing and the focal point of his side's attack.

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LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - JUNE 03: Neymar Jr of Brazil runs with the ball during the International Friendly match between Croatia and Brazil at Anfield on June 3, 2018 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Neymar runs with the ball during the International Friendly match between Croatia and Brazil at Anfield on June 3. Alex Livesey / Getty Images

Neymar: He may not have played for Paris Saint-Germain since February due to injury, but it is impossible to write off his prospects because of two factors: one, he has already scored 55 international goals, and two, Brazil will surely go a long way at this tournament. Neymar showed he has lost none of his dazzling skills with a superb individual goal against Croatia in a friendly a week ago.

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epa06794636 Germany's Timo Werner (C) celebrates scoring the 1-0 lead with teammates Thomas Mueller (L) and Jonas Hector (R) during the international friendly soccer match between Germany and Saudi Arabia in Leverkusen, Germany, 08 June 2018. EPA/RONALD WITTEK
Germany's Timo Werner, centre, celebrates scoring against Saudi Arabia in Leverkusen, Germany, on June 8, 2018. Ronald Wittek / EPA

Timo Werner: Linked with a move to both Spain and England, the RB Leipzig striker is very much in the shop window having recently admitted he will need to move clubs "to become world class". The 22 year old has already made his mark on the German national team, scoring eight in his first 14 appearances and goes to Russia on the back of 21 goals last season. He will be looking to follow in the footsteps of prolific German strikers such as Klose, Jurgen Klinsmann and Gerd Muller.

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epa06792339 Uruguay's Luis Suarez celebrates the goal of Giorgian De Arrascaeta (not pictured) during a friendly match between Uruguay and Uzbekistan for the Russia 2018 World Cup at the Centenario Stadium in Montevideo, Uruguay, 07 June 2018. EPA/RAUL MARTINEZ
Luis Suarez celebrates the goal of Giorgian De Arrascaeta (not pictured) during a friendly match between Uruguay and Uzbekistan on June 7, 2018. Raul Martinez / EPA

Luis Suarez: Uruguay may be one of the more unfashionable sides at the World Cup, but they possess two of the world's most deadly strikers in Suarez and Edison Cavani. The former has been playing international football for 11 years and has amassed 98 caps and 51 goals, and, placed in a group with Russia, Saudi Arabia and Egypt will fancy his chances of goals in the group stage. While Suarez's teammates are mostly short of the standard of his Barcelona colleagues, he can conjure a goal out of nothing and usually produces a moment to remember.

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epa06797798 Antoine Griezmann of France during the International Friendly soccer match between France and USA in Lyon, France, 09 June 2018. EPA/ALEX MARTIN
Antoine Griezmann during the International Friendly match between France and USA in Lyon on June 9, 2018. Alex Martin / EPA

Antoine Griezmann: Expected to leave Atletico Madrid this summer, with Barcelona and Manchester United the leading potential destinations, the French striker could add a few more euros or pounds (depending on where he ends up) to his value with a bagful of goals in Russia. Griezmann has already proved himself at an international tournament, finishing as top scorer at Euro 2016 with six goals, and we all want to see what celebration he utilises next. He will form either a lively partnership alongside Kylian Mbappe and Ousmane Dembele or a slightly slower one next to Olivier Giroud. Either way, France have an excellent chance of reaching the final and French fans will hope any transfer drama won't affect Griezmann.

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Don't rule these players out

Soccer Football - International Friendly - South Korea vs Bolivia - Tivoli-Neu, Innsbruck, Austria - June 7, 2018 South Korea's Son Heung-Min in action with Bolivia's Danny Bejarano REUTERS/Lisi Niesner
South Korea's Son Heung-Min in action with Bolivia's Danny Bejarano on June 7, 2018. Lisi Niesner / Reuters

Son Heung-min: His nickname "Sonaldo" says it all. Like both Ronaldos - the Brazilian and the Portuguese - Son can motor past defenders and is capable of scoring with either foot. He has been overshadowed at Tottenham by Kane and the rise of Dele Alli but has scored 39 goals over the past two seasons and has 21 at international level. South Korea will be relying heavily on him and, as Ronaldo does for Portugal, expect him to go solo when he gets on the ball.

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Belgium's forward Romelu Lukaku (R) celebrates with teammate Belgium's forward Dries Mertens (L) after scoring a goal during the international friendly football match between Belgium and Egypt at the King Baudouin Stadium, in Brussels, on June 6, 2018. / AFP / EMMANUEL DUNAND
Belgium's Romelu Lukaku, right, celebrates with teammate Dries Mertens, left, after scoring during the international friendlybetween Belgium and Egypt at the King Baudouin Stadium, in Brussels, on June 6, 2018. EMMANUEL DUNAND / AFP

Dries Mertens: This is arguably Belgium's best chance of World Cup success given they have a star-studded team full of Premier League stars. The cameras, and opposition defenders, will be focusing on Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku and Kevin de Bruyne, but Napoli's Mertens shouldn't be ignored after another prolific season in Serie A where he has scored 46 league goals in the past two years. His ratio isn't quite so good for Belgium - 13 in 66 - however he scored five in World Cup qualification and anyone playing in the same side as De Bruyne can expect chances on a plate.

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Soccer Football - International Friendly - Croatia vs Senegal - Stadion Gradski vrt, Osijek, Croatia - June 8, 2018 Croatia's Marcelo Brozovic in action with Senegal's Sadio Mane REUTERS/Antonio Bronic
Croatia's Marcelo Brozovic in action with Senegal's Sadio Mane during a friendly on June 8. Antonio Bronic / Reuters

Sadio Mane: It will be interesting to see how the Senegalese performs without his partners from Liverpool's "Fab Three" strikeforce (Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino) after a season in which they tore defences apart. Poland, Colombia and Japan in the group stage won't provide a test any stiffer than that offered in the Premier League and Champions League and Mane's pace and dribbling skills means he will always be able to create chances for himself when his teammates are unable to furnish him.

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Soccer Football - International Friendly - Denmark v Mexico - Broendby Stadium - Copenhagen, Denmark - June 9, 2018. Christian Eriksen of Denmark passes Carlos Salcedo of Mexico to score a goal. Ritzau Scanpix/Lars Moeller via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. DENMARK OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN DENMARK
Christian Eriksen scores against Mexico on June 9. Ritzau Scanpix / Lars Moeller via Reuters

Christian Eriksen: It isn't an exaggeration to suggest Denmark are a one-man team, and it isn't necessarily the limitations of their players that given the team that tag, more so that Eriksen is in the very top bracket when it comes to ability. He will be the focal point, taking set pieces, dictating play and shooting on sight with both feet. His goal in Saturday's 2-0 friendly victory over Mexico made it 16 in his past 21 internationals.

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Portugal's Andre Silva celebrates after scoring the opening goal during a friendly soccer match between Portugal and Tunisia in Braga, Portugal, Monday, May 28, 2018. (AP Photo/Armando Franca)
Portugal's Andre Silva celebrates after scoring the opening goal during a friendly between Portugal and Tunisia in Braga, Portugal on May 28, 2018. Armando Franca / AP Photo

Andre Silva: AC Milan fans would see this as an extremely long shot, but let's not forgot what happened with Salenko in 1994. A decent season for Porto earned him a pricey move to Italy last summer but the goals have since dried up in club football - just two in the recently concluded Serie A campaign. It has been a different story when playing for Portugal though, as Silva took the goalscoring burden off Ronaldo during qualifying, netting nine times.

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Read more:

World Cup 2018: Guides, predictions, podcasts, galleries and where to watch in UAE

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