MOSCOW, June 12 (Xinhua) -- The 2018 World Cup looks to be one of the most open in recent years with no clear favorite to lift the title in the Luzhniki Stadium on July 15, likewise there is no clear favorite to win the coveted Golden Boot award for the top scorer in the finals.
2014 saw Colombia midfielder James Rodriguez win the Golden Boot with six goals in Brazil, although his side failed to get into the last four and he probably would have scored more if Colombia had reached the semifinals.
That highlights the basic fact that the further a country gets in Russia, the better chance one of their players has of winning the Golden Boot and there are several clear candidates.
All eyes will of course be on Leo Messi as he seeks that elusive first ever major tournament with his country. Messi ended last season with 45 goals for FC Barcelona, but the 18 assists he produced show he is much more than just a goal scorer and that could work against him.
Messi will start alongside players such as Kun Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain, Angel Di Maria and Paul Dybala and may find himself dropping deeper to create chances for his teammates rather than scoring them himself, which could boost Aguero's options.
Neymar is fit after missing much of the second half of the season for injury and as he showed in a recent friendly against Austria, he has the talent to score brilliant goals. Putting the disappointments of 2014 behind him and with Brazil expected to go a long way, Neymar has to be a favorite for the Golden Boot, along with teammate Gabriel Jesus, who also scored against Austria.
Cristiano Ronaldo will carry the weight or Portugal's chances in Russia and as the leader of a largely defensive side, and his country's penalty taker, he too has a chance to be top scorer in the World Cup, although those options could be curtailed if his side don't get as far as others in the competition.
The same has to be said of England's Harry Kane, a complete striker who travels with the weight of expectation on his shoulders and as part of a squad which realistically will struggle to get beyond the last 8. At least in Russia, Kane would find himself taking corners as he did in the 2016 European Championships.
FC Barcelona are casting envious looks at Atletico Madrid's French international striker, Antoine Griezmann, who scored six times for his country during qualifying and who will form part of an attacking trio alongside M'Bappe and Oliver Giroud; perhaps the biggest drawback for Griezmann could be if the three share the goals between them, which is likely given his generous nature as a player.
A good run from reigning World Champions, Germany could see Thomas Muller or Timo Werner put in a challenge, with Werner's 21 goals for Red Bull Leipzig giving plenty of reasons for faith in the quicksilver 22-year-old.
Uruguay's Luis Suarez could benefit from a relatively benign group stage to get on the scoresheet and his poaching ability means he has to be a candidate for the Golden Boot as long as he doesn't suffer any of the disciplinary issues which have dogged his career and Uruguay go far enough in the tournament.
16 goals in qualifying also mean Robert Lewandowski has his options if Poland progress, while Colombia also have two candidates in Carlos Bacca and Radamel Falcao, assisted of course by the hero of 2014 - James Rodriguez.