Lionel Messi, Neymar Betting Favorites for World Cup Golden Boot

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Capturing the World Cup’s Golden Boot award for scoring the most goals in the tournament is not linked to being on the winning team, or even being a household name.

Three weeks before the tournament kicks off in Russia, Argentina’s Lionel Messi is a +850 favorite on the World Cup Golden Boot odds with Brazil’s Neymar a narrow second favorite at +900 at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

The award includes all games in the tournament, group and knockout, so it is not surprising that 18 of the 20 recipients of the award have played for a team that finished either first, second or third. Eleven of the 18 played on the third-place team, whose final game typically will have more scoring and less cautious play than the final.

Ronaldo (Brazil, 2002) is the only Golden Boot winner in the last nine World Cups who also played for the winning team.

That history might work against Messi, whose Argentina team is not being given much of a  chance to make a deep run. Neymar is also working his way back from a knee injury, raising concern about how much Brazil will turn him loose, particularly in the group games. Brazil teammate Roberto Firmino (+6600) of Liverpool fame could be worth a darkhorse pick on the Golden Boot betting lines.

Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo (+1200) was second in goals scored at Euro 2016 and his country is likely to make it into the knockout round, although it has to contend with being in the same group as Spain.

The aforementioned “first, second or third” theory likely strikes wagering on England’s Harry Kane (+1600). Germany’s Timo Werner (+1600), whose team is the favorite on the odd to win the World Cup, has a much stronger likelihood of playing a full seven games. Germany typically also plays with only one striker, meaning service from the midfield won’t be split between two forwards.

France and Belgium are each being touted as strong possibilities to be semi-finalists, if not more. Antoine Griezmann (+1400) is the top Les Bleus player on the board, but young Kylian Mbappe (+3300) could have more breakout potential.

Manchester United’s Romelu Lukaku (+2000) has the lowest odds of any Belgium player, but Dries Mertens (+3300) of Napoli in Italy’s Serie A is worth considering as a longshot due to his speed and skill as a winger.

Colombia’s James Rodriguez (+5000) is the reigning Golden Boot winner. No player has ever won twice.

For more odds information, betting picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the OddsShark podcast with Jon Campbell and Andrew Avery. Subscribe on iTunes or listen to it at OddsShark.libsyn.com.