You wouldn’t have to work too hard to make the argument that Lionel Messi is the greatest active soccer player in the world right now. He holds the record
for being named winner of the Ballon d’Or (best player in the world) with four. After winning four years in a row, he fell short in 2013 — and then he
finished second. Not bad for a player who is only 26. It also makes sense that he is favored here. In 2012 he set the record for the most goals scored in a
calendar year with 91. In that year — and throughout his career, really — he was remarkably consistent. There were only seven different minutes during that
season — 1st, 2nd, 10th, 14th, 15th, 46th and 69th — that he didn’t score at least once. That means that he is ready to play early in games, in the middle,
or at the end. He’s just a gamer and an all-time legend.
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But can he outscore every other player in the 2014 World Cup?
2014 FIFA World Cup Golden Boot Top Goal Scorer Storylines
Despite only being 26 (he’ll turn 27 the day before his third World Cup round-robin game), Messi is playing in his third World Cup. You might think, then,
that he would have had plenty of experience scoring in the World Cup. The truth is much different, though. He scored in every game he played as an 18 year
old in 2006, and he hasn’t scored since. He played very well in 2010, setting up much of Argentina’s offense, but never put one in himself.
Messi hasn’t exploded at the World Cup yet, but he did perform admirably in qualifying this time around. He had 10 goals in 16 games — second in CONMEBOL
behind only Luis Suarez of Uruguay, who had 11.
In order for a player to have a good chance to be the leading goal scorer and win the golden boot, he needs to be likely to score a lot of goals. On that
front, Argentina is in good shape. Their opening group is very soft. They not only are all but certain to win the group, but they will have plenty of
opportunities to score. If the tournament goes to form then they won’t have to face Spain until the semifinals, and they wouldn’t face Germany or Brazil
until the finals. Those are the three strongest teams outside of Argentina, so the path is as smooth for the Argentinians as it could be.
2014 World Cup Golden Boot Top Goal Scorer Betting Odds and Key Stats
, Messi is favored to be the leading Golden Boot top goal scorer at 8/1. He’s the only player in single-digits.
Messi has not scored at the same rate this season in league play as he has recently. In each of the previous two complete seasons, he has scored at least
1.2 goals per appearance. He played 110 games over those two years, so the sample size is significant. This year he has made 32 appearances and has 28
goals — a rate of 0.875 goals per game. That’s hardly a poor number — it would be the envy of most players in the world — but it is a noticeable decline,
and it has to lead you to question how sharp he will be at this point.
2014 FIFA World Cup Golden Boot Top Goal Scorer Picks and Predictions
The biggest issue for Messi could be competition within his own team. While he is favored to be the top goal scorer and win the Golden Boot, Sergio Aguero
is the fourth choice at 14/1, and Gonzalo Higuain is the seventh choice at 22/1. That’s three legitimate top-level scoring threats on one team, and it’s a
real question as to whether there will be enough goals to go around. While I obviously have nothing but respect for Messi and his skills, and wouldn’t be
even remotely surprised if he was the top goal scorer, I just don’t see any value in betting on him here.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham