Sergio Aguero: World Cup Predictions

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The one we’ve all been waiting for is here and Stake.com sat down with Argentina legend and brand ambassador Sergio Aguero to talk through the tournament, the key teams and players to look out for and line up some winning tips!

Have we ever gone into a tournament that looks so wide open before? Who are the countries you feel are the serious contenders to win, and why?

I believe it’s going to be a different World Cup , more so for the fact that it is going to played between November and December, something that has never happened before.

It will be played in the middle of the regular season and that is going to make it very different.

We have seen national teams that have had players miss out, due to them not being able to recover from injury in time.

This is something to take into account.

But beyond all of this, in the defining moments, the candidates are usually the same. And also, there is always a surprise.

I believe France, Brazil, Germany, Argentina, England and Spain are always favourites.

And we can’t forget Portugal and Belgium who have very good teams.

Argentina, first. They look to have a complete team, and their unbeaten run is unbelievable. What would it take to beat them?

Argentina arrives very well despite the possibility that some of the boys who have been starting could be side-lined due to injury.

I hope everyone arrives in the best way.

But be that as it may, the Argentine team is very clear about what it plays for and the group is very consolidated.

And of course, Messi's leadership is key. I think it will be difficult for any team to dominate Argentina.

There is not much talk about them as potential winners - does that surprise you? Are theybeing underestimated in Europe?

I don't think that is so.

I have heard many talk about Argentina being one of the candidates.

And important soccer people too!

You know Leo so well - what would it really mean to him and your country if he can finish off his international career leading them to World Cup glory?

It would be wonderful. Leo and the team deserves it.

There are even a lot of people in the world who expect Messi to be champion, regardless of which country they are from.

And that speaks of the love and respect that has been earned over all these years.

Would such a success see Leo rival Diego Maradona as the national hero and icon in Argentina?

I never liked those comparisons.

And it's not about who is more of a symbol.

Each one occupies a very important place in the hearts of Argentines.

I like more to think about how lucky we Argentines are to have Diego and Leo, each in his time, the best players in history.

Brazil, now. Neymar looks in his peak while Vinicius Jr has arrived as a world star. Has anyone else got the attacking power to match them?

In this first part of the season, Ney has had a great performance and we know that he is a world-class player.

If we add Vinicius, who maintains the level of last season, plus Gabriel Jesùs, Rodrygo, Anthony, Richarlison... they have a powerful offence.

But it happens in other teams too.

Mbappe and Benzema in France, Sterling and Kane in England, Leo, Lautaro, Di Marìa, Julián Alvarez in Argentina, just to give a few examples, shows that the great teams have a lot of firepower.

When you look at all the teams, is the way to success in Qatar for teams to actually go outand win matches with attacking football? Will more conservative teams be able to compete?

You have to see how they play games.

Most of the candidates have an offensive game but when it comes to heads up that usually changes.

Because it is all or nothing and more precautions are taken. Beyond that I think we will see great matches and at a high level.

Which brings us onto England. On paper they look to have an exciting young squad - but are they allowed by Gareth Southgate to go out and play with freedom? Is this holding them back?

I think they have a team to get excited about.

They could not win the Euro but they showed in that tournament that they are a team to be feared.

I know they have had some losses in defence but they have replacements and also a mix of young players already established like Foden, Mount, Declan Rice, Rashford, Bellingham and Saka with others with more experience like Sterling, Henderson and Kane.

England’s central midfield looks strong. How highly do you rate Declan Rice as a player compared to the likes of Busquets, Rodri and Casemiro? Is he overrated by English fans and media or is he genuinely a world class player?

For me he is a great player and is at the same level as the best midfielders.

It seems to me that he is valued.

What happens is that with him not being in a Big Six team, he does not get talked about as much.

But he has proven himself and I think he is one of the strengths of the team.

And in Jude Bellingham, there is another really talented young player. Can Bellingham and Rice be the anchor for success for England?

