Messi. Neymar. Robin van Persie. One of the reasons this World Cup has been so good thus far, is that the main strikers (Bar you Wazza) have really stepped up to the plate and produced some scintillating football on the world’s biggest stage. In one of the most open tournaments in recent years, several leading men have grabbed their sides by the short and curlies, and are dragging them through to the latter stages of the competition.
Sadly we are just eight games away from the end, but the top scorer market is really hotting up, with nine players separated by just two goals, and seven of those nine guys still in the World Cup. This is set to go down to the wire, and we’ve crunched the numbers to pick out who is the best value bet at the prices.
Robin van Persie
Colombia’s James Rodriguez currently tops the charts on five goals, including his unstoppable volley against Uruguay and a chip over the Japanese keeper in the group stage that had football purists drooling. He is a 3/1 shot to top the scoring charts but, Colombia are expected to struggle to get past Brazil according to Paddy Power’s odds which would mean several of his rivals picking up two extra games. Rodriguez’s conversion rate is still simply staggering at 62.5 per cent, meaning that on average for every three shots he’s attempted in Brazil, two have gone in. That is some deadly finishing.
It’s also far and away the most clinical of the six strikers bidding for the Golden Boot. Although Colombia might not create as many opportunities as Brazil or Argentina, the stats suggest that if the chance falls to Rodriguez the ball is likely to find the onion bag. Messi, Neymar, Van Persie and Muller are hard to seperate with a goal every three attempts, while France’s Karim Benzema might be rueing several missed opportunities – including that penalty against Switzerland and the goal against Honduras that went down as an OG. He has three goals to his name but a conversion rate of just 15.8 per cent.
Things might get Messi for the boss
The good news if you’re on the favourite Lionel Messi (and the bad news if you’re the bean counters in Power Tower) is that the Argentinian genius is just one goal off topping the charts, and the South Americans are well-fancied to get through their quarter-final against Belgium, guaranteeing Messi two more games after the weekend. Although the boss might take hope from the fact that Messi has the worst shot accuracy of the six players (46 per cent) and Benzema is the only one with a worse conversion rate, you’d be crazier than a bag of racoons to write off Messi at 13/5.
That’s because of all six players he is the closest to his average conversion rate that he maintained through the 2013/14 league season. Looking at the scientifical-mathematical-mash-up known as ‘Regression to the mean’, you could deduce that Messi’s good form in Brazil is likely to continue. Whereas Rodriguez – whose conversion rate for Monaco was just 13.2 per cent – should see his form decline slightly to be in line with his average. This isn’t 100 per cent bombproof of course, because a) the World Cup is a far shorter format, and b) players such as Rodriguez might play in slightly different positions for their country, however it provides us with an average to consider. This information also highlights how every player bar Benzema has upped their conversion rate for the World Cup.
RVP can be the MVP
If you’d rather a bit more bang for you buck, Robin van Persie could tickle your fancy at 14/1. The Dutchman has hit 75 per cent of his shots on target in the World Cup and his conversion rate of 37.5 per cent isn’t too far away from his success rate of 26.1 per cent for Man United during the 2013/14 season, so he’s unlikely to dip too much away from that. RVP also has the benefit of what is considered the easiest quarter-final against Costa Rica, and if James Rodriguez fails to make it through with Colombia on Friday night, Van Persie could take advantage on Saturday evening.
A quarter-final victory would also give him the promise of two more games to add to his tally, making Van Persie the most appealing of the outsiders.