Ecuador counting on Delgado for goalsPosted: Wednesday May 01, 2002 7:09 AM
QUITO, Ecuador (AP) -- In a startling qualifying round for traditional also-ran Ecuador, the play of striker Agustin Delgado may have been one of the most pleasant surprises of all.
Delgado, known affectionately by fans as "El Tin," led the South America region during qualifying with nine goals, tied with Argentine star Hernan Crespo.
The 27-year-old's standout performance grabbed the attention of England's Southampton, which signed him last November.
Not bad for a player who wasn't even in the national team's starting lineup at the beginning of the qualifying round.
"Everything I've achieved in the qualifiers I owe to coach Hernan Dario Gomez," Delgado said. "At the beginning of the process I remember that there were several forwards and everyone was saying that they should play and not me.
"It was Gomez who insisted on trying me out. He put me in for some minutes and I showed, with goals, that I should be a starter. I can say that thanks to his confidence," he said.
Delgado ended up playing in 16 of the team's 18 qualifying matches for more than 1,200 minutes. He got just one yellow card.
The lanky striker is best known for his playing of the ball above ground -- many of his goals have come off of headers.
Delgado has had little time to prove his mettle in the English Premiership due a nagging knee injury that cost him most of February and March. An initial surgery in Europe did not do the trick, so Delgado returned home to Ecuador to go under the knife again and spend two months nursing.
Delgado played for Colombia's Deportivo Independiente and Mexico's Cruz Azul before transferring in 1999 to Necaxa, also in Mexico.
There, he teamed up with veteran Ecuadorean midfielder Alex Aguinaga, another Ecuador international, to lead the club to a Mexican championship. That team also won third place in the world club championship in Brazil.
Delgado has dedicated part of his club earnings to a foundation that promotes soccer among the youth of the impoverished town of El Chota, his birthplace in Ecuador's northern Andes mountains.