Will History Repeat Itself at the World Cup? Using the History of the Golden Boot to Predict This Year's Winner

By Paloma Mertel | November 18, 2022

With Qatar fast approaching, it once again opens the opportunity for goalscorers to reach for the coveted World Cup Golden Boot and begs the question of whose name will join the list of greats as the 2022 World Cup Golden Boot winner.

I have analyzed every top scorer in the World Cup since 1930 to see what factors are responsible for creating a Golden Boot winner and used them to aid me in predicting who I think may take home the award from Qatar.

But first, a brief history lesson on the award. Being a top scorer at the world cup did not have an official title from the start of the tournament in 1930 until Spain 1982 when the title was coined the golden shoe. This title remained until 2010 when the award was given the more on-theme name we know and use today.

Across the 27 players and 21 tournaments that the award has been won at, nobody has matched the goals scored by Just Fontaine for France in Sweden 1983. Throughout six games, Fontaine scored 13 times, a number that only Hungarian Sándor Kocsis has come close to achieving, with 11 goals in Switzerland in 1954.

The smallest goal haul that has ever won the Golden Boot is four, which was reached by six players in Chile in 1962. This tie resulted in the award being split between all six players, which has only happened one other time. During USA 1994, Russia's Salenko and Bulgaria's Hristo Stoichkov scored six times and took home the Golden Boot, resulting in a new rule for separating Golden Boot candidates. This rule specified that players tied for most goals in the tournament would be designated by who scored the fewest number of penalties, who had the most assists, and, if necessary, who played the fewest minutes.

This rule was used in South Africa in 2010 to decide between Germany's Thomas Muller, Spain's David Villa, the Netherland's Wesley Sneijder, and Uruguay's Diego Forlan, who all scored five goals throughout the tournament. Muller ended up taking home the boot due to his three assists.

A distinct trend I noticed in Golden Boot winners is their youth. In fact, only one player over 30 has ever taken home the boot. The oldie in question was Croatia's Davor Suker, who scored six goals in France 1998, five months after his 30th birthday. The youngest player to take home the award was one of 1962's 6-way winners Hungary's Florian Albert, who was 20 years and eight months old at the time.

Brazil, who leads the pack in World Cup wins, also has the most Golden Boot winners, the five of them being Leonidas (1938), Ademir (1950), Garrincha and Vava (both 1962), and Ronaldo (2002). Germany follows Brazil with three winners, and besides Russia, Italy, Hungary, England, and Argentina, who each have two winners, every other nation has one winner or less.

Winners of this award are also rarely created at home, with only four Golden Boot winners doing so in a home World Cup and (respectfully) judging by Qatar's leading forwards, Afif and Ali, I do not think this is the year we see a change in this trend.

An important factor in winning a Golden Boot is experience in playing for one's country. Experience is so crucial to taking home this award that the only player to win the World Cup Golden Boot without previously playing for their country was Argentina's Stabile, the first-ever World Cup top scorer at Uruguay 1930.

On average, Golden Boot Winners have scored 11 times for their country pre-tournament. Ronaldo (2002) and Sandor Kocsis (1954) are tied for the lead in this record with 37 goals. Ronaldo also had the most experience playing for his country, going into a Golden Boot-winning World Cup with 57 caps in 2002. However, experience with one's country does not necessarily mean scoring goals for them pre-World Cup. Schillaci (1990), Salenko (1994), and Muller (2010) had never scored for their country before taking home the boot in their respective tournaments.

When considering a Golden Boot winner, a player's performance in a league season leading up to the World Cup is also important. In fact, since 1966, only three boot winners have scored less than 10 points playing for their clubs. The two most distinct of these players were 2002 Ronaldo, who was heavily impacted by an injury, and Palo Rossi, who was coming off of a two-year ban due to a betting scandal.

A significant factor in weeding through possible Golden Boot winners is their team's distance in the tournament because the more games they play, the more opportunities the player has to score. The only Golden Boot winner whose team did not get out of the group stage was Russia's Salenko, who scored five out of his six tournament goals in one game.

So who do I think will win the Golden Boot?

It looks like the Golden Boot will probably go to a player who is on a team likely to make it to the quarter-finals, is of 30 years or younger, is in the top four of their league, and has at least 22 caps and 11 goals for their country and has been scoring well for their club. Here is a list of the top 10 contenders for the boot under these conditions.

Player Country Age Caps/Goals Club POS (position of shot on goal for 22/23)
Lautaro Martinez Argentina 25 40/21 5
Kylian Mbappe France 23 59/28 1
Serge Gnabry Germany 27 36/20 1
Leroy Sane Argentina 26 47/11 5
Harry Kane England 29 75/51 4
Neymar Brazil 30 121/75 1
Alvaro Morata Spain 30 57/27 5
Richarlison Brazil 25 38/17 4
Andre Silva Portugal 27 51/19 3
Memphis Depay Netherlands 28 81/42 2

Under these conditions, I believe that Lautaro Martinez is the best for taking home the Golden Boot from Qatar. He is in the ideal age range for a golden boot winner (24-25), has plenty of caps and goals for the current tournament favorite Argentina, and has been performing well for his club.

This list is missing some probable contenders, most notably Messi. The 35-year-old Argentian captain has already announced that this will be his final World Cup, and while he has a shot at being the first player to do the Golden Boot & Golden Ball double since Schiallci, I don't think it's likely. To take home the boot, he would have to perform better than Argentina's other goalscorer, Martinez, in the knockout round of the championship, which he has never scored a goal during.

Under these conditions, I believe that Lautaro Martinez is the best for taking home the Golden Boot from Qatar. He is in the ideal age range for a golden boot winner (24-25), has plenty of caps and goals for Argentina, and has been performing well for his club. Because Argentina is a heavy favorite to become champion next month in Qatar, according to DraftKings, I think that Martinez will have plenty of opportunities to secure the 2022 World Cup Golden Boot.


Does MLB Have an Umpire Problem?

By CJ Lu Sing | November 11, 2022

Any baseball player will attest that, at least once in their playing career, a home plate umpire made an egregious call that soured their mood for the rest of the game. With their unique responsibility of calling balls and strikes for every pitch, baseball’s home plate umpires are more involved in gameplay than almost any other official in professional sports.

Consequently, MLB’s home plate umpires are closely scrutinized universally by teams, the league, and the fans. For example, blown calls, like a called strike three inches off the plate, with the potential to drastically change a game’s outcome, regularly provoke public outcry across the country. With the increased presence of pitch tracking technology, these mistakes are made obvious to everyone from fans at home to Commissioner Rob Manfred.