Three early outside shouts for the World Cup Golden Boot
Putting a few quid on who will be top-scorer at this summer’s World Cup in Brazil early could pay dividends. Coral have monster odds on Croatia frontman Mario Mandzukic, Colombia’s Jackson Martinez and England forward Daniel Sturridge in this market.
Here are some reasons why punters should back this trio to be leading marksman on South American soil. If you wait, the price quoted may well go down.
Mario Mandzukic (100/1)
Bayern Munich striker Mandzukic looks to be a rank outsider for the Golden Boot, but those who doubt his credentials must remember a Croatian has scooped the prize before. Davor Suker, of Real Madrid and Arsenal fame, was top-scorer at France ’98.
Mandzukic has 17 competitive club goals in 27 appearances in all competitions this season so far. Many wonder about his long-term future at the Allianz Arena as Polish centre forward Robert Lewandowski is joining Munich this summer, but that speculation has not unsettled him in front of goal.
In qualifying, Mandzukic led the way for Croatia – albeit by scoring a modest four. He has a lack of clear challengers for the striking berth if coach Niko Kovac’s latest roster is anything to go by.
Hull new boy Nikica Jelavic has a very poor international record, while veteran stager Ivica Olic and former Arsenal attacker Eduardo only seem to have the legs to be used as impact subs now.
World Cup hosts Brazil will be a tough opener for Croatia, but Mandzukic will miss this match through suspension. He is available for their other Group A games against Cameroon and Mexico though, which are certainly winnable. That middle match in particular could be one where Mandzukic fills his boots.
Jackson Martinez (80/1)
Colombia’s main man Radamel Falcao is a doubt for the tournament because of a knee ligament injury picked up while playing for Monaco. They are big boots to fill, but Porto striker Martinez may ably deputise.
He leads the Portuguese top-flight’s scoring charts with 14, and has broken the 20-goal barrier again in his second season in Europe. Martinez has had to play second fiddle to Falcao at international level, but can now seize his chance partnering Teofilo Gutierrez up front.
What further presses his claims is the understanding he developed with James Rodriguez as Falcao’s successor at Porto last season. Colombia kick their World Cup off against Greece before facing the Ivory Coast and Japan.
This is a group Jose Pekerman will expect to qualify from because Euro 2004 winners Greece came through the play-offs, and Japan have not got out of the first phase since they co-hosted the World Cup in 2002.
Daniel Sturridge (66/1)
Liverpool striker Sturridge is the leading English scorer in the Premier League. If Roy Hodgson is going to pick players on form, then he is a clear favourite to partner Wayne Rooney in attack at the World Cup.
Capable of leading the line or operating in a wide berth, Sturridge has the flexibility to keep his place no matter what formation the Three Lions play. Detractors will point out that Liverpool have not played any European football, so he has not been recently tested at the highest level in club action.
This can be dismissed based on the fact that when Sturridge is a regular he scores goals. He will also be fresher than those playing in the Champions League or Europa League.
It is simply a matter of Sturridge applying himself on international duty. If he gets goals in England’s forthcoming World Cup warm-up friendlies with Denmark, Peru, Ecuador and Honduras then his price will shorten.
Sturridge will be targeting the final group game with Costa Rica in particular as a chance to fire himself to the Golden Boot. This Central American side are something of an unknown quantity, but will be much easier to score against than four-time champions Italy or Uruguay, who have his Liverpool strike partner Luis Suarez in their ranks.