2014 World Cup top goalscorer prediction

The top goalscorer market is one of the most popular betting markets at the World Cup. With the stars of international football on display, you can pick from dozens of the finest players in the world, often at excellent odds. While you can get great value on the top goalscorer market at the World Cup, the huge variety of class players on offer makes picking a winning bet tricky.

We’re going to look at the trends and factors that have influenced which players have won the Golden Boot in the last five World Cup tournaments, and use this information to identify the players who will offer you the most value in the 2014 World Cup top goalscorer betting markets.

Past Trends

Before going any further we need to consider if any trends have emerged in the last five editions of the tournament that can help us identify the top goalscorer.

Number of goals scored

A review of the stats shows that the average number of goals scored by the top goalscorer over the last five World Cups has been six goals. Four of these saw the top scorer/s score between five and six goals, while Ronaldo put away eight goals at the 2002 World Cup.

The top goalscorer position was shared at only two of these tournaments, with two players achieving six goals at the 1994 World Cup while four players scored five goals at the 2010 World Cup.

Matches played

A more revealing trend that has emerged during the last five tournaments is that every single top goalscorer has played in the maximum number of matches (seven) at the tournament. This means that playing for a team that will reach the semifinals – and therefore the final or 3rd place playoff – is a key factor to take into consideration when placing a bet on this market.

A very important factor to take into account here is how fit and/or injury prone your selection is. While a player’s team might play the full number of matches at the tournament, an injury early on in the event will cause you to instantly lose your top scorer bet.

Player position

Finally, player position needs to be considered. Along with the world’s best strikers, some great attacking midfielders and wings will be in action at the 2014 World Cup. While these players do put away goals at World Cups, the stats show that strikers are the best players to back as eight of the nine top goalscorers in the last five tournaments have played in this position – with just one attacking midfielder emerging as a top scorer (the player in question being German midfielder, Thomas Muller, at the 2010 World Cup).

Key factors

We now know that our selection should be a striker from a team that you back to at least reach the tournament semifinals. However, there are some important factors to take into account before you decide which player you’ll be backing at the 2014 World Cup.

Squad strength

The overall strength of the forwards is going to have an influence on how your selection does at the World Cup. While it’s tempting to just back the best players from the best teams, you need to keep in mind that the most competitive teams usually field more than one star striker.

So, for example, at the 2013 Confederations Cup the top Brazilian goalscorer was not the obvious candidate, Neymar, but was his teammate Fred. In fact four Brazilians scored two or more goals during the five matches it took Brazil to win the title.

No matter how good your striker is, if he’s paired with another equally good player he’s going to end up sharing the scoring and his goal count will suffer. In a tournament like the World Cup a star striker may end up making more goal assists than scoring shots, particularly if paired with another class player.

Additionally, a manager with multiple strikers is more likely to rest his star players during the tournament, or limit their game time, which will affect how much time they have to get goals on the board. With this in mind it’s worth keeping an eye on teams where one player dominates the strike, or where the coach is likely to use a single striker as part of his game plan.

Opposition defence

The group stages of the World Cup are critical in determining which player will emerge as the top scorer. During this round strikers will have the best opportunities to exploit the defences of significantly weaker teams, and score multiple goals in a single fixture.

You therefore need to consider the overall defensive strength of the teams your player will confront during the group stages. Being positioned in a group with stingy defences will handicap even the finest striker, while loose defences can open up the possibilities for less fancied players from weaker teams.

In our World Cup winner prediction we identified twelve teams that we think have an authentic chance of reaching the semifinals of the World Cup. In the list below you’ll find each of these teams along with the average number of goals their three group opponents conceded during all qualifying matches for the 2014 World Cup.

Group defence analysis
Team Group Group defence average
England D 1.01
Spain B 0.97
Holland B 0.93
Portugal G 0.87
France E 0.85
Germany G 0.85
Italy D 0.85
Brazil A 0.75
Belgium G 0.72
Uruguay D 0.68
Colombia C 0.65
Argentina F 0.58

A clear picture emerges from this table. England, Spain and the Netherlands are all going to benefit significantly from playing against weaker defences in the group stage, while strikers from Argentina, Colombia, Uruguay, Belgium and Brazil will have their work cut out for them.

Strike rate

Measuring player strike rates in international football is an important part of determining who the top scoring strikers at the tournament are likely to be.

