Golden Boot duel adds a bit of spice to World Cup aperitif

Harry Kane and Romelu Lukaku will aim to settle the issue of who carries the top scorer award home from Russia in Saint Petersburg.

Harry Kane.

The World Cup third-place playoff is scant reward for a long tournament and the disappointment of missing out on a place in the final but there is one reason for Harry Kane and Romelu Lukaku to go out all guns blazing in Saint Petersburg when Belgium and England meet – the Golden Boot.

The England striker is in pole position for the award with six so far in the tournament while the Belgium forward has four to his name.

Kane has not found the net since the last-16 game against Colombia while Lukaku did all of his scoring in the Red Devils’ opening two games against Panama and Tunisia. The England captain also profited from the group stage, bagging a hat-trick against Panama and a brace against Tunisia but has not scored from open play in the knock-out stages.

Kane had a decent chance against Croatia but hit the post and had been called offside anyway. England struggled to create much from midfield against Colombia, Sweden and Croatia, obliging Kane to drop back in search of the ball, and it is no coincidence that a direct free-kick, a header from a corner and Kane’s penalty against Colombia accounted for three of his side’s four goals in the knock-out stages.

Kane and Lukaku aiming for a bit of personal history

It remains to be seen if Kane will play in the Krestovsky Stadium. The UK media have speculated he was not fully fit against Sweden and Croatia and although he has told Gareth Southgate that he does not need a rest, Kane did admit that the third-place playoff “is not the game we wanted to be playing.”

Lukaku, meanwhile, made a sacrifice for the team against Brazil, moving out to the right wing so that Eden Hazard and Kevin de Bruyne could exploit spaces in the middle. In that display, which worked out perfectly for Belgium, the Golden Boot was not a priority but Roberto Martínez has told his players that it is a reason to go out and play to the best of their ability – no Belgian has ever won the award.

Kylian Mbappé and Antoine Griezmann, who will play in the final against Croatia on Sunday, are still in with a shout of achieving the World Cup winner-Golden Boot double with both on three goals for the tournament.