World Cup betting: Man United star set for Golden month

Dave Tickner


While the World Cup winner always comes from a select group of favourites, there’s a bit more scope for a big-price result in the Golden Boot, with plenty of players worth consideration even at three-figure prices.

When it comes to the tournament’s top goalscorer, don’t be afraid to back a couple at fancy prices alongside one of the more favoured names, with Christian Eriksen (80/1), Arek Milik and even Paulinho (both 100/1) all worth a second look for each-way money at least.

There’s one name that stands out among the favourites, though. Romelu Lukaku’s record and Belgium’s kind draw makes him a great 16/1 shot.

Historically, six goals has been enough to get over the line, with Colombia’s James Rodriguez needing only a run to the quarter-finals four years ago to take the prize.

A similarly unfancied winner looks a real chance again this time around, with all the top sides likely to share the goals around.

Lionel Messi is the flakiest of 10/1 shots given his own tournament record for Argentina and their shambolic qualification efforts.

There are two approaches to the big-price selection here: the top player for an unfancied team, or an unfancied player for a top team.

Eriksen is an example of the former. Only Cristiano Ronaldo and Robert Lewandowski scored more goals in European qualification than the Dane, who is coming off the back of another superb season at Tottenham and plays a more advanced role for his country.

Denmark have got a nice draw and should qualify alongside France at the expense of Peru and Australia in Group C. From here, they are seeded to meet Argentina; that’s far from guaranteed given the Albiceleste’s own problems. Suddenly, it could be Croatia or even everyone’s second team Iceland standing between Denmark and the quarter-finals.

Eriksen scored in seven of Denmark’s final nine qualifying games – including a hat-trick in the play-off defeat of the Republic of Ireland – and is a streaky sort of goalscorer who could easily come good at a major tournament.

His 20 goals for club and country last season included runs of four goals in five games and five goals in four games – exactly the sort of numbers we need to see to get significant place money.

From a Spurs star to a Spurs flop now and Paulinho. Still something of a figure of fun in England even after a move to Barcelona, his record for Brazil deserves huge respect.

Only 16/1 chance Gabriel Jesus with seven scored more than Paulinho’s six goals for Brazil in the teak-tough South American qualifying phase, and all six of those goals came in the last eight games of qualification.

Brazil will expect to reach at least the semi-finals, thus securing the maximum seven games, and a player who scored against Russia in March – to go with qualification goals against Chile and Argentina and a hat-trick against Uruguay in Montevideo – could just surprise people once more.

Poland are the least fancied of the seeded sides – a bigger price even than Russia – but should go well enough in a weak section of the draw.

They should negotiate Group H against Colombia, Senegal and Japan safely enough, while neither Belgium nor England should hold any real terrors in the last 16. Lewandowski will be the man most expect to shine – and at 33/1 he’s perfectly backable – but a fit, fresh Milik after his injury woes of the last two years could just be the man to shine at three times the price.

Of the more favoured names, the doubts over their teams means the best two players in the world are swiftly ruled out at short prices, while the likes of Neymar (9/1fav) and Euro 2016 top-scorer Antoine Griezmann (12/1) also look short enough in teams where goals could be shared around.

While we don’t expect Belgium to shed their nearly-men tag in Russia, we do expect them to cruise through Group G. With goal difference potentially crucial ahead of the final group game against England, expect Belgium to go all out for goals against Panama and Tunisia.

They could bag a hatful in those games, and Lukaku will surely be to the fore. The Manchester United striker thumped 11 goals in eight qualifying appearances and will be the focal point of an attack that oozes quality. Eden Hazard (six goals in qualification) is another worth considering for all the same reasons.

Finally, Uruguay could bag plenty of goals in the easiest group alongside Russia, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, making either Edinson Cavani or Luis Suarez potentially attractive at 20/1 and 25/1 respectively. Cavani was the stronger performer in qualifying, outscoring Suarez 10 to five, but the Barcelona man is likely to get penalty duties.

Lukaku and Eriksen are also both worth considering to be the top Premier League goalscorer in Russia at 7/1 and 25/1 respectively in an open market where Harry Kane looks a very fragile 6/1 favourite.