Strike rates tell you both how often your player is likely to score goals regularly, and how good their chemistry with their international players is (a star striker for a club may struggle to bring their form to the international stage and vise-versa).

Finally, you can use strike rates to distinguish between world class strikers and decent quality strikers – which will give you an idea of whether or not your selection will end up sharing the strike with a player of comparable quality.

For the purpose of this analysis we consider a ‘world class’ striker to be a player with a strike rate of 0.4 or above (i.e. an average of 0.4 goals a game, or a goal scored for every 2.5 international games played).

Putting it all together

Now that we’ve considered the factors that are likely to affect which player will emerge as top scorer at the 2014 World Cup let’s put it all together.

In the table below we list the twelve teams we think can reach the semifinals, the strikers with strike rates of over 0.4 (if no single player has this strike rate we list the player with the next highest rate) and the strength of the defences they’ll be up against in the group stages.

Topscorer analysis
Team Group Defence Player Gls/game Player Gls/game Player Gls/game
England 1.01 Rooney 0.43 Sturridge 0.74*
Spain 0.97 Villa 0.58 Negredo 0.47
Holland 0.93 v. Persie 0.5 Huntelaar 0.56
Portugal 0.87 Ronaldo 0.43 Postigo 0.4
France 0.85 Benzema 0.23
Germany 0.85 Klose 0.52 Gomez 0.42
Italy 0.85 Balotelli 0.41
Brazil 0.75 Neymar 0.58 Fabiano 0.62 Fred 0.53
Belgium 0.72 Benteke 0.35
Uruguay 0.68 Hernandez 0.63
Colombia 0.65 Falcao 0.4
Argentina 0.58 Messi 0.44 Higuain 0.6 Aguero 0.42

The first thing that this table indicates is that four of the five favourites in the top goalscorer betting markets (Messi, Neymar, Fred and Aguero) are going to have to work hard to score goals. All four of these players is in a strong defensive group, and each of them is in a team with two or more world class strikers.

So which players will enjoy a combination of weak defensive opponents in the group stage, plus absence of competition for the strike?

England’s Daniel Sturridge stands out as the best positioned player to capitalize on which group his side is located. While Sturridge’s international scoring rate is just 0.3, he’s had little exposure to the international stage. Meanwhile he’s been outstanding in the Premier League for Liverpool this season, where he’s had a strike rate of 0.74 goals per game. Not only is the injury-prone Wayne Rooney’s star on the decline, but Sturridge already has fluent combinations in place with England’s Liverpool-based midfielders – making him perfectly positioned to treat himself to a goal banquet during the group stage of the World Cup.

Meanwhile Colombia’s Falcao is also the standout striker in his squad, while Mario Balotelli will have the Lion’s share of the strike for his side. However, both of these players are in tough defensive groups, and neither can yet be considered truly world class – as their proximity to the lower end of the qualifying strike rate suggests.

Therefore it’s worth also taking a look at teams with two star strikers in relatively weak defensive groups. The players who immediately stand out are Spain’s David Villa (80/1 at BetVictor), Holland’s Robin van Persie (25/1 at Bet365) and Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo (14/1 at Paddy Power).

Of these three players, Cristiano Ronaldo is arguably your best bet because he’s accustomed to dominating attacks staffed by other world class strikers – as he’s demonstrated at Real Madrid.

Robin van Persie’s struggled with his form leading up to the World Cup – and has competition for the strike from Huntelaar – but nevertheless should deliver the goods when he links up with the superb Dutch midfield. David Villa must be nearing the end of his career, but he was in stellar form for Atletico Madrid this season and played a major role in helping them win the La Liga title, so at a price of 66/1 at Bet365 can’t be ignored.

2014 World Cup top scorer betting tip

Using our analysis above we’ve been able to narrow down the most likely contenders for top scorer to 21 players. Of these, four appear to be favoured by the draw and their prominence as strikers in their teams.

With the exception of Cristiano Ronaldo, our selections depart radically from the betting markets, which appear to have been based on player reputation. From our point of view this has resulted in some of the best contenders for top goalscorer being overpriced, and offering excellent value.

Our 2014 World Cup top scorer betting tip is to place each-way bets of equal value on Daniel Sturridge, Cristiano Ronaldo, Robin van Persie and David Villa.

If just one of these players finishes the tournament ranked amongst the top four scorers you’ll earn an overall profit from your bets, and if one of these selections also finishes at top scorer you’ll score a handsome payout.

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