It's finally upon us. Euro 2012 kicks off this evening and we, at WhoScored, cannot wait. For all you betting types out there, we thought we'd share a few of our pointers for the tournament's Golden Boot, using stats from the previous season to back up our recommendations.
We have selected 5 players with wide ranging odds to be the top scorer at Euro 2012 according to bet 365, and we will start with a couple of those who are right up among the favourites to pick up the individual gong come July 1st.
Robin van Persie (Netherlands) - 9/1
The future of Arsenal's talismanic captain still remains unclear but one thing for certain is that all of his attention will now be on helping the Netherlands go one better than they managed at the previous World Cup. Robin van Persie ended the Premier League season with 30 goals and rightly goes into the tournament as joint-favourite to win the Golden Boot.
On the international stage he netted 6 goals in qualifying for the tournament and has scored 3 more in the trio of friendlies leading up to the competition. His clinical finish in front of goal cannot be questioned and, having mustered as many as 4.6 shots per game last season, he should have plenty of chances. With a shot accuracy of 47%, chance conversion rate of 17% and big chance conversion rate of 46%, the Gunners' forward has prepared for the trip to Poland and Ukraine in fine form.
Karim Benzema (France) - 10/1
Although the likes of Spain and Germany are the favourites to win the tournament outright, France and the Netherlands are among those tipped to be hot on their heels. It is worth considering that if Karim Benzema's France were able to progress as far as the semi-finals, they will have the chance to play 6 matches, just like the finalists, by virtue of the third place play-off. With this in mind the Real Madrid forward, who netted 21 league goals last season, has seen his odds slashed in recent days.
He is likely to lead the French line as the lone striker but will receive support from the likes of Ribery in behind, who himself is an excellent shot at 50/1, supplying the ammunition. With the Bayern winger topping the Bundesliga for assists last season, it is clear that Benzema will have plenty of chances to build on figures such as 2.9 shots per game and excellent percentages in terms of shot accuracy (54%) and chance conversion (21%).
Lukas Podolski (Germany) - 33/1
As mentioned, most have tipped Germany to be Spain's main threat as Del Bosque's side look to retain their title. Having sealed a summer move to the Premier League with Arsenal already, Lukas Podolski’s mind will be focused on ensuring his national side live up to the hype. Despite scoring as many as 18 goals last season, the front man couldn't save boyhood club Cologne from relegation and will be looking to put that disappointment behind him at the Euros.
We have chosen Podolski over Gomez and Klose, who will both be in competition for one spot in the side, with the latter perhaps favoured despite the Bayern-man being the bookies tip to finish as top scorer. Playing from the left, Podolski faces competition of his own from youngster Andre Schurrle, with that pressure perhaps able to spur the Arsenal signing on. Along with a superb 21% chance conversion, Podolski really excels when it comes to clear cut opportunities, scoring an unbelievable 78% of his big chances last season.
Nani (Portugal) - 66/1
With all of the attention on Cristiano Ronaldo, Manchester United winger Nani can sometimes be forgotten on Portugal's opposite flank. If defenders give him too much freedom at the Euros he could be the one to shine this summer, as he potentially looks to earn a move away from Old Trafford with a number of top clubs thought to be interested.
He may have only netted 8 goals last season, but bearing in mind the fact that the top scorer in such a short tournament rarely needs more than 5 goals, it only takes a flurry of form to come out on top, and the winger certainly has it in him. Not shy of a pop at goal, Nani attempted 2.2 shots per game last season, but, perhaps most importantly, he netted 4 goals in qualifying for the tournament and, back at full fitness, is always a threat for his nation.
Mario Mandzukic (Croatia) - 100/1
Our long shot tip is Croatia front man Mario Mandzukic, who is perhaps the most likely of Slaven Bilic's forwards to have cemented a spot ahead of the tournament. Partnered by either Jelavic or Eduardo, the Wolfsburg striker offers a real aerial threat and we have chosen him to deliver here after he ended the season in fine form for his club, with 4 goals and 6 assists in his last 9 games leaving him with respective tallies of 12 and 8 for the campaign.
A persistent goal threat having averaged as many as 3.2 shots per game, the target man's conversion rate of 12% isn't particularly impressive but a shot accuracy of 44% and big chance conversion rate of 47% suggests that when he is in the best positions he usually delivers the goods. The main worry over bets on the Croat, and Nani before him, will be the sides' chances of progressing past the group stages but, with Italy showing inconsistent form and frailties at the back in recent friendlies, 100/1 is still a very tempting bet.