Su­nil Chhetri on his World Cup favourites.

“It’s my third World Cup. I feel hap­pi­ness and a lot of anx­i­ety, I want the time to come. I'll try to take all the ex­pe­ri­ence of the past two World Cups and dump it in Rus­sia. I want to do well for my team,” says the Ar­gen­tine striker Ser­gio Aguero.

Sportstar - - COVER STORY - AYON SENGUPTA

The world of foot­ball has its fairy­tale, of the un­der­dog over­achiev­ing, and break­ing the bar­rier of poverty and so­cial in­jus­tice. To many in strife­torn Latin Amer­ica and Africa, the game pro­vides an av­enue for a bet­ter life, to haul fam­i­lies away from a daily strug­gle with drugs, crime, famine or poverty.

Ser­gio ‘Kun’ Aguero has a sim­i­lar story, grow­ing up in the im­pov­er­ished neigh­bour­hood of Los Eu­calip­tos in Buenos Aires, where his par­ents Leonel Del Castillo and Adri­ana Aguero moved from their fam­ily homes in Tu­cuman when they were just 17 and 19.

A young Aguero had his bat­tles — din­ner most days was herbal tea and stale bread. How­ever, his ball play­ing skills, en­cour­aged by Leonel, took him to In­de­pen­di­ente, for whom he made his pro­fes­sional de­but in 2003, when he was just 15.

His foot­balling jour­ney has taken him to Madrid and now Manch­ester and the diminu­tive striker has al­ways been a fan favourite, scor­ing a plethora of goals and show­ing ex­em­plary com­mit­ment.

Aguero’s record with the na­tional team, though, has been less stel­lar as he has strug­gled to find his spot in the start­ing XI in a team al­ready em­bel­lished with the likes of Lionel Messi and Gon­zalo Higuain. The very com­pet­i­tive Aguero would like to re­deem his record at the qua­dren­nial ex­trav­a­ganza, the World Cup, where he has zero strikes in eight ap­pear­ances.

“It’s my third World Cup. I feel happi­

ness and a lot of anx­i­ety, I want the time to come. I'll try to take all the ex­pe­ri­ence of the past two World Cups and dump it in Rus­sia. I want to do well for my team,” the striker says.

Aguero, who has scored 36 goals for the na­tional side, is happy with his re­cov­ery and is hop­ing for a start­ing role in Rus­sia. “The knee is very good, it’s much bet­ter. I had an in­tense few weeks of train­ing, and test­ing how the knee de­vel­ops. I’ve al­ready started train­ing with the team nor­mally,” the 29year­old adds. The striker un­der­went a knee op­er­a­tion in April that ruled him out of the later part of the 2017­18 sea­son.

Ea­ger to end La Al­bice­leste’s 32­year bar­ren run, Aguero says: “Any player would like to win a World Cup. I want a pic­ture with the Cup, it’s the dream of all of us here.”

He, how­ever, is not per­turbed with the hype sur­round­ing the Ar­gen­tine team. The Manch­ester City for­ward is bank­ing on the col­lec­tive ex­pe­ri­ence of the squad to im­prove upon its run­ner­up fin­ish in the 2014 edi­tion.

“The Ar­gen­tine Na­tional Team is al­ways ex­pected to reach the fi­nal of the World Cup. We have a great team, the group has been strength­ened with some smart ad­di­tions,” he says. “Hope­fully we can make a good World Cup.”

Urg­ing the whole na­tion to rally be­hind the team as it tries to break its big tour­na­ment jinx, Aguero says: “I want all the 40 mil­lion Ar­gen­tines to be with us. I want to tell them that we are go­ing to try our best in the field. With the help of every­one it will be much eas­ier. I hope every­one is with us in the World Cup, I send a hug to all Ar­gen­tines.”

Fit and rar­ing to go: Ar­gentina’s Ser­gio Aguero dur­ing a train­ing ses­sion in Ezeiza, Buenos Aires.afp

AFP

Deadly duo: Ar­gentina’s chances in the World Cup will mainly de­pend on the per­for­mances of Aguero and the mer­cu­rial Lionel Messi.

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