When it comes to numbers, this year’s European Championship is already askew, with UEFA opting to uphold its title as ‘Euro 2020’ despite it now taking place in 2021. Call it defiant or call it unnecessarily confusing, the tournament’s year number will eventually go down as a pub quiz answer.
One of the most hotly-anticipated races within each Euros is for the top goalscorer crown. The Golden Boot has been lifted by some of the greatest sharpshooters that the continent has ever seen, and due to the historical use of squad numbers, a trend has been set.
However, Euro 2020 might just buck the shirt number trend for the Golden Boot, just as it has its naming convention.
The status quo of one of the most popular aspects of the Euros
Becoming the top goalscorer of any Euros tournament grants a tremendous amount of prestige to the player, particularly if they manage to achieve the feat with a goal count unmatched by others. So far, four renditions of the Euros have seen multiple players land on the same goal count, with a system eventually being applied to decide a definitive Golden Boot winner in 2012.
Since Euro 1996 – starting here due to 1992 awarding four top scorers of different numbers on three goals each – three different shirt numbers have won the six top goalscorer accolades available. In 1996 (Alan Shearer), 2000 (Savo Milošević and Patrick Kluivert), and 2012 (Fernando Torres), number 9s won the top spot.
While Milošević and Kluivert shared the honour, and both donned number 9, Torres’ win came as a result of needing to decide who would take the relatively new Golden Boot award. As it turns out, his sole assist and fewer playing minutes allowed the Spaniard to pip Mario Gómez, Mario Balotelli, Alan Dzagoev, Mario Mandžukić, and Cristiano Ronaldo, with everyone finishing with a humbling three goals.
In 2008 (David Villa) and 2016 (Antoine Griezmann), it was the number 7s who would stand as the clear victors, with Villa netting four and Griezmann scoring six. So, the anomaly from the last six Euros is Euro 2004, which saw the Czech Republic’s Milan Baroš take the crown with the number 15 on his back. Baroš almost always wore number 15 for his country, with the only fleeting exceptions being when he wore number 9 and 7.
Easily one of the most hotly-debated battles of Euro 2020, with such deep markets available, football bettors will also be looking to the top goalscorer odds online to help predict the next winner. This one of the many ways that people can find value in sports betting, per SBO. As there’s such a vast collection of bet types beyond match and tournament outcomes, you can bet on aspects like the top goalscorer or anytime scorers in individual matches. Right now, when it comes to shirt numbers, four appear to be the lead contenders.
Numbers 9s favoured for the top spot
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As it should be under traditional numbering standards, the top strikers of Euro 2020 are coming in with number 9 on the back of their respective shirts. First on the bill is Inter Milan’s frontman, Romelu Lukaku, who scored 30 goals in 44 games for the Nerazzurri last season. For Belgium, he already has 60 goals in 93 games at the age of 28 and is surrounded by a veritable golden generation of talent to feed him the ball.
The other number 9 tipped for glory is England’s captain, Harry Kane. Despite the turbulent times at Tottenham Hotspur and enduring yet another season that featured bouts of injury, Kane netted 33 goals and teed up 17 more in 49 matches. However, the group stages tend to present the best goalscoring opportunities for favoured teams, and Belgium’s Group B looks to be more open to goal routs than Group D.
Number 10s could break into the charts
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Another duo of stars sporting the same starting XI number weighs in as the next most likely to claim the Golden Boot. Kylian Mbappé and Memphis Depay are both well-known for their high scoring, tricky feet, and superb turn of pace. The Frenchman added another 42 goals to his Paris Saint-Germain record this season, while the Dutchman scored 22 for Olympique Lyonnais in the same division.
However, Depay has a marginally better record for his country, averaging a goal every 2.66 games through 64 caps to Mbappé’s 2.53 goals in 43 games. Furthermore, while they are among, if not the favourites to win the tournament, France have been drawn into the group of death with Germany and Portugal, who only conceded six and seven goals in their eight games to qualify, respectively. Depay will face Austria, Ukraine, and North Macedonia, and while Ukraine have a stalwart defence, the tournament debutant could be picked apart.
A number 7 and number 19 rounding out the frontrunners
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One of the biggest surprises in the 2020 Euro squad announcements was Karim Benzema, who has been welcomed back into the France squad after years in exile. As we detailed at Squad Numbers, Mbappé now dons his preferred number 10, and Olivier Giroud will continue in the number 9 shirt, so the Real Madrid centre forward will now wear number 19.
As you would have assumed, the number 7 who’s still in line to claim the Golden Boot is the ageless Cristiano Ronaldo. He could play anywhere across that frontline for Portugal, but he’ll always sport the famous number 7. It is questionable how many matches he’ll wear it for at the tournament, though, as France and a resurgent Germany will put up a hefty fight in Group F.
So, while people are favouring a number 9 to continue the dominance of the shirt at Euro 2020, two number 10s, a number 19, and a number 7, are also certainly in the picture.