At this advanced stage of the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ preliminaries, it might be expected that the likes of Fernando Torres, Didier Drogba and Diego Forlan would be setting the goalscoring pace. As it is, however, the scoring charts in the various continental zones are being scaled by a group of considerably lesser-known sharp-shooters.
Fiji's Osea Vakatalesau set the standard, finishing Oceania's qualifiers with a 12-goal tally that left him comfortably clear of higher-profile contenders such as Shane Smeltz and Commins Menapi. And as FIFA.com reveals, that example has since been followed by a clutch of similarly unheralded forwards intent on making a name for themselves on the road to South Africa.
Africa: Icons in pursuit of Dagano
The mother continent is not exactly short on talented, high-profile strikers at the moment. Yet it is not the name of Eto'o, Drogba, Adebayor, Zaki or Kanoute that rests atop the African Zone's scoring charts, but rather Burkina Faso's Moumouni Dagano. The 28-year-old, who plays his club football for Al Khor of Qatar, has been in spectacular form, scoring seven times in six first-phase matches before opening the second stage with a brace in the Burkinabe's 4-2 win over Guinea. The result is that he holds a healthy three-goal advantage over his nearest pursuers. However, when that chasing pack includes the likes of Eto'o and Kanoute, Dagano will know only too well that resting on his laurels could well prove fatal.
The leaders: Moumouni Dagano (9), Frederic Kanoute, Samuel Eto'o, Razak Omotoyossi (all 6), Emmanuel Adebayor, Ismael Bangoura, Dennis Oliech (all 5)
Asia: Shatskikh sprints for the line
Although Thailand's FIFA World Cup dream ended when they finished Asia's third stage of qualifying anchored to the foot of their section, striker Sarayoot Chaikamdee continues to top the Asian Zone's scoring charts. The bad news for the man whose impressive poaching talents earned the nickname 'Joe Five Yards' earlier is that, while his qualifying campaign is over, Maksim Shatskikh's is not. The 30-year-old Uzbekistan captain, who shares the lead with Chaikamdee on eight goals, consequently finds himself in pole position to hold off the challenge of United Arab Emirates' Ismaeil Matar, the only other contender whose team have survived until the final phase.
The leaders: Sarayoot Chaikamdee, Maksim Shatskikh (both 8), Ahmad Alazemi, Ismaeil Matar (both 6), Mohamad Ghaddar, Ziad Chabo, Andrew Quintana (all 5)
Europe: Deadly Dzeko leads the way
What a year it has been for Edin Dzeko. A relative unknown at the start of the season, the Bosnian's incredible exploits for club and country have propelled him to international stardom - and to the top of several clubs' summer shopping lists. Voted Germany's player of the year after forming one half of the most prolific partnership in Bundesliga history, the Wolfsburg striker has taken his club form into the international arena, plundering seven goals from just six qualifiers. It was a trio of strikes in the back-to-back wins over Belgium that lifted Dzeko to the summit of Europe's scoring charts, but with Ebi Smolarek and Wesley Sonck just a goal behind and Messrs Villa and Rooney hovering ominously, maintaining his impressive early standards is imperative.
The leaders: Edin Dzeko (7), Ebi Smolarek, Wesley Sonck (both 6), Soren Larsen, David Villa, Wayne Rooney, Blaise N'Kufo (all 5)
North, Central America & the Caribbean: Rudis rules the roost
With all three of his closest challengers having exited the preliminary competition in the third round, El Salvador's Rudis Corrales would appear to be within touching distance of being crowned CONCACAF's goal king. However, looming portentously in the Aguila star's rearview mirror are Eliseo Quintanilla - a team-mate with club and country - and USA prodigy Jose Altidore, both of whom are within a couple of goals of joining Corrales on his perch. With the likes of Clint Dempsey and Jared Borgetti also a little too close for comfort, this apparent one-horse race might just become interesting.
The leaders: Luton Shelton, Rudis Corrales (both 7), Ali Gerba, Carlos Ruiz (both 6), Jozy Altidore, Eliseo Quintanilla, Wensley Christoph (all 5)
South America: Botero bows out
With Diego Forlan clutching a Pichichi-European Golden Shoe double and Lionel Messi having topped the UEFA Champions League scoring charts, Joaquin Botero is not who we would have expected to be setting the pace in South America. Yet the surprise at a player from Mexico's second tier firing his way to such a lofty position paled in comparison to the bemusement that followed Botero's recent retirement from international football. The result, barring a seemingly unlikely u-turn, is that the match in which the 31-year-old scored a hat-trick to inflict Argentina's worst defeat in six decades will now be his last for La Verde. Botero's shock retirement also offers hope to team-mate Marcelo Martins and Brazil's Luis Fabiano, currently two goals behind, while Forlan proved with 12 goals in his last eight La Liga games that he is the master of the late surge.
The leaders: Joaquin Botero (8), Luis Fabiano, Marcelo Martins (both 6), Sebastian Abreu, Diego Forlan, Humberto Suazo (5)
Have Your Say
With several rounds of matches still to play, the race to finish as top scorer in all five featured confederations is still very much alive. So who are you tipping to finish on top? Just click 'Add your comment' to give us your prediction.