It seems to me that if the youngest players - many of them already with several seasons in very strong competitions - don't feel the weight of playing in a World Cup, they will be able to show how important they are.

It's not just Bellingham. Earlier I named Phil Foden and Mason Mount and others who together make up a very relevant group.

Of the other European nations, Belgium, Germany, France and Spain seem the best equipped. But how big a loss is Paul Pogba for France? Does that seriously damage their chances?

It's not just Pogba. I have read that Kanté was also left out.

They are very important players and their absences can be felt.

But France is a very powerful team, with great replacements.

I don't think it will hurt their chances.

Jamal Musiala looks to have it all playing for Bayern in Germany. Is he a future world star?

He is another of the youngsters who is inserted into a National Team that is always a candidate such as Germany.

I think the same applies to what I said in relation to the youngest in England or any other team. It will be his first experience in a World Cup.

In any case, it is a huge challenge and a great motivation for them to play a World Cup and they will want to give their best.

Cristiano Ronaldo has been Portugal’s inspiration for so long. But is he at the same level now to deliver across a whole tournament? Has his form at United suggested he is now not the man to fear?

Ronaldo always inspires respect. It is true that the passing of the years is noticeable in the physical.

But he has a great experience and with that he compensates.

In addition, Portugal has great players in all positions (Rubén Díaz, Cancelo, Bruno Fernándes, Bernardo Silva, among others).

And I think now Ronaldo is better surrounded than in other Portugal teams.

Your former Manchester City teammate Kevin De Bruyne will be Belgium’s key player and he looks to be one of the favourites for the Ballon D’Or at this early stage. Do you see them as contenders or did they maybe miss their chance in 2018 with that fantastic squad?

Belgium has players in the main European competitions and with great success.

De Bruyne is undoubtedly their flag, he is a top player, but we must not forget Lukaku, Ferreira Carrasco, the Hazards and many others.

Kevin is a tremendous player. I say this knowingly.

I have played with him and I was able to verify it.

Few in the world have the ability to have such a perfect panorama of the game that it is capable of assisting with incredible precision.

Pedri was one of the stars of EURO 2020 and now has another year of experience with Barcelona, who also have Gavi in the Spain squad, how big an impact can those two young prodigies have and how far can La Roja go?

Reviewing the questions I see that the issue of young talents occurs in so many teams... I don't know if there have been so many in past World Cups.

And what about Pedri and Gavi? The two have been Golden Boy, one after the other.

And they already have many games together at Barcelona.

They also have their first World Cup experience.

But what I am sure of is that they will be the solid base of the Spanish team from now on.

Time for your predictions now, and no sitting on the fence! Who do you think will win the World Cup, and why?

It is difficult to make predictions because we will also have to see how the last 16 and quarter finals turn out.

What I am saying is that if Argentina passes the quarter finals, it has great chance.

Who wins the Golden Boot? There are plenty of big names to choose from…

Another difficult question to answer.

It will depend on the teams that advance. Because maybe there is a player who performed well in the group stage but then his team didn’t qualify.

And another that didn’t perform so well, plays more matches and has more chances. Hopefully it will be Leo Messi though! Who do you think is the young player who will make the world sit up and take note during this tournament? Foden? Musiala?

Here too there are several candidates.

I already named some in the previous answers, and think that Pedri is someone to watch, although I would love it if it was one from Argentina.

Who do you think will be the surprise package?

Ecuador has a very good team. Canada too.

They are teams without a tradition in World Cups but they have a generation of footballers who can give them a lot of satisfaction.

But I would like to see Senegal as well.

If England fail to reach the semi-finals, would that be a failure given the squad they have?

We are very badly used to disqualifying if the results are not what is expected.

I think you have to put less drama on things. I understand that for the fans it can be disappointing if their team does not achieve good results.

But talking about failure seems too much to me.

If there is something that I learned during all the time that I played professionally, it is that you have to know how to value the processes.

Because if it is not this time there will always be the possibility of revenge.

And what is learned in a World Cup is used for the next one

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