Euro 2020: the race for the golden boot

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For the majority of players at Euro 2020, ultimate success this summer will involve winning the Henri Delaunay Trophy on 11th July. But among Europe’s elite band of goalscorers, a significant amount of attention will undoubtedly be fixed on the tournament’s foremost individual prize.

With this year’s European Championships tipped to be one of the most competitive major international tournaments in recent memory, the race for the Golden Boot is a tantalising prospect. So, from the front-runners to those on the fringes, here is the full rundown on those vying for the golden boot

Front-runners:

Harry Kane

The Tottenham striker won the same award at the 2018 World Cup with six goals – four of which came from the penalty spot – and there is little reason to doubt him doing the same again.

Kane has been in prolific form alongside strike-partner Son Heung-Min for Spurs this season, scoring 23 goals in 35 appearances and apart from Cristiano Ronaldo and Poland’s Lewandoski, there are few better natural-born finishers than the England captain at this tournament.

If England capitalise on Jack Grealish’s uncanny ability to win set pieces and penalties – on show at the weekend against Romania – and the creativity provided by starlets Phil Foden and Mason Mount, then Kane can certainly hope to emulate his achievements from three years ago.

Romelu Lukaku

The Belgium striker is perhaps the closest challenger to and comes into these Euros off the back of his best season as a professional footballer.  With 24 goals and 11 assists, Lukaku played a vital role in helping Conte’s Inter Milan to their first Serie A title in 10 years.

The 28-year-old is already the Red Devil’s record goalscorer with an astonishing 60 goals in 93 appearances and provides a strong and dynamic focal point to a side already littered with attacking creative talent.

In previous tournaments, Belgium have struggled to gel as a team and put in a string of cohesive performances. Lukaku can only hope to win the Golden Boot if his side go deep into the knock-out stages. Whether that happens remains to be seen, but with this tournament perhaps being the last chance for the so-called ‘golden generation’, the pressure may once again prove too much.

Cristiano Ronaldo

Having recently been touted as the greatest Euros player ever it would be foolish to write off the Portuguese talisman who, despite being 36 years old, is certainly still capable of footballing heroics.

His numbers at Juventus have somewhat stalled in comparison to his performances in a Real Madrid shirt but for Portugal, he is a different animal. He bagged the Silver Boot in 2016 and almost singlehandedly pulled an otherwise mediocre Portugal side into the final in Paris five years ago.

This time he spearheads a promising Portuguese side packed with both experience and youth as he looks to break Michel Platini’s record for most goals at the European Championships. As their penalty taker and free-kick maestro, CR7 certainly has to potential to go one better than he did in 2016.

Underdogs:

The French attacking trio of Kylian Mbappe, Karim Benzema and Antoine Griezmann are all strong candidates for the Golden Boot in their own right.

Mbappe top-scored in Ligue 1 with 27 goals despite being hampered with minor injuries, whilst Benzema has emerged out of Ronaldo’s shadow at Real Madrid as a world-class poacher who can create a goal from nothing. Griezmann’s numbers have not been quite as impressive, but he is the current holder of the Golden Boot having scored six goals in seven appearances in 2016, five of which came in the knockouts.

However, with such a talented and fluid forward line, goals will likely be spread evenly between the trio. As a result, winning the Golden Boot may prove to be more of a challenge for Mbappe and Benzema or Griezmann than some of the talismanic strikers on show for other teams.

It is also worth noting that Benzema’s return from international exile and his discord with Giroud may affect the previously jovial dynamic of Deschamps’ squad and impact on goal-scoring output.

Robert Lewandowski

Despite arguably being the best striker in the world, having netted an incredible 41 goals in 29 Bundesliga Games, Lewandowski is more of an underdog to win the Golden Boot by virtue of the country he plays for. Poland have been very much a ‘nearly side’ at recent international tournaments, having often fallen at the first hurdle depriving Lewandoski of the game-time needed to climb up the goal-scoring charts.

His record of two goals in 11 major tournament matches does not make for good reading and Poland, again, find themselves in a tough group, competing against an unpredictable Spain and a very functional Sweden. If Lewandoski is to challenge for the Golden Boot they must qualify but given the solidity of the teams they face, that is a dubious prospect.

On the fringes:

Burak Yilmaz

The 35-year old forward has had a standout season for Lille, helping them to the Ligue 1 title and becoming the first player to score more than 15 goals in his first season with Lille in ten years. Turkey are in a group that is wide open, and potentially high scoring, so if Yilmaz carries his form from the domestic to the international stage, he could well be an unexpected challenger.

Memphis Depay

The Dutch have had a torrid time at international tournaments of late as the generation that featured in the 2010 World Cup final were phased out. But Depay has had his best goal-scoring season since 2015, finishing second only to Mbappe in Ligue 1 this season, with 20 goals. He has also scored three in his last five appearances for the Netherlands making him a dark horse to win the boot if the Dutch step up and go far.

Ciro Immobile

The Italian striker has gone under the radar somewhat at Lazio, with 150 goals in the last five years. If he replicates that form in an Italian shirt then he could certainly notch up a respectable goal tally. Mancini’s insistence on pairing Immobile with Lorenzo Insigne, however, makes it much harder for Lazio’s talisman to exert a monopoly on Italy’s goals

Timo Werner

Finally, from perhaps the most unpredictable team at the tournament, the German forward certainly has the potential to flourish. He scored with his first touch against Latvia on Monday night but with his diminished returns in a Chelsea shirt well documented and an unfortunate tendency to miss glaring chances, Werner is at the bottom of the pile of Golden boot contenders.

With such quality on show in front of goal this summer, calling who might win the goalscoring contest is a fiendish endeavour. Will Harry Kane scoop his second major international accolade in three years? Could an in-form Romelu Lukaku continue where he left off in Serie A? Or will they both be pipped to the post by someone unexpected?  

A great deal remains to be seen. What is certain, however, is that the race for the Golden Boot will be an exhilarating and intriguing side plot to UEFA’s European festival of football. 

Image: Matthew Carter via Flickr

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