Dave Tindall takes a look at which Premier League stars can challenge for the Golden Boot at Euro 2016 – and finds value in two often-criticised players.
Harry Kane (England)
Record for England: 5 goals in 12 appearances
Goals in qualifying: 3
Last 4 internationals: 0-0-1-0
Kane won the Premier League Golden Boot after scoring 25 times for Spurs so can he repeat the feat with England and be Euro 2016’s top scorer? It’s been a meteoric rise for the Tottenham star and he’s made a good start to his international career with a goal v Lithuania on debut and four more since, including the first in England’s dramatic 3-2 fightback win in Germany. One concern is how much he has left in the tank after a long season with Spurs. Kane looked fatigued and failed to score a single goal in last summer’s European U21 Championships so hopefully Mauricio Pochettino has improved his fitness levels rather than run him into the ground. Also, hopefully Roy Hodgson will play him right down the middle and stop him taking free-kicks and corners. Get in the box Harry!
Olivier Giroud (France)
Record for France: 17 goals in 49 appearances
Goals in qualifying: 0
Last 4 internationals: 2-1-0-1
Giroud is a 1 in 3 man at international level but has dramatically improved that strike-rate in recent times. In the four friendlies France have played in 2016, the Arsenal striker has bagged 4 goals – a brace against Scotland last time and singles in the wins over Cameroon and Holland. Stretching back further he’s plundered 7 goals in his last 7 games for France and, crucially, appears to have cemented the central striking role, pushing Atletico Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann out wide. Giroud, who ended the domestic season with a hat-trick against Aston Villa, has an unexpected but golden opportunity to be the main man for Les Bleus this summer with Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema not in the squad.
Romelu Lukaku (Belgium)
Record for Belgium: 12 goals in 44 appearances
Goals in qualifying: 0
Last 4 internationals: 1-1-1-1
Like Giroud, Lukaku didn’t manage a single goal in qualifying but appears to have come to the boil at the perfect time. With Christian Benteke falling out of favour at Liverpool and subsequently the national team, Lukaku has been given his chance and taken it. Belgium have played four friendlies in 2016 and the Everton striker has scored in all of them – v Portugal, Switzerland, Finland and Norway. Toffees fans will know he scores in bursts (he netted in 8 straight games across November and December and then ended another hot spell of 6 in 6 by failing to score in any of Everton’s final 10 matches). He’s certainly back in amongst the goals now and, with Belgium tipped to go far into the tournament, Lukaku has a chance of really putting himself in the shop window and adding several millions to his transfer fee.
Wayne Rooney (England)
Record for England: 52 goals in 111 appearances
Goals in qualifying: 7
Last 4 internationals: 0-1-1-0
It’s 12 long years since Rooney burst onto the international scene by scoring four times in the group stages at Euro 2004. Comparisons to the then shiny new golden boy of English football are unfavourable but the modern-day Rooney still knows how to bang them in. Now England’s record all-time scorer with 52 goals, he was their leading marksman in qualifying with 7 and has scored 5 in 7 since last summer, including 2 in his last 3. Roy Hodgson still sees him as a potent attacking threat rather than ready to be moved back into midfield and he’ll be England’s first-choice penalty taker. In what looks a fairly modest group, Rooney has an obvious chance to add to his already vast international goal tally.
Jamie Vardy (England)
Record for England: 3 goals in 10 appearances
Goals in qualifying: 0
Last 4 internationals: 0-1-1-1
Critics will say that Vardy is a ball-over-the-top, one-trick pony and not good enough for international football but the early evidence suggests he can make an impact for England – if played in the right position. After failing to register in his first six games, the Leicester striker has netted in 3 straight matches with goals against Germany, Holland and Turkey. He came on as a sub against Germany and that might be his role to begin with – Vardy the likely fall-guy from Roy Hodgson’s experiment to try and play him in an attacking three (the reality was he ended up as a tracking-back left winger) with Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney against Portugal. After firing Leicester to title glory, there really is someone waving a magic wand somewhere if he wins this summer’s Golden Boot too.
Eden Hazard (Belgium)
Record for Belgium: 13 goals in 65 appearances
Goals in qualifying: 5
Last 4 internationals: 1-0-0-0
Even when he was sleepwalking through games with Chelsea, Hazard was still making an impact for Belgium and found the net in four straight qualifiers across September and October before finally bothering to score his first domestic goal in January. After ending the season with 4 in 5 for his club, Hazard nodded in another international goal in the 3-2 win over Norway on Sunday so looks primed to play a starring role for the Belgians this summer. He was their joint-leading scorer in qualifying and in the last 12 months has bagged 6 goals in 10 games for his country.
Anthony Martial (France)
Record for France: 0 goals in 9 appearances
Goals in qualifying: 0
Last 4 internationals: 0-0-0-0
These are early days for Martial at international level and the 20-year-old still hasn’t managed a goal in 9 games for France since making his debut in a 1-0 win over Portugal last September. But, having watched him excite for Manchester United this season and fire in 11 goals in 31 matches, the bookies are giving him respect in the Golden Boot market; in fact some are quoting him at just 20/1 to emerge as top scorer. That seems very short given that he’s unlikely to start but if Martial makes an impact off the bench he could play a more prominent part as the tournament goes on.
The usual recipe for backing a Golden Boot winner is finding an in-form striker who has shown he can score regularly at this level, plays for a team likely to go deep into the tournament and, ideally, has a chance to fill his scoring boots in an easy group.
It also helps if they’re fresh, perhaps after missing a part of the season through injury or being benched. It certainly worked for Milan Baros in 2004 and Ronaldo (the Brazil one) in World Cup 2002 when both topped the scoring charts after injury lay-offs earlier that season.
Certainly, all the above would apply to Olivier Giroud. He was regularly benched for the Gunners this season but is in a rich vein of form for France and the hosts have one of the easiest groups, taking on Switzerland, Romania and Albania.
Back the Arsenal striker, who may have a point to prove if Jamie Vardy is on his way to The Emirates, each-way at 16/1.
Harry Kane is also a 16/1 shot and could thrive with England up against Russia, Wales and Slovakia.
But, at the odds, I prefer Wayne Rooney at 40/1.
However you spin it, Rooney’s scoring numbers are better than Kane’s at this level.
Kane has 5 in 12 starts for England; Rooney has 9 in his last 12 international games.
The three build-up friendlies? Kane scored 1 in 3; Rooney 1 in 2.
Quite simply, Roy Hodgson loves Wayne Rooney and will move others about to accommodate him. Add in Rooney taking spot-kicks and he’s the value at nearly three times the price of Kane.
The freshness factor could also be significant. Kane played 3,370 minutes of helter-skelter Premier League action this season compared to Rooney’s 2,409 and Giroud’s 2,425. Missing exactly two months of action between February and April will definitely give Rooney more pep in his step.
Just 3 goals would have been enough for an each-way payout in the last 5 Euro finals (it would have actually tied for top spot in 2012) but the expansion to 24 teams and an extra game might increase that to 4 this time.
Rooney and Giroud are both capable of hitting that mark.
I quite like the look of Romelu Lukaku (16/1) and Eden Hazard (40/1) although the goals may be shared around by Belgium, with Kevin De Bruyne just as likely to chip in with a few too.
Back Olivier Giroud each-way to be Euro 2016 Top Goalscorer at 16/1 (Betbright, Sportingbet)
Back Wayne Rooney each-way to be Euro 2016 Top Goalscorer at 40/1 (General)