Ever since 1982, the World Cup Golden Boot has gone to the top goalscorer at the tournament. It has never mattered how the goals are scored, when, or against whom. And so, by a comfortable margin, England striker Harry Kane is your 2018 World Cup Golden Boot winner.
Which is odd, because Harry Kane wasn’t all that good over the past month.
He was fine. Decent. But his goal tally – six, to Kylian Mbappe’s, Antoine Griezmann’s, Cristiano Ronaldo’s, Denis Cheryshev’s and Romelu Lukaku’s four apiece – is extremely deceiving.
Kane will be crowned as the World Cup‘s best goalscorer despite tallying just one goal from open play – as in, not from a corner, free kick or penalty – over 573 minutes. And that one goal was an inadvertent deflection off his heel.
In other words, Kane didn’t score with a single purposeful shot during the run of play, despite logging more minutes than all but one other striker at the tournament, and over 100 more minutes than all but two strikers.
His first two goals were both vital and opportunistic. Each took talent but also a significant slice of luck. His opener was England’s opener against Tunisia, a rebound from a John Stones header:
He won the game against Tunisia by drifting to the back post and nodding home a second ball:
Everything else, however, came either against Panama or from the penalty spot – or both.
Kane notched the most unimpressive of hat tricks against the World Cup’s worst team. His two penalties put England up 2-0 and later 5-0. This goal – though we hesitate to even give it that title – made the score 6-0 to the Three Lions:
And then there was the penalty against Colombia in the Round of 16. There was nothing else in the knockouts – not against Los Cafeteros, not in a 2-0 victory over Sweden, not in a 2-1 semifinal loss to Croatia, and not even in the third-place game against Belgium.
In fact, Kane missed one massive chance in that Croatia game that would have gone a long way toward seeing England through to its first World Cup final in 52 years:
There’s no point in suggesting Kane doesn’t deserve the Golden Boot. He does. He pounced on the two Tunisia chances. He converted his penalties. That’s what goalscorers do.
But his claiming of the award is a good reminder that pure goalscoring tallies – especially ones that include penalties, which any professional player would convert more often than not – are silly ways to judge forwards. Plenty who score two or three times fewer goals had stronger individual campaigns, especially considering they put up their numbers against stiffer competition.
And even Kane’s non-penalty goals-per-90 rate in Russia – 0.47 – was poor by his lofty standards. He was at 0.81 for Tottenham in the Premier League last past season.
But nonetheless, he’s coming home with a trophy.
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