2022 World Cup Top Goalscorer Odds: Is Lionel Messi the value bet?
Europe have dominated the last four editions of the World Cup, producing four different winners in the process. But, as many of the continent’s top dawgs stutter and stall in the build-up to the rapidly approaching 2022 World Cup, South American giants Brazil and Argentina are primed and ready to pounce.
Both countries have been in scintillating form. Brazil’s only defeat in 29 games dating back nearly three years was to Argentina, who themselves extended their own unbeaten run to 35 matches since July 2019 when they lost to…Brazil.
There’s now a real sense of expectation regarding the chances of each country: Brazil (9/2) top the list of 2022 World Cup Favourites, with Argentina hovering around the 7/1 mark. While they’ve each had to watch Europe take centre stage, the wait for success has been far longer for Argentina, who last lifted the World Cup trophy in 1986.
Yet, Lionel Scaloni’s troops are now fuelled by a combination of winning the Copa America last summer - their first major trophy in 28 years - and that incredible 35 game run without a defeat.
Argentina’s latest victory was a 3-0 triumph over Jamaica on Tuesday night which saw Lionel Messi come off the bench to bag a brace in the country’s penultimate match before November’s showpiece spectacular: they face UAE in a friendly on 16th Nov.
Messi, 35, endured a surprisingly difficult debut season at PSG during which he netted only six league goals. “I had a bad time, he recently admitted. “I never finished finding myself and this time is different. I arrived with a different mindset, more adapted to the club, to the locker room, to the game, to my teammates. The truth is that I feel very good, and I'm enjoying myself again."
It certainly shows, Messi has put that disappointment firmly behind him to score 15 goals in 14 games for club and country since June, which includes all five goals in a 5-0 thumping of Estonia. He’s purring along nicely with nine goals in his last three games for Argentina and looks a cracking price at 16/1 to continue this fine form into the World Cup and get his mitts on the Golden Boot.
The last winner of the Top Goalscorer award was Harry Kane (8/1), who is the early betting favourite to defend his crown. However, he’s not scored a goal in open play for his country since November, while an out-of-sorts England are without a win in six games heading to Qatar.
Then there’s the French duo of Kylian Mbappe and Karim Benzema at 14/1 and 16/1 respectively. Both world class players who are fully capable of scoring against any opponent, yet despite the outrageous amount of talent in the French ranks, the defending champions make the trip to the World Cup on the back of a woeful Nations League showing.
Other names who you'd expect to be in contention, include Ronaldo (16/1), Neymar (18/1), and Romelu Lukaku (20/1).
But back to Messi, who is steaming towards a century of goals for his country: 90 goals in 164 games. The Argentina skipper has an excellent opportunity to add to his international tally in Argentina’s opening game against Saudi Arabia. The Green have won only one of their last 12 World Cup games spanning four different editions, and have suffered a heavy defeat in each of their last three appearances: 5-0 to Russia (2018), 4-0 to Ukraine (2006), and 8-0 to Argentina (2002). There's every chance Messi could run riot.
Argentina then face Mexico and Poland who are sure to offer more resistance, but they are still games Argentina will be expected to win and in turn bag a few goals in the process: It's worth noting that Poland lost 6-1 to Belgium in the summer, while Argentina ran out 4-0 winners over Mexico in their last clash.
It’s difficult to predict the knockout stages at this point, but should Argentina top their group they could well face Denmark in the last-16, then potentially the Netherlands in the quarter-finals.
Admittedly, Messi’s goalscoring record at the World Cup is pretty underwhelming given his outrageously high standards - six goals in 19 games - but he top scored (four) in Argentina’s Copa America triumph last year and registered a healthy seven in qualification.
With a cohesive La Albiceleste looking more like a team as opposed to a group of talented individuals than I can remember, there’s every reason to believe this could finally be their year.
If Argentina are to taste glory in Qatar, then it goes without saying that Messi will play a pivotal part in what could be his fifth and final World Cup. At 16s, he represents the value bet for the Golden Boot right now.
2022 World Cup Odds