With the league season drawing to a close, the upcoming festivities in South America are creeping onto the horizon, and with a little over two months to go until the first ball is kicked, fans worldwide are beginning to discuss which individuals will be immortalised in the annuls of footballing history this summer.
The likes of Pele, Gerd Muller, Roberto Baggio, and (the real) Ronaldo have been revered for their stunning exploits in front of goal over the years, with the World Cup pushing club heroes onto new levels of greatness.
But who will be the standout striker of Brazil 2014? When considering World Cup betting, there is no harder, yet exciting area to cover than ‘top scorer’, with some of the greatest players to have ever lived set to battle it out this summer. Check out this top 5 of potential candidates for the crown:
1. Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal
Real Madrid demi-god Ronaldo can do no wrong in front of goal it seems, scoring 44 times in just 40 games for the Spanish giants so far this season.
His form for Portugal in the World Cup qualifying stage has also been exemplary, with the 29-year-old bagging eight goals, including all four in his side’s triumph over Sweden in the play-offs.
Although Portugal’s all-time top scorer, before you place your World Cup bets, remember that Ronaldo has not been prolific in previous tournaments, scoring only the one goal in South Africa 2010.
He will have his work cut out this time around, with Germany, Ghana and the United States awaiting Portugal in Group B.
If Ronaldo is to be top scorer, much depends on Portugal’s ability to traverse the group, with previous Golden Boot winners needing a run of games to rack up considerable tallies.
2. Luis Suarez, Uruguay
Liverpool’s man of the moment, Suarez, has been nothing short of sensational this season, and has led his side to within touching distance of a first Premier League title since 1990.
The 27-year-old’s goal in the 4-0 win over Tottenham on the weekend took him to 29 goals for the season, while he is also Uruguay’s record goalscorer with 38 goals.
With England, Italy and Costa Rica in Group D, Suarez will have to be on the top of his game to help Uruguay qualify for the second round.
The striker had a decent return of three goals from the seven games played in the last World Cup in 2010, and if Uruguay live up their growing reputation, Suarez could be on course to grab top spot in the goal-scoring charts in South America.
3. Radamel Falcao, Colombia
While we may be preoccupied with football World Cup betting, serious doubts hang over whether Colombian super-striker Falcao will be fit enough to even participate this summer, having injured his anterior cruciate ligament while playing for Monaco back in January.
Despite the damage sustained, he and football fans worldwide have not given up hope, with the 28-year-old reportedly recovering well, and set to make a dramatic recovery in time for the start of the tournament.
If he does play, then he will be one of the favourites for the Golden Boot, having been so prolific for club and country over the past few years.
The £50m-man was Colombia’s top scorer in World Cup qualifying with nine goals, and if he is fit in time, Falcao could terrorize Greece, Ivory Coast and Japan in Group C.
4. Daniel Sturridge, England
Rampant for Liverpool, like his teammate Suarez, England’s Daniel Sturridge goes into his first major international tournament in red hot form.
Averaging almost a goal a game for the Reds, the 24-year-old will be one to watch in Brazil.
In Sturridge, England have a proven match-winner on their hands, and if he can strike up a partnership with Wayne Rooney, his goals could guide the Three Lions out of a difficult Group D, and to the World Cup Golden Boot.
5. Lionel Messi, Argentina
This list is certainly not in order, as putting Barcelona’s Leo Messi at the bottom of any list would be a travesty.
Along with Ronaldo, Messi is among the best players to have ever graced the game, and his goal-scoring exploits at club level have been nothing short of extraordinary.
But he has flattered to deceive on the international stage in comparison, with doubts emerging over Messi’s ability to play in a different team makeup to that of his Catalan club.
This summer is the very best stage to finally dispel the whispers, and if Argentina can get into their groove, then Messi will surely be heavily among the goals.