Marek Robert looks at possible replacements for Falcao in the Colombia squad.
Last week one of the world’s best and most exciting strikers, Radamel Falcao, ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament and may miss this summer’s World Cup in Brazil. Falcao sustained the injury playing for Monaco in a French Cup tie against fourth tier side Chasselay, a game it could be argued he should have never featured in.
The striker has since had knee surgery, with the Doctor involved, Jose Carlos Noronha, confident that the Colombian international will be fit for the World Cup. He was quoted as saying:
“The light at the end of the tunnel isn’t small. There’s a possibility of him going to the tournament and taking the field for the World Cup. Following the successful surgery, it’s not out of the question.”
Will Falcoa be fit? Only time will tell but most in the medical profession are giving him a 50/50 chance of making it to Brazil.
Desde Porto viendo al equipo, gracias por la fuerza que me dan, yo estoy acá a darles la mía!! pic.twitter.com/nrHCeHxAge
— Radamel Falcao (@FALCAO) January 26, 2014
Many pundits and fans that predicted Colombia as dark horses to win the grandest prize of them all have now retracted that statement, understandably so, as the idea of losing such an influential and world class player would have an affect on any side. However, is it as disastrous as everybody seems to be claiming?
Radamel Falcao Garcia Zarate, named after the Brazilian legend of the 1982 and 1986 World Cup, began his career back in his homeland Colombia, playing for Lanceros Boyaka at the age of 13. After only 8 appearances, Falcao was snapped up by Argentine giants River Plate, where he continued to progress into one of the most promising strikers in world football, scoring 34 in 90 games in the Argentine capital. In 2009, Porto took a chance on the Colombian, acquiring his services for a mere four million Euros, and it certainly paid dividends.
In his first season at the Portuguese side he scored 34 goals in 43 games, helping Porto to a third place finish and only one goal behind Oscar Cardozo in the top scorer chart with 25. However, it was in his second season where he really began to come into his own and scored 16 goals for Porto in the league and a record 17 goals in the Europa league, playing a massive part in Porto’s domestic and Europa League double under the helm of Andre Vilas Boas.
After his performances he became one of the most sought after strikers in world football, with Real Madrid, Chelsea and Barcelona among a host of clubs looking to acquire his services. In a move that nobody expected, Falcao signed for Atletico Madrid for a massive fee of 40 million Euros. The Colombian more than paid back that sum, scoring goals for fun, helping Atleti win the Europa League in the process. Last summer, Falcao surprised everyone again by moving to Ligue 1 side Monaco in another huge transfer worth around 60 Million Euros, and although not being at his best he still has a decent record for the with 9 goals in 17 games.
Falcao has been criticised in the past for not being able to replicate his form for his national side, but over the past few years he has begun to show the same goal scoring touch for Colombia. He scored 9 goals in the South American qualifiers, and has a respectable record of 20 goals in 51 caps.
As the statistics prove Colombia won’t be the same side in Brazil minus Falcao but I personally don’t feel the impact will be as great as many people expect. I regularly watched Colombia throughout the South American qualifiers and there is an abundance of talent throughout the team, especially in attack.
Colombia coach Jose Pekerman has often opted to play 4-4-2 and Juan Cuadrado