World Cup 2022: Messi and Mbappe lead Golden Boot race
The race for World Cup glory is well and truly on — and so is the battle to be the tournament’s top goalscorer ahead of Sunday's final.
While lifting the famous trophy will be the aim for the two teams who now remain in contention, individuals can write themselves into the history books by winning the Golden Boot.
With Croatia and Morocco sent packing in the semi-finals, four forwards are now in the hunt for the coveted prize.
We look at the remaining candidates to be Qatar 2022’s most prolific marksman with Argentina and France battling to be crowned champions on Sunday.
Lionel Messi (Argentina) — Five goals, three assists
Lionel Messi’s hopes of finally delivering a World Cup triumph are still alive and no Argentina player has done more than the diminutive magician to help them get to this stage.
The 35-year-old got off the mark from the spot only 10 minutes into his first game at the 2022 showpiece, though that match ultimately ended in a shock 2-1 defeat to Saudi Arabia.
With La Albiceleste facing a disastrous early exit, Messi struck home a crucial effort from distance against Mexico on their way to a 2-0 win.
Having reached the last 16 by beating Poland by the same scoreline, their talisman stepped up as his delightful finish broke the deadlock in a 2-1 victory over a resolute Australia side.
He was at it again in the quarter-finals against the Netherlands, assisting Nahuel Molina with a sumptuous reverse pass before doubling his side's lead from the spot to take his tally to four goals.
And he scored from the spot once more to send Argentina on their way to a 3-0 win over Croatia and book a place in his second World Cup final, as well as putting himself in pole position for the Golden Boot.
Kylian Mbappe (France) — Five goals, two assists
Despite failing to find the net against England and Morocco, France sensation Kylian Mbappe remains in the mix with five goals, although he now trails Messi on assists.
The Paris Saint-Germain forward has been in sensational form, netting in Les Blues’ opener against Australia before a magnificent match-winning double to beat Denmark in the group stage.
The 23-year-old came to the fore for Didier Deschamps' men again in the last-16 tie with Poland, firing home their second before deliciously curling home his fifth of the campaign late on.
He was unable to find the net in his last two matches thanks to stubborn defending from England and Morocco but has every chance of outscoring his rivals on Sunday to scoop the crown.
Julian Alvarez (Argentina) — Four goals
Julian Alvarez started Argentina's first two games on the bench and failed to net but has roared into form since being thrust into the XI against Poland.
The Manchester City star scored the second in the 2-0 victory and also popped up with what turned out to be the winner against Australia.
He did not add to his haul against the Netherlands but fired himself into contention with a semi-final double — pouncing on a lucky rebound to cap off a brilliant solo run and later tapping home from Messi's cutback for the third.
He sits ahead of Olivier Giroud in this list thanks to a better goalscoring ratio, of one strike every 91 minutes.
And with France sure to pay attention to the king of Argentinian football on Sunday, do not bet against the young pretender finding space to win the crown.
Olivier Giroud (France) — Four goals
There is every chance Giroud would have barely kicked a ball for France had Karim Benzema been fit for this World Cup.
But the 36-year-old has proved his worth once again in Qatar, heading home the winner in their 2-1 victory over Engand.
A brace against Australia was followed by an important opener in the last-16 encounter with Poland, before he scored the decisive goal which broke English hearts.
Now Les Blues’ all-time top scorer with 53 strikes, it would be no surprise to see the former Arsenal and Chelsea man pop up on Sunday but he will need to net at least twice as he has not set up any goals so far.