Football World Cup 2018 Golden Ball, Boot & Glove Favourites
On 14 June, FIFA World Cup 2018 will begin, and 32 teams will compete for the title of World Champions, providing an opportunity to see the great players of the world pitting their skills against one another. The three major awards which recognise individual performances at the World Cup are: the Golden Ball for the 'best player'; the Golden Boot for the top scorer; and the Golden Glove for the 'best goalkeeper'. Odds are already being published for the Golden Boot: for the other awards, they will be available later. Who is likely to be the early favourite?
Golden Ball Odds – Favourites & Tips
In 2014, Lionel Messi won this award, and the diminutive maestro will be among the favourites again this time, although Argentina qualified unconvincingly and their lack of form may hold him back. Cristiano Ronaldo is always likely to make an impact, and Portugal, as European Champions, may be better placed than usual to give him a platform upon which to perform. Perhaps the value bet among the obvious favourites would be Neymar, who has continued to blossom at PSG. He will be under less pressure than in 2014 when he was essentially expected to carry a mediocre Brazilian team in front of their expectant fans, and he may flourish in Russia.
There are a few other players who could make a big impact in Russia, and who could be worthwhile bets for the Golden Ball winner. Antoine Griezmann was the star of Euro 2016, and as part of an improving French squad could thrive at the World Cup. English fans will be familiar with the many qualities of Manchester City’s seemingly unstoppable Kevin de Bruyne – if Belgium’s golden generation can do themselves justice, de Bruyne could be the star of the tournament. Uruguay actually have two serious contenders: Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani. If the two great strikers can combine well, they could turn an average squad into a genuine force, which in turn could bring individual recognition. Thomas Muller and Toni Kroos are quality players who might benefit from being part of a strong German team.
What about some real underdogs? Harry Kane is increasingly respected on the world stage, but he needs England to perform to have a chance of individual recognition. Robert Lewandowski has a similar issue with Poland. Paul Pogba’s ability is unquestioned, but will he produce the consistency needed?
Golden Boot Odds – Favourites & Tips
Messi is the early favourite to be top scorer at 10/1. He is genuinely prolific, but he will be tightly marked at the World Cup, and Argentina may not go as far as they would like.
Neymar is perhaps a better bet at 14/1. Brazil scored more than double the amount of goals Argentina managed in qualification, which indicates that Neymar is not their only threat, and suggests that there will be less pressure on him than there will be on Messi.
At 20/1 there are two Germans, Thomas Muller and Timo Werner. Muller is a very experienced player who won the Golden Boot in 2010 and was runner-up in 2014, so it is unlikely he will be too far away this time, as the Germans normally play as many matches as anyone. Young striker Werner would be a gamble, but this could be his moment.
Griezmann is also 20/1. His chances probably depend upon how the rather unpredictable French perform as a team, but if they can give him the service he will get goals. A similar argument probably applies to Ronaldo, another 20/1 shot. If he feels he needs to do it all himself, he will struggle, but if the Portuguese play well we all know what he can do.
The final player at 20/1 is Gabriel Jesus of Manchester City, another Brazilian. He will get plenty of chances if the opposition becomes preoccupied with Neymar!
There are plenty of possible long-shots. Kane and Suarez are 25/1, Lewandowski and Cavani are both 33/1, Mohamed Salah is 50/1, and Sadio Mane is 66/1. The 2014 winner James Rodriguez is also currently 66/1. For any of these players, if their team performs, they could really shine.
Golden Glove – Favourites and Tips
The obvious favourite for this award is the German captain and 2014 winner Manuel Neuer. If he is fully fit, it is hard to see anyone else winning the award, given his quality and the solidity of the defence in front of him. Neuer has, however, been sidelined with a broken foot, the third time he has suffered such an injury: any further setbacks could mean that he may not be at his peak in Russia.
Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois has long been recognised as one of the world’s best, but with Belgium failing to make the expected impact at the big tournaments he has not achieved a similar profile to Neuer. Nonetheless, if things come together for Belgium they could go a long way, and Courtois could emphasise his quality sufficiently to skew the voting in his favour.
David de Gea is probably playing as well as he ever has for Manchester United. He has athleticism, presence and good handling. With Spain always looking solid at the back, he could be a big part of a potentially successful campaign.
2016 Premier League winner Kasper Schmeichel will be playing in his first World Cup for Denmark. Whilst the Danes are not among the pre-tournament favourites, they are a well-organised team with one or two quality players. A good run for the Danes could showcase Schmeichel’s quality – he will certainly have more opportunity to make saves than Neuer or de Gea!
Brazil’s Alisson Becker may be another contender for the Golden Glove, although the form of Manchester City’s Ederson may have him worrying about his place in the team.