Colombia’s top marksman Radamel Falcao is racing against time to be fit for the World Cup finals in June and manager José Pékerman will wait until the very last minute to add the player’s name to the departing squad. Not only is Falcao one of the best strikers in the world – when fit – he is one of the finest players ever to pull on the Colombia jersey. He is also idolized and adored in the South American motherland.
The Colombians had pinned their hopes on Monaco forward Falcao to transfer his impressive club form to the biggest stage, but the player suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury playing in a domestic cup tie in January. The initial prognosis was was not good. The estimated recovery time for ACL injuries ranges from six to nine months. In short, Falcao’s World Cup was over before it started. Despite the fact Colombia has other good strikers to call on, such as Porto’s Jackson Martinez, Falcao is the man everybody wants to see. His prolific goal scoring record of 52 goals in 68 league games for Atlético Madrid was what convinced Ligue 1 side Monaco to sign him. Prior to his injury, he scored nine goals in 17 league appearances for Monaco. The stage was set for him to take on the best international sides in Brazil.
However, over the past three months, the future has become a lot brighter. Falcao has refused to rule out making a dramatic return to the fold due to fact his recovery is going better than expected. Even Monaco boss Claudio Ranieri has claimed the player is more than likely to be fit for the big event – a timely boost for his country, indeed. If he can win the race against time, Falcao could be lining up against other group members Greece, Ivory Coast and Japan. The Colombians will be much-fancied to come through the group without Falcao. With him, it is almost as sure as death and taxes.
Falcao’s role in the qualifiers was a big one – most notably he coolly netted two penalties as his side came from three goals down to secure a place at the World Cup with a 3-3 draw against Chile. A World Cup without him would be a huge loss for both the nation of Colombia and the world’s spectators. At 28-years-old Falcao is at his peak – or should be – and so he is likely to be past his best come the next tournament.
One negative that could possibly come out of his race against time to get fit is the pressure he will put on a knee he has injured before. If his recuperation is not handled with proper care, Falcao risks suffering further damage to his knee. That could not only put him out for a longer period, it could end his career prematurely. Colombia will be keeping a close eye on Falcao’s rehabilitation while Monaco and Ranieri will be monitoring it even closer. After all, Falcao gets his wages from the principality and Monaco will want to protect the £50 million investment.
World Cup Preview is a daily series providing commentary and analysis of the teams and players participating in this year’s World Cup in Brazil.
Commentary by Robert Shepherd