The World Cup is a tough competition. A lot goes into winning one, everything ranging from politics to teamwork, the whole globe looks forward to a group of selective individuals who are picked to represent their countries on the biggest stage of all. Winning a World Cup is easier said than done, and hence individuals often resort to personal glory in the cup.
The tournament has historically served as a platform for players to announce themselves to the world. Good performances in the Cup can literally make or break a player's future in the long term. One of the most recent examples is that of Pogba. The Frenchman expressed his skills to the world during the 2014 World Cup, and shortly after that demolished all financial records by signing for Manchester United.
There are a few trophies at stake in the World Cup. The Golden Ball is out of the reach of many players, as it is decided by an expert jury and advancements through the knockout stages is more or less a prerequisite to being named as the tournament's best player. The Best Young Player and Golden Glove awards are restricted to only a small set of all players, and hence, the only individual trophy that can be won solely by performances on the pitch is The Golden Boot, which is awarded to the Cup's leading scorer.
#4: Antoine Griezmann (France)
The Frenchman had a fantastic season with Atletico Madrid. With six goals, Griezmann finished at least three goals ahead of his nearest competition in the 2016 Euro Finals. He was also announced as the Player of the Tournament. Although France missed out on the Euro trophy, Griezmann had a breakthrough as an individual.
France arrives in Russia in peak condition. They are among the favorites to lift the trophy in Moscow on July 15 and Griezmann is more or less destined to start every match for the national side. France share a relatively easy group with Australia, Peru, and Denmark and it won't be tough for Les Bleus to make it to the knockouts.
The forward is a perfect balance of youthfulness and experience, and so is the French squad traveling to Russia. Alongside Griezmann, France boast young and talented forwards Mbappe and Dembele. Hence, scoring goals, at least, shouldn't be a problem for them.
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#3: Thomas Muller (Germany)
He may not be the most prolific forwards of the generation but Muller knows his way around defences and goalkeepers. The key to the Golden Boot in knockout competitions like the World Cup is essentially having an easy group and a reliable side which can advance to at least the last eight.
The Germans have an easy group as they share places with Mexico, Sweden, and Korea Republic. Mexico are the only real threat to the Germans but still, Die Mannschaft are expected to advance to the knockout stages and even win the title.
As the saying goes, a weak German side goes to the World Cup final and a strong one wins the title; 2018's Germany may not be as flashy as the 2014 winning side but they still have the abilities to at least make it to the final four stage. In the journey, Muller would have countless opportunities to score goals and recreate his 2010 campaign, where he scored 5 goals and won the Golden Boot. Thomas Muller also lifted the Silver Boot in Brazil alongside the Jules Rimet Trophy.
#2: Leo Messi (Argentina)
Although the little Argentine may not be thinking about individual recognition at the moment, he is one of the strongest contented to lead the goalscoring charts in Russia. In what will be his last International duty for Argentina, Messi's sole focus is to lift the trophy, although he himself accepts the facts that his country aren't favorites this time and everyone shall accept the same. As if Messi needs any more individual fame, a Golden Boot in the World Cup could complete his collection of World Cup Individual Awards.
La Pulga lifted the Golden Ball in Brazil as the tournament's best player and could lift the Golden Boot in Russia as the tournament's leading scorer. He scored four in Brazil and could improve upon that tally in Russia. Messi scored seven goals for his nation in the qualifiers and his last-gasp hattrick in Quito is the only reason that a squad from Argentina is traveling to Russia in the first place.
Messi doesn't have the luxury of an easy group like other contenders for the prize, but the little man knows his way around the biggest teams and Argentina would be relying solely upon his services to advance to the knockout stages and even win the World Cup in Moscow.
#1: Neymar Jr. (Brazil)
The Samba Boy, however, catapulted himself among the highest order of football players by scoring four goals in the Cup. In the years to follow, his stature as an individual only improved. Back in 2014, Neymar was still cementing himself among the game's great. He scored four goals for Brazil on domestic soil and was all but set to make a lasting impact on the World Cup as the Canaries cruised past opponents after opponents.
But fate had something else for the Samba boy. Neymar was critically injured in the quarterfinal against Columbia and missed out the semifinal and the third-place match. Brazil eventually faced an embarrassing exit from the World Cup and Neymar was left in tears, and so was the whole nation.
At the peak of his career, at an age of 26, Russia may be Neymar's best chance of winning the World Cup for five-time winners Brazil. Due to an ankle injury in March, Neymar has had more than three full months to prepare for the biggest competition of his life.
"I will have enough time to arrive at the World Cup in good shape and prepare." - Neymar Jr.
Boosting his chances of winning the Golden Boot is Brazil's easy group. The Seleção is set to face Switzerland, Costa Rica and Serbia in the group stages and are more or less expected to extend their stay in Russia from two to four weeks.
Brazil are the clear favorites to win the World Cup this time. Under Tite, they have a well-balanced squad and finished on top of the South American qualifiers, losing just a single game. They scored a whopping 41 goals in the qualifiers, with Neymar scoring six.