Golden Boot Greats – Part Three

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Golden Boot Greats

The World Cup has always been the showcase for the top strikers to prove their worth. Football Espana highlights some of the men who have etched their names forever on the history of the tournament with their exploits in front of goal.

Gary Lineker – England 1986, 1990

Gary Lineker was once the most serious and deadly of all England strikers with a dazzling career that included spells at Spurs and Barcelona. He wasn't known for his gut-busting runs or his aerial power, but there were few better inside the box. Scoring nearly 100 goals in less than 200 appearances for hometown club Leicester, it was his move to Everton in 1985 that pushed on his England career. His 40 goals earned him the Player of the Year title although Everton ended runners-up in both the League and the FA Cup to city rivals Liverpool.

In the 1986 World Cup there looked to be more disappointment on the way and Bobby Robson's team needed a win against Poland to reach the knock-out stage. A Lineker hat-trick got them through. Next opponents Paraguay couldn't cope either as he got two more. In the quarter-final, 'The Hand of God' and individual brilliance by Diego Maradona sent Argentina through, but Lineker scored England's consolation which saw him become top scorer for the tournament.

At Italia '90 England reached the semi-final thanks to Lineker's four goals, making him at the time only the eighth player in World Cup history to score 10 goals or more. He bowed out in 1992 after scoring 48 goals – one behind Bobby Charlton's record – in 80 marches.

Ronaldo – Brazil 1994, 1998, 2002, 2006

The leading scorer in World Cup history, Ronaldo netted 15 across four tournaments. An unused squad player as a 17-year-old in the 1994 victory, he underlined his pedigree as the world’s best four years later thanks to four goals and three assists as Brazil reached the Final against France. It should have been his game, but an alleged seizure suffered on the eve of the showdown saw him initially left off the team sheet before he was re-instated 72 minutes before the match. He and Brazil didn’t show up as the hosts collected a comfortable win.

After two serious knee injuries suffered at Inter, Ronaldo returned in time for the 2002 event and he didn’t disappoint. He scored in every game apart from the tie against England as Brazil lifted the trophy thanks to his eight goals – enough for him to net the Golden Boot too. Real Madrid subsequently swooped for his signature.

By 2006 in Germany, the two-time European Footballer of the Year was no longer the phenomenon he once was. Nevertheless, his three goals at the tournament allowed him to surpass Pele’s record of 12 World Cup goals and Gerd Muller’s landmark 14. A World Cup great, no doubt.

Miroslav Klose – Germany 2002, 2006, 2010

Miroslav Klose has consistently found the net at his three World Cups to date and he’ll be looking for more in Brazil. With 14 goals in the competition, he is just one shy of Ronaldo’s record 15. The now Lazio striker shot to fame in the 2002 tournament thanks to five headed goals, enough to see him become the second highest scorer in Japan and Korea.

The former Werder and Bayern Munich ace went one better in 2006. Playing in front of his home crowd, the Polish-born forward won the Golden Boot thanks to his five strikes. He thus became the first German since Gerd Muller to finish top of the goal charts. Germany, though, fell at the semi-final stage to Italy in an epic encounter.

Klose netted four more at South Africa 2010, a tournament that saw him reach 100 caps for his country. He could have arguably netted a few more but suspension and then injury robbed him of crucial game time. He’ll be hoping he has more luck this summer…

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