Mike Gibbons


 
Mike Gibbons is an aspiring young journalist from the UK who has followed the World Cup with passion from an early age. He will share his views about the past, present and future of this event.

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Miroslav Klose and his head of gold



    As I write there is perhaps no other player at the World Cup having a better time than the new German wunderkind (okay so he’s 24, but that’s young for Germany) and new striking sensation Miroslav Klose. With his hat trick of headers against the hapless Saudi Arabians and another sweet glance of the forehead against the Republic of Ireland, he has rocketed to the top of the World Cup goalscoring chart, two ahead of any of his nearest rivals already. Granted he has played one more game than nearly all other strikers have, but to be on four already is still an impressive achievement.

    The heroics of Klose on behalf of his country have already brought about talk of something that is seldom discussed until much later in the tournament – who will walk away with the coveted golden boot. To win that would be joining a very exclusive club indeed, inhabited by legends such as Gerd Muller, Paolo Rossi and Eusebio. Although Klose has stolen a march on his rivals already, this year looks likely to be another fascinating contest.

    So what does it take to be top scorer? If you look at the history of the golden boot, there does appear to be a set criteria these days. Firstly, six goals are normally enough to win it. Long gone are the days when the winner would finish in double figures, like the great Muller or Sandor Kocsis. The incredible single tournament record of thirteen, by Just Fontaine of France in 1958, will never be broken, bar some incredible expansion of the number of games in the tournament. Mainly encouraged by Nike, Ronaldo set himself the target of breaking the record at France 98. Even though Brazil played the maximum seven games, he netted only four times. When Mario Kempes top scored with six for Argentina at their home tournament in 1978, he set the benchmark for the next twenty years. Every winner of the golden boot since – Rossi, Lineker, Schillachi, Salenko and Stoichkov (joint winners) and Suker – have won it with six goals.

    Secondly, the winner will play for a country that reaches at the very least the quarter-finals. Common sense really, as there aren’t many international strikers who could average more than one goal per game. If you were thinking of placing money on who would win the golden boot, following that logic would narrow it down quite a bit. Only the freak performance of Oleg Salenko for in USA 94, with 5 goals in one game against Cameroon and another against Sweden (Russia limped home after the first round) can disprove the rule, and even then he did not win it outright. That is unlikely to happen this year, although I’m sure the collective eyes of Damien Duff, Robbie Keane, Samuel Eto’o and Patrick Mboma lit up when they saw the Saudi Arabian goals giveaway that has put Klose in such a healthy position.

    Thirdly, they tend to be the lone goal-scorer in the entire team, netting at least half of their teams’ goals. Who could forget little ‘Toto’ Schillachi taking Italia 90 by storm after beginning on the bench? He was responsible for six of the ten Italian goals that summer. The same record applies to Stoichkov for Bulgaria in USA 94. Gary Lineker bagged all but one of England’s goals in Mexico 86. The winner is always more likely to come from a team with one world class striker instead of two, as they increasingly become the focal point of the attack. That is why this year I would discount either David Trezeguet or Thierry Henry. Although both are great players France spread their goals throughout the team more, and are unlikely to rely on one saviour, although I’m sure they prayed for one against Senegal.

    So who can over-take the frontrunner Klose and steal the golden boot from him? If the pattern continues, it can be narrowed down to the usual suspects. Brazil are like France in that they have several players in their team who can chip in with their quota of goals, yet their opposition in the first round and maybe even the second is weak enough that we could see both Ronaldo and Rivaldo in the hunt. Portugal still lack the out and out striker that could make all the difference to them, and England are unlikely to progress far enough for Michael Owen to stake his claim, especially if they continue playing away from his strengths. Raul got off the mark with a beautifully taken goal against Slovenia, maybe this tournament will see some of his La Liga form. I think he will be close but not close enough. Jon Dahl Tomasson has already hit two for Denmark, but I can’t see him doubling that, let alone getting to six.

    My own guess is that it will be one of two men, both of whom have already scored.

    As an England fan I desperately hope he doesn’t up his tally on Friday, but Gabriel Batistuta will be in the frame for the golden boot. Having seemingly won the battle with Crespo to start, he could be in for another prosperous World Cup. He scored four at USA 94 and five at France 98. Incredibly, he hit hat-tricks in both tournaments. If he could possibly win the golden boot this time around, with the usual winning total of six goals, he would have fifteen to his name, which would break the all-time goal-scoring record of fourteen for all World Cups held by Gerd Muller. The angel will most certainly be a man on a mission these next few weeks.

    My other favourite for the golden boot is Christian Vieri. He is in a far better and more attacking team than he was in France 98, where he still managed to score five times. He has been on rampant form for Inter Milan and has already put two past Ecuador, with Mexico and Croatia to come. If as we all expect Italy make serious inroads into this tournament, they are in the Korean half of the draw which, on paper at least, looks an easier route than that of Batistuta and Argentina. For that reason I make him a marginal favourite over the Argentinian.

    At this stage though, it is all speculation. Maybe someone will come through and surprise us all, leading his team into the later stages and taking the golden boot as a reward – few would have predicted Suker to win it last time around. Maybe no-one will catch Klose at all, especially if he keeps rising unchallenged in the area to the crosses of Ballack, Ziege and Schneider.

    Will he then complete the ultimate irony of winning the golden boot with six headed goals?


 

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