Sun, 20 Jun 2021

The countdown is almost over and the European Championship kicks off across 11 cities in 11 countries this weekend. Finally, the end of the 2020-21 season marks the start of EURO 2020 as Europe's very best national teams resume hostilities across the continent; five years after Portugal were crowned in France following its postponement by a year due to the global pandemic.

The 12 month delay to this quadrennial showpiece has greatly changed the landscape with form and fitness offering an advantage or otherwise from last year. The goal-scoring favorites remain the same however, and this EURO 2020 preview and prediction presents the top six candidates for the Golden Boot this summer.

Burak Yılmaz

Turkey's captain is a prolific goal-scorer everywhere he has been throughout his career which he is living in reverse at the moment. The late bloomer supplied the firepower as Lille wrestled the French title from PSG, becoming the first player to score at least 15 goals in his debut Ligue 1 season since Moussa Sow in 2011. Yılmaz's veteran influence was decisive as he netted 16 times in 28 games.

Indeed, only Cristiano Ronaldo scored more goals than Yılmaz among players aged 35 or over across Europe's top five leagues in 2020-21.

Turkey's second all-time goal-scorer is on a mission in his second European Championship having netted his first international hat trick aged 35 years in March. His current form reads six goals in seven internationals in 2020-21.

Crucially, Yılmaz will look behind him at EURO 2020 and find a quality supporting cast eager to tee him up, especially AC Milan maestro Hakan Çalhanoğlu and Lille teammate Yusuf Yazıcı. Physical and quick despite his age, Yilmaz possesses good link up play and is also clinical in the box with either foot.

Arriving in his best form imaginable, he just might be about to deliver a stunning campaign for the confident Turks.

Memphis Depay

The Dutch forward was on target again in a 3-0 win against Georgia in his team's final warm-up game before the EURO.

Depay netted the opener from the penalty spot after 10 minutes to continue his red-hot goal-scoring form at international level. He will be keen to make a bigger splash in his second international tournament as he looks set to sign for Barcelona in the coming weeks.

Indeed, the 27-year-old has scored seven goals and three assists in his last seven international games and carries the hopes of Frank de Boer's men who are unfancied going into their first tournament since 2014. Depay is one of the best set piece takers in Europe and is set to light up the continent with his vast technical ability. The ex-Manchester United man is surely one to keep an eye on.

Cristiano Ronaldo

One of the most experienced players at EURO 2020, the Portuguese superstar has his sights set on leading his country to international glory once more in what is surely his final European Championship as a player. Ronaldo has featured and scored at 10 international tournaments and will provide immense inspiration as Portugal's captain, record goalscorer and most-capped player.

Ronaldo is in a confident mood having won his first Capocannoniere Award for the top goalscorer in Italy and it won't be beyond the 36-year-old to do it again this summer. The only European to score 100 international goals will be sure of adding to his over 770 career goals as he is just six behind Ali Daei's all-time record of 109 international goals.

Ronaldo's first aim, however, is to go beyond his and Michel Platini's joint record of nine European Championship strikes.

Pertinently, Ronaldo was the second highest goalscorer at the triumphant EURO 2016 and has the added motivation to win the Golden Boot five years on.

Kylian Mbappe

His young career is littered with honors and the 22-year-old is primed for goals after another stellar season at Parc des Princes, during which he managed to score 42 goals in 47 appearances across all competitions.

Mbappe will headline transfer talk throughout the summer due to the fact he has yet to commit to fresh terms with PSG, and his performances at the EURO would only increase speculation over the coming weeks. Indeed, he showed in the 2020-21 UEFA Champions League campaign how he can be decisive (eight goals in ten games) despite a slow start in the group stage.

The youngest player in France's Euros squad won the Best Young Player prize at the 2018 World Cup and will catch the attention with his unstoppable pace, smart decision making and eye for goal.

Par for the course, Didier Deschamps' conservative tactics for the World Champions suit Mbappe to a tee. He can link up with his world class attacking colleagues on the counter and run into space to stretch defenses.

The Ligue 1 top scorer finished the World Cup as the joint-second highest goalscorer when France won the tournament and could well finish with the Golden Boot in hand come July 11.

Harry Kane

Harry Kane will be bewildered as to how he missed out on the official Premier League Awards having ended a stunning individual campaign with 23 goals and 14 assists as he took home the Golden Boot and Playmaker of the Season honors.

Kane's focus, however, will be on winning his first career trophy with England as the onus is on Gareth Southgate's men to make it out of a tough group and secure a glorious summer for the Three Lions. The highest-ever scoring England captain has already performed against group stage opponents Scotland (one goal), Croatia (a goal and an assist), and Czech Republic (two goals) and could realistically have a handful of goals before the knockout stages - just as he did in Russia 2018, when he finished top scorer as England reached the semifinal.

A serial Golden Boot winner is on penalty-taking duties for England and will be confident of a second consecutive international Golden Boot award. He might end up with a fair number of assists, too!

Romelu Lukaku

He only missed out to Kane for the 2018 World Cup Golden Boot and the duo are set to renew their sensational Premier League goal tussles from recent years. The Belgium striker has scored 30 or more goals in each of two seasons at Inter Milan, culminating in a first Scudetto in 10 years.

Belgium's all-time record goalscorer scored his 60th international goal against Croatia in the final warm up game ahead of the Euros, and the 28-year-old is in exceptional form as he leads the charge for Belgium's golden generation. He admitted to feeling like one of the top strikers in the world earlier this year and will be looking to back those claims with characteristic marksmanship this summer.

Lukaku's fourth tournament for the Red Devils could be the one he finally lifts silverware after they built on their EURO 2016 quarter final exit with a third place finish at the World Cup. Belgium's number nine is certainly a top-three Golden Boot contender.

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