WORLD CUP: Delgado targeting swansong

Quito, May 13:

Ecuador’s record goalscorer Agustin Delgado wants to fill his boots one last time before hanging them up after the World Cup.

The 31-year-old centre-forward plans to retire from international football after the finals, ending a sharpshooting career that saw him ranked amongst South America’s top strikers during his peak. Delgado’s goalscoring prowess was largely responsible for propelling Ecuador to their first finals four years ago, and he was on target again during preliminaries for the 2006 tournament, with five goals. Now Delgado wants to add more.

While Ecuador struggled to make an impact in 2002, finishing bottom of their group, Delgado believes the side is stronger for the experience. “We’ve matured as a team in footballing terms,” says Delgado, who has scored 29 goals in 67 internationals. “You have to make the most of everything youve learnt along the way, and be both intelligent and careful.”

Helping to nurture some of Ecuador’s emerging younger players has also been especially satisfying for the man known to his fans simply as ‘El Tin’. The veteran is confident that with the likes of Cristian Lara coming through the ranks, he is exiting the international stage at the right time.

“I can talk about retiring with a clear conscience because of the quality youngsters that are coming through the ranks, just like we did,” he said. “They are young players with a great future ahead of them. We speak to them and try to keep them on the right path. They are the future of our football.”