Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Mbappe, Musiala… Mikautadze… Ronaldo? The Golden Boot contenders at Euro 2024

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 28 Jun 2024

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The Euro 2024 group stage is behind us, having provided fans across the continent with their fair share of thrills and spills.

From the emergence of Austria and Georgia as surprise packages to the below-par performances of England, France and the Netherlands, there has been plenty of intrigue.

Now 16 teams remain and the knockout bracket is locked in, and most of the continent’s leading marksmen – including Kylian Mbappe, Harry Kane and Cristiano Ronaldo – will still be dreaming of lifting the trophy on July 14.

Adding the Golden Boot alongside team success would make it a dream tournament, but the established continental stars face competition for that honour from a few breakout stars.

With the likes of Georges Mikautadze, Jamal Musiala and Niclas Fullkrug staking their own claims, who will finish top of the scoring charts?

We delve into the Opta data to assess the runners and riders, as well as those bigger names who have struggled so far.

THE FAVOURITES

Kylian Mbappe (one goal)

Mbappe endured a dreadful time at the delayed Euro 2020 tournament three years ago, and things have not gone much better this time around.

At Euro 2020, he failed to score and missed the decisive penalty as France exited in the last 16 versus Switzerland.

Only Alvaro Morata (six), Gerard Moreno and Kane (five each) missed more big chances (as defined by Opta) than Mbappe (four). His 14 total shots amounted to 1.7 expected goals (xG), with only Moreno (-2.25) and Dani Olmo (-1.86) underperforming their xG figures by a greater margin.

This year, a nasty collision with Austria defender Kevin Danso left him with a broken nose and forced him to miss France’s second Group D match against the Netherlands, but he returned – donning a protective mask – to score from the penalty spot in their 1-1 draw with Poland.

That was his 13th goal for France at major tournaments (one at the Euros, 12 at World Cups), with only Michel Platini (14) netting more. With many backing France to go far despite landing on a stacked side of the bracket, that figure is certainly within reach.

If France are to go all the way, they will have to overcome Belgium in the last 16 and could face Portugal in the last eight and one of Germany or Spain in the semi-finals.

They are now fourth favourites to win the tournament, according to the Opta supercomputer, with some big-game performances from Mbappe required.

Harry Kane (one)

Like Mbappe, Kane has one goal to his name at the end of the group stage, having netted England’s opener in their 1-1 draw with Denmark on matchday two.

Also like the France captain, Kane has endured a difficult tournament, starved of service in an England team that has been jeered by their own fans despite topping Group C.

Only Scotland (0.95) and Serbia (2.11) created a lower xG figure than the Three Lions (2.19) in the group stage as they toiled to five points, but a seemingly kind path through the knockout rounds has them installed as favourites once again.

Kane is a player who tends to grow into tournaments, and Gareth Southgate will be hoping his skipper does so. Kane has scored six goals in his last six appearances in the knockout stages of major tournaments for England (two in two at the 2022 World Cup, four in four at Euro 2020).

His seven goals in tournament knockout stages overall are also the most of any Three Lions player in history.

The mood around the England team has not exactly been buoyant thus far, but with the draw opening up, do not sleep on Kane’s chances of firing them to glory.

Jamal Musiala (two)

Germany made a flying start to their home tournament with a 5-1 rout of Scotland and a 2-0 victory over Hungary, with Bayern Munich man Musiala scoring in both games.

They found things more difficult in a 1-1 draw with Switzerland on matchday three and are sure to be tested by Denmark in the last 16, but if Julian Nagelsmann’s men are to prolong their encouraging run, Musiala will be key.

One of just six players with multiple goals to his name at this stage, Musiala has also completed the second-most dribbles at the tournament with nine, behind only Belgium’s Jeremy Doku (13).

Of the six players to net more than once, only Slovakia’s Ivan Schranz (two goals, 0.39 xG) has scored his goals from a lower xG figure than Musiala’s 0.48, with both of the German’s strikes being rasping finishes into the roof of the net.

Playing for the team whose total of 5.1 xG is the best at the tournament, Musiala should get plenty more chances to add to his tally.

Niclas Fullkrug (two)

Musiala is not the only home favourite in contention to top the goalscoring charts, though, with super sub Fullkrug proving the direct route can be an effective option with two goals in just 73 minutes of action off the bench.

Having found the top-right corner with a brilliant strike against Scotland, the Borussia Dortmund man spared the hosts’ blushes on matchday three, as his stoppage-time leveller ensured they pipped Switzerland to top spot in Group A.

His goals have come from just three shots worth a total of 0.54 xG, and it will be interesting to see whether those figures are sustainable should he force his way into Nagelsmann’s starting lineup.

A recent poll of 138,000 supporters conducted by German newspaper BILD found 90% of respondents wanted to see Fullkrug start the team’s first knockout match.

Cody Gakpo (two)

The Netherlands have not exactly impressed so far, sneaking through Group D in third place following a 3-2 defeat to an inspired Austria team.

However, like England, they have landed on what appears to be the weaker side of the draw, boosting their hopes of going all the way.

The Opta supercomputer gave Ronald Koeman’s Oranje a 5.1% chance of winning the trophy before a ball was kicked, and that is now up to 7% despite their struggles, due to Romania, Austria and Turkiye being the other teams in their quarter of the draw.

The fact they could reach the last four without playing a knockout game against any established heavyweights could see them put forward a Golden Boot contender in the shape of Gakpo.

The Liverpool man has two goals to his name already, also winning more duels (23) than any other player at the competition.

He could now become the sixth Dutchman to score three or more goals at a single edition of the Euros, after Marco van Basten (five in 1988), Dennis Bergkamp (three in 1992), Patrick Kluivert (five in 2000), Ruud van Nistelrooy (four in 2004) and Georginio Wijnaldum (thee at Euro 2020).

Georges Mikautadze (three)

None of the big names mentioned above are leading the way in the Golden Boot race, though, with that honour going to a surprise name.

Georgia’s Georges Mikautadze, who plays his club football in France for recently relegated Metz, has three goals to his name.

His last two goals – against Czechia and Portugal – have come from the penalty spot, with his first being a clever sweeping finish against Turkiye on matchday one – his country’s first goal at a major tournament as an independent nation.

Perhaps crucially, Mikautadze has also recorded an assist, meaning he has twice as many total goal involvements (four) as any other player at the tournament.

Assists are used as a tie-breaker in scenarios where two players are level in the Golden Boot race at the Euros, and it is not far-fetched to suggest he may already have done enough to claim the prize.

Spain great Fernando Torres won the 2012 award with just three goals, although five of the last seven editions of the European Championships have seen a player win the Golden Boot with five goals or more (Antoine Griezmann netted six in 2016).

If the continent’s big names continue to misfire, Mikautadze could mark a breakout tournament with an individual honour.

THE OTHER CONTENDERS

With teams facing four more games if they are to reach the final, plenty of other players are not yet out of contention, even if they struggled in the group stage.

Alvaro Morata (one)

Morata made a flying start to the tournament as he slotted home Spain’s opener in their impressive 3-0 demolition of Croatia on matchday one, but he has not scored since then, being rested for their final group game against Albania.

La Roja’s success has been built on a solid defence, as they are just the second team to win all three of their group-stage matches to nil at the Euros, after Italy at the 2020 edition.

However, they are now expected to go far, and their skipper should get plenty of chances to add to his tally.

That being said, he has only converted one of his eight shots, so that conversion rate will certainly have to improve.

Cristiano Ronaldo (zero)

While Portugal topped Group F with a game to spare and could afford to rest players for Wednesday’s 2-0 defeat to Georgia, Ronaldo has endured a frustrating time of things in front of goal.

He failed to score in the group stages of a major international tournament for the first time in his career, with this his 11th competition with the Selecao, who he has now played for on 50 occasions at major tournaments (a European record).

Still the European Championships’ all-time leading scorer with 14 goals, his seven assists are also now the most on record (since 1968) at the competition. He will be keen to add to both of those tallies in the knockout rounds.

Romelu Lukaku (zero)

You could argue Lukaku has been both wasteful and unfortunate. He has failed to score from 10 shots totalling 1.67 xG at Euro 2024, with Antoine Griezmann the only player with zero goals from a higher underlying figure (1.84).

The Belgium man has also seen three goals ruled out following VAR checks, either for handball in the build-up or for offside. But for the technology’s interventions, he would be level with Mikautadze at the top of the charts.

His chances of winning the Golden Boot have been made that much tougher by the draw, with France up next for the Red Devils after they finished second in Group E.

Christoph Baumgartner (one)

Ralf Rangnick’s Austria have been one of the stories of the tournament, pipping France and the Netherlands to top spot in Group D to land on the more favourable side of the draw and leave fans dreaming of a run all the way to the final.

Only Germany have scored more goals (eight to six) or created a higher cumulative xG figure (5.1 to 3.84) than Rangnick’s high-pressing side, and they could entertain again when they face Turkiye in the last 16.

With one goal and one assist, RB Leipzig attacker Baumgartner is the only Austrian with multiple goal involvements at Euro 2024, an instinctive finish against Poland demonstrating his coolness in front of goal.

Watch out for his team-mate Marcel Sabitzer, though, who scored a fantastic goal in Austria’s 3-2 win over the Netherlands last time out.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

SoccerNews

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