SOMETHING strange happened at Euro 2012 concerning the venerable art of goal-scoring.
Across 31 games, 16 or so of the continent’s most single-minded, lethal strikers fluffed their lines, fired into side-nettings and – most unforgivably of all – passed to team-mates in better positions. It resulted in six players sharing the distinction of being the tournament’s top scorer with a meagre three apiece. Fernando Torres was eventually given the award by virtue of his greater number of assists.
It led to a welter of worthy articles that announced the sad demise of the out-and-out centre-forward but two years later at the World Cup, James Rodriguez bagged six and two years after that Antoine Griezmann did the same and granted these are not traditional number nines who come alive in the penalty area, but it was at least reassuring seeing individuals seeking out individual glory once again. At the last major tournament in Russia, Harry Kane restored order properly: capitalising on tap-ins and celebrating pens like thirty-yarders. The single-minded centre-forward was very much back in vogue.
Harry Kane gets his hands on the World Cup Golden Boot.
What a moment ❤ pic.twitter.com/e0Nv9kTwfW
— Match of the Day (@BBCMOTD) September 8, 2018
Going through the leading scorers from the last ten major tournaments – excluding the anomaly of 2012 – reveals some fascinating details, most of which are obvious but it’s good to be reminded of them.
Rodriguez and Griezmann aside, they were all poachers supreme, specialist marksman who defined themselves by their prolificacy and just uttering their names is enough to give keepers a stress-migraine still. David Villa. Davor Suker. These are players who should have had hunting licenses for their boots.
It’s interesting too that the mean average of goals that earned these clinical finishers their top goal-scorer honour going right back to 1998 is a little over six and that no player has won it without their team at least reaching the quarter finals.
As stated, these are obvious points but they are pertinent too, because as we study the top goal-scorer market for Euro 2020 an accompanying consideration should always be who the leading contenders play for.
Take Memphis Depay, who is currently priced at 14/1. The 27-year-old has enjoyed a vintage season with Lyon scoring more goals at club level than at any time since 2015. He has also scored seven in his last seven appearances for Oranje.
Yet does anyone really believe that Holland are destined to go deep in this tournament, hampered as they are by defensive absences and Frank De Boer in the dug-out? Realistically, Depay would have to set the group stage alight to be in the final reckoning.
Staying with this logic leads us to France who, after all are the tournament favourites so will likely afford their strikers a greater number of games to hit the target. Note however, the plural use and there is a danger that Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe and Karim Benzema – for all their undoubted prowess – might share around France’s bounty of goals in the weeks ahead. It is easy to imagine Les Bleus lifting the trophy at Wembley on July 11th and it is easy to imagine the trio being brilliant throughout and grabbing ten-plus goals between them. That though will count for nothing in this market.
So, we turn our attention to well-fancied teams who typically rely on a singular hit-man with creative team-mates their supporting cast. We turn our attention to Romelu Lukaku and Harry Kane.
— Unibet (@unibet) June 6, 2021
Yes, they are joint-favourites and at 13/2 in an open field there is not tremendous value to be gained but how can we overlook this pair, all things considered? Since Gareth Southgate took charge in September 2016, his captain has scored 39.9% of England’s goals in matches he has participated in. That is astonishing. Kane’s 12 goals and six assists in qualifying meanwhile was not bettered by anyone.
Furthermore, if the Spurs ace was given a straight choice between England winning the Euros but he personally fired blanks, or a semi-final exit with the player securing another Golden Boot he would pause for thought. Possessing such a mind-set matters.
As for Lukaku, the Belgian front-man comes into this having notched 30 goals for Inter in 2020/21 while on the international stage his 60 goals in 93 appearances takes some beating. He’s in fine recent form too, scoring eight in eight for the Red Devils.
Looking beyond this prolific pair the potential for Ciro Immobile to dominate the headlines this summer should not be discounted. For several seasons now the Lazio striker has terrorised Serie A, winning the European Golden Shoe in 2020 and reaching double figures once again in the campaign just gone. Yet too often he has flattered to deceive for his country, posing a constant threat but producing little end-product.
With three goals in his last three starts for Italy however, that might be about to change and if Immobile can transfer his deadly feats for biancocelesti to the Euros then his 17/1 price appears very tempting indeed.
Should he blast Roberto Mancini’s side into the knock-outs no doubt Federico Chiesa or Lorenzo Insigne will each play their part but in the top assists market their 40/1 mark-up is generous for a reason. Together the pair have 14 assists for Italy in total from 12 years combined. Another to rule out is Bruno Fernandes who tends to take a back seat for Portugal and subsequently his stats pale to his impressive club numbers.
After not being considered for Germany's last 21 internationals, Joachim Low has RECALLED Thomas Muller for #Euro2020
Muller has provided the most assists in Europe's top 5 leagues since the start of last season (39) pic.twitter.com/f9bZUmpt8T
— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) May 19, 2021
Of far more interest is the 13/1 available for Thomas Muller who has been brought back into the German fold after partly being blamed for Germany’s poor showing at the last World Cup. Muller has since focused on being consistently fantastic for Bayern and last season was Europe’s assists king with 19. The 25/1 priced up on Kane meanwhile is well worth a fiver of anyone’s money. In 2020/21 the Tottenham forward carved out the most assists in the Premier League and in the weeks to come he will be in his element, surrounded by the dervish movement and high energy of Foden, Sancho and Mount.
Which segues us nicely into the Best Young Player of the Tournament market and it is immensely satisfying that the two shortest priced starlets will have three lions on their chest. Of Foden and Mount however, it is the former who should be backed, even at 4/1, because we conceivably might witness something quite special from the ‘Stockport Iniesta’, a series of performances that could conjure up memories of Gazza in ’90 and ’96. Unlike so many on the shortlist Foden doesn’t simply sparkle here and there but rather takes games by the scruff of the neck and in the past few months he has arguably been the best player in a team that strolled to a Premier League title.
If England’s wunderkind is only merely very good though then Kai Havertz is absolutely worth a punt at 9/1. The 21-year-old’s confidence is sky-high right now having recently bagged the winner in a Champions League final and this was evident from an exuberant first-half display against Latvia on Monday.
Lastly, there is the traditionally difficult to predict Player of the Tournament to ponder and here some simple maths at least gives us a jumping off point because the last six winners of this award played for the team crowned champions. France are the most fancied to go all the way and Kylian Mbappe is their finest natural talent. Add these truths together and we have a tempting 7/1 for the Parisian phenomenon.