Antoine Griezmann, Lionel Messi and Neymar are among the bookies’ favourites to finish top scorer at the 2018 FIFA World Cup, but what about Poland captain Robert Lewandowski?

The Bayern Munich striker has been plundering goals at a rate of knots of late and should – if Poland live up to expectations – get enough games to stake his claim to the Golden Boot.

You certainly wouldn’t put it past him, given his prolific track record…

A proven goal machine

The statistics don’t lie. After finishing the 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign as Europe’s leading marksman (16 goals), Lewandowski signed off for 2017/18 with a Bundesliga-high 29 goals – only one shy of a third successive 30-goal season. He also struck 12 times in 18 domestic cup and European matches, whilst netting eight in nine international outings for Poland. To put his eye-watering return into context, only Cristiano Ronaldo scored more for club and country last term.

Lewandowski isn’t just your typical No.9, either. Happily helping himself to goals which range from the simple to the spectacular – with both feet, from open and set plays – Lewy can do it all. His Bundesliga report card includes 39 braces, seven hat-tricks and one historic five-goal haul. Of his 19 attempted penalties, he has only missed two. Bayern’s lone ranger even has postage-stamp free-kicks in his locker. Neymar, watch out.

Poland set for extended stay

Although Lewandowski has not played at a World Cup before and Poland haven’t appeared at the finals since 2006, the White and Reds are by no means an outside bet to get out of Group H alive – on the contrary, in fact. Based on the current FIFA World Rankings (Poland sit eighth), their path to the latter stages of the competition will take in wins against Senegal, Colombia and Japan, and England in the last 16.

A quarter-final tie against defending champions Germany could prove the end of the line, but it would – barring injury or suspension – give Lewandowski five games to do his thing. And who knows? Lewy regularly puts goals past Manuel Neuer and outfoxes Mats Hummels in training at Bayern, so why shouldn’t he do the same on the biggest stage of them all?

“This is how we’ll both get to play in the knockout rounds…” Robert Lewandowski (r.) faces off against Bayern teammate James Rodriguez (l.) when Poland face Colombia in Kazan on 24 June. © gettyimages

Where there’s minutes, there’s goals 

Now you might think that five matches still won’t suffice, but history tells us otherwise. Only two of the 10 Golden Boot winners since the expansion of the tournament to include 32 teams in 1982 have reached the final. Six made it all the way to the third-place play-off – among them Germany’s Thomas Müller and all-time World Cup top scorer Miroslav Klose in 2010 and 2006 respectively – while James Rodriguez‘s Colombia fell at the quarter-finals four years ago in Brazil. The other made just three group-stage appearances.

That’s right, folks. Oleg Salenko scored six goals in three outings at USA 94, including five – a single-game World Cup record no less – in Russia’s 6-1 demolition of Cameroon. It wasn’t enough to send the Russians through to the knockout stages, but it did land Salenko a share of the Golden Boot alongside Bulgaria legend Hristo Stoichkov.

Watch: All of Robert Lewandowski’s 29 Bundesliga goals in 2017/18

Sound familiar? If it does, that’s probably because you’re experiencing flashbacks to the night of THAT five-goal Lewandowski salvo against Wolfsburg back in September 2016. The only difference is, Bayern’s imperious No.9 was brought on at half-time and scored all his goals in just nine minutes; Salenko started and needed almost an hour.

Bookmakers worldwide could be in for a sizable payout if Lewangoalski – an incredible 28/1 shot – follows suit at Russia 2018.

Chris Mayer-Lodge

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