Golden Boot Favorites

Created on Jun. 10, 2014 6:22 PM EST

Second only to the Ballon d'Or, World Cup's Golden Boot is the biggest individual award in the soccer world. In 2010, it was the first four-way tie in the tournament's history.  The Golden Shoe winner, Uruguay's Diego Forlan, had four goals, but ultimately didn't even qualify for Golden Ball status because he had less assists and played less minutes than the other three players. Germany's Thomas Muller won the award thanks to his four goals and three assists, followed by Spain's David Villa and Holland's Wesley Sneijder.

In '06 and '02, it was two of the game's legends who took home the honor: Germany's Miroslav Klose and Brazil's Ronaldo, respectively. Both Klose and Muller return for the Germans this month, but they have so many weapons, I don't see any one player dominating individually. When it comes to the Golden Boot, the person who captures it will be that team's signature playmaker. Often he's a one-man show. It's not easy to score 5-6 goals over the course of 5-7 games against the world's best. But these are the five men I envision to have the best shot at it.

1. Lionel Messi, Argentina (Club Team: Barcelona) - In my opinion, this is his to lose. Even playing alongside the incomparable talents of Sergio "Kun" Aguero (Manchester City) and Angel Di Maria (Real Madrid), Messi remains the best player in the world today. With the tournament being held in South America, a group that includes defensive misfits Nigeria and Iran, and with Messi on a mission to secure his place among the game's all-time greats, there's no reason he can't find the net more than any other player over the length of this World Cup.

2. Fred, Brazil (Fluminense) - The entire world is expecting this to be the year of Neymar (Barcelona) for the Brazilian hosts. And Hulk (Zenit St. Petersburg) has greater name recognition as well. However, Fred is the one who has the knack for the net more so than anyone else on the tournament favorites. In just 31 appearances with the national team, Fred's scored 17 times. Compare that to his record with Brazilian club team Fluminense, where he's found the nylon an amazing 110 times in just 176 appearances. If they go as far as they're expected to go in this World Cup, Fred could be holding two pieces of hardware next month.

3. Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal (Real Madrid) - You had to know he was making this list. There's no better pure scorer in the world than Ronaldo, this year's Ballon d'Or winner for Real Madrid. There are a few things going against him, however. His injured leg is the main reason. His country's inclusion in one of the Groups of Death is another, especially one that includes Germany, one of the world's best defensive units. And the fact that he hasn't performed well in a World Cup yet has to be weighing on him as well. If he's on his game, though, there's nobody who can stop him. He's more than capable of a hat trick ... or two ... at any moment.

4. Edin Dzeko, Bosnia and Herzegovina (Manchester City) - They're in the same group as Argentina, which is a good thing, because as I mentioned earlier, that group includes Iran and Nigeria. I look for Bosnia and Herzegovina to advance through this group, giving them at least four games in this World Cup. Given four games, Dzeko - who is this team's sole source of offense - has a terrific chance of scoring multiple goals on at least 2-3 occasions. At 6-foot-4, he's also a good bet to go over a smaller Argentinian defense and get a header to find the net against the group favorites. Considering they have little chance to get past the Round of 16, Dzeko's easily my biggest long shot to take home the trophy.

5. Luis Suarez, Uruguay (Liverpool) - To tell you the truth, I don't envy the position he's in. Uruguay is in a ridiculously difficult World Cup group with both Italy and England. He also plays on a team with fellow scorers Edinson Cavani (Paris St. Germain) and Diego Forlan (Cerezo Osaka), so he'll cede several chances to them. However, this is a guy who dominated the English Premier League last season, scoring 10 more goals (31) than anyone else in the league, despite being suspended for the year's first five games. He's as exciting as they come, and if anyone breaks out for this contending team this month, it should be Suarez.
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