The drive for World Cup success has begun, as has the competition to be the tournament’s leading scorers.
While winning the iconic Jules Rimet trophy will be the goal for the eight teams still in contention, individuals may make history by winning the Golden Boot.
We look at the current possibilities for Qatar 2022’s most prolific marksman ahead of the quarter-finals, with one star out in front and a slew of others trailing behind.
Kylian Mbappe (France) — 5 goals and 2 assists
Kylian Mbappe, the France phenomenon, is the apparent favorite ahead of the final eight, with five goals in four games so far.
The Paris Saint-Germain attacker has been in phenomenal form, scoring in Les Blues’ opening against Australia before scoring a match-winning double in the group stage against Denmark.
In their last-16 match against Poland, the 23-year-old scored their second goal before curling in his fifth of the season late on.
Lionel Messi (Argentina) — Three goals, one assist
Lionel Messi’s World Cup dreams are still alive, and no Argentina player has done more to bring them to this far than the little magician.
The 35-year-old scored from the penalty spot barely 10 minutes into his debut appearance at the 2022 tournament, however the encounter ended in a 2-1 defeat to Saudi Arabia.
With La Albiceleste facing an early departure, Messi scored a key goal from distance against Mexico on their route to a 2-0 victory.
After defeating Poland by the same scoreline in the previous round, their talisman shone once more as his exquisite goal broke the stalemate in a 2-1 triumph over a tenacious Australia team.
Goncalo Ramos (Portugal) — Three goals, one assist
Few anticipated Goncalo Ramos, 21, to play in Portugal’s last-16 match against Switzerland, but he made the most of his opportunity.
After 17 minutes, the teenager beat Yann Sommer at his near post with a stunning shot, before two more finishes made him Qatar 2022’s first hat-trick scorer.
Ramos, who also assisted Raphael Guerreiro, is now tied for second in the scoring lists with Messi.
Marcus Rashford (England) — Three goals
England striker Marcus Rashford is next on this list, leading a group of five players tied on three goals and still in position to beat Mbappe’s score, due to his higher ratio of 2.05 strikes per 90 minutes.
After a tough spell following his penalty failure in the Euro 2020 final shootout loss to Italy, the Manchester United forward has just recently regained his spot in Gareth Southgate’s side.
He scored only minutes into his international debut against Iran before excelling from the start against Wales, scoring twice, the first a stunning free-kick past Danny Ward.
Bukayo Saka (England) — Three goals
Bukayo Saka, Rashford’s Three Lions teammate, also has three goals after scoring a nice finish in England’s 3-0 last-16 win against Senegal.
The Arsenal youngster, 21, is a crucial component of Southgate’s squad and established himself as an early candidate for the award with a magnificent brace against Iran on his World Cup debut.
If Saka is chosen for the quarter-final match against France, he will be an important player for Didier Deschamps’ world champions to keep an eye on.
Olivier Giroud (France) — Three goals
If Karim Benzema had been fit for this World Cup, Olivier Giroud might not have kicked a ball for France.
It would be silly to rule out the 36-year-old centre striker, who is now Les Blues’ all-time leading scorer with 52 goals, at this stage.
A brace against Australia was followed by a vital goal against Poland in the last-16, and now the former Arsenal and Chelsea player will look to end England’s run in Qatar.
Richarlison (Brazil) — Three goals
Brazil highlighted their credentials to go all the way in the last 16 with a brilliant 4-1 win against South Korea, with Tottenham striker Richarlison capping off a wonderful team play to score possibly the best of the lot.
With a stunning touch and scissor-kick effort in the South Americans’ opener against Serbia, the Selecao No. 9 may also lay claim to another candidate for the goal of the tournament.
After scoring both goals in Brazil’s 2-0 victory that night, he is expected to remain in the running for the Golden Boot as the tournament favorites seek their first World Cup trophy in 20 years.
Cody Gakpo (Netherlands) — Three goals
PSV Eindhoven’s star Cody Gakpo was already one of Europe’s most coveted forwards prior to the World Cup, and his performances for the Netherlands have demonstrated why.
The 23-year-old nodded home six minutes from time to help the Oranje beat Senegal in their first game, before scoring against Ecuador and Qatar in an outstanding group-stage performance.
Manchester United and other clubs will be interested if he can lead his team past Argentina and into the semi-finals.