Golden Boot winners, flops and what-could-have-beens

Golden Boot winners, flops and what-could-have-beens
Harry Kane of England reacts after scoring the 2-0 during the FIFA World Cup 2018 group G preliminary round soccer match between England and Panama in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, 24 June 2018. EPA-EFE/VASSIL DONEV (RESTRICTIONS APPLY: Editorial Use Only, not used in association with any commercial entity - Images must not be used in any form of alert service or push service of any kind including via mobile alert services, downloads to mobile devices or MMS messaging - Images must appear as still images and must not emulate match action video footage - No alteration is made to, and no text or image is superimposed over, any published image which: (a) intentionally obscures or removes a sponsor identification image; or (b) adds or overlays the commercial identification of any third party which is not officially associated with the FIFA World Cup) EPA-EFE/VASSIL DONEV EDITORIAL USE ONLY

And so it ends, with the player who got half his goals through penalties walking away with the coveted gong.

Only twice in the last six World Cups has the Golden Boot winner come from the team who won the tournament: Germany’s Miroslav Klose in 2006 and Brazil’s Ronaldo in 2002.

It’s one of those wonderfully inane sporting stats that doesn’t really add anything, but seems like it’s worth knowing for a pub quiz.

This year’s tournament looked like it might break a few goalscoring records.

After the first round of group stage matches at the 2018 World Cup, a few curious observers might have wondered if this was finally the year when Just Fontaine’s record feat would finally be broken.

It was gluttonous and, by the conclusion of the group games, the tournament had seen more goals by that point than ever before.

But, as is so often the case, things settled down and the top scorer once again comes from a team that did not win the competition. And from the boot of a player who didn’t even score in the latter stages.

Golden Boot winner: Harry Kane

Half of his six goals came through penalties – and a hat-trick of them in a single match against Panama. As far as awards go, it almost feels a bit silly. Kane did not score a single goal in England’s knockouts, yet will still walk away with the gong. He averaged a goal every 96 minutes (a total of 573 minutes played, with 13 shots on goal in total).

Runners-up: Romelu Lukaku

Romelu Lukaku of Belgium gestures during the FIFA World Cup 2018 semifinal soccer match between France and Belgium in St.Petersburg, Russia, 10 July 2018. Photo: EPA

The Belgian frontman is another player for whom things fell a bit flat. Lukaku was prolific in the group stage but did not find the back of the net in the crunch clashes. He was, however, instrumental in creating some of Belgium’s chances in these games, without adding to his personal tally. He averaged a goal every 119 minutes, with a total of nine shots and one assist.

Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappé

Antoine Griezmann (L) of France celebrates with team mate Kylian Mbappe after scoring the 1-0 lead from the penalty spot during the FIFA World Cup 2018 round of 16 soccer match between France and Argentina in Kazan, Russia, 30 June 2018. EPA-EFE/DIEGO AZUBEL

Both on four goals, with Griezmann the more ambitious of the pair with 19 shots in total and two assists. Mbappé’s four and his eight shots tells but a fraction of the story. He’s the first teenager to score in a World Cup final since Pele and while he’s shied away from such lofty comparisons, anyone who has watched him at this tournament must be utterly thrilled with what lies ahead.  And as an extra bonus, he can spend the rest of his career without people wondering when or if he’ll ever win a World Cup.

The flops and what-could have-beens

Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal reacts during the FIFA World Cup 2018 group B preliminary round soccer match between Iran and Portugal in Saransk, Russia, 25 June 2018. EPA-EFE/RUNGROJ YONGRIT

Ronaldo announced his arrival at the World Cup with a hat-trick against Spain. Briefly, and provided the rest of his team pulled their socks (or shorts) up, it looked like the 33-year old might eclipse Fontaine. But a combination of his team-mates not being much use and Portugal’s early departure meant Ronaldo would add just one more to his total. He averaged a goal every 90 minutes with 12 shots on goal.

Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi of Argentina leaves the pitch after the FIFA World Cup 2018 round of 16 soccer match between France and Argentina in Kazan, Russia, 30 June 2018. France won 4-3. EPA-EFE/ROBERT GHEMENT

Argentina’s World Cup will be remembered for all the wrong reasons: an early exit, Maradona’s bizarre behaviour and Messi missing a penalty while generally missing the back of the net. The Barcelona maestro finished the 2018 tournament with just one goal to his name and chances are you probably can’t even remember when or how he scored it. Messi is just too nice for international football. He’d rather pass the ball around, creating space and chances for others than fire willy-nilly shots at goal.

Mohamed Salah

Mohamed Salah of Egypt reacts during the FIFA World Cup 2018 group A preliminary round soccer match between Russia and Egypt in St.Petersburg, Russia, 19 June 2018. EPA-EFE/GEORGI LICOVSKI

Joining the club of playing in a team that just doesn’t do you justice, Salah scored Egypt’s only two goals at the tournament. Prolific as he was for Liverpool in the Premier League and Champions League, the 26-year-old had no support to help him replicate his domestic efforts at international level. Nice guys do finish last, it turns out.

Honourable mentions

Yerry Mina

Yerry Mina of Colombia reacts after scoring the 1-0 during the FIFA World Cup 2018 group H preliminary round soccer match between Senegal and Colombia in Samara, Russia, 28 June 2018. EPA-EFE/WALLACE WOON

The bane of stoppage time’s existence, the Colombian scored all three of his goals at the tournament after the 90th minute – once altering the result (against Senegal) and once (against England) very nearly doing so. A little less Thuma Mina and more toemaar, Mina.

Felipe Baloy

Felipe Baloy (C-R) of Panama celebrates his goal with teammates during the FIFA World Cup 2018 group G preliminary round soccer match between England and Panama in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, 24 June 2018. EPA-EFE/FRANCK ROBICHON

At 37-years-old, Baloy (no South African connection) was the oldest scorer at the 2018 World Cup. He made history by scoring Panama’s first goal at a global showpiece.

The French defenders

In a universe far, far away, there is an award dedicated to defenders who find the back of the net. Three of Les Bleus’ goals at the tournament came from their defenders. Not a bad shift when you’ve also got to keep the clean sheets. DM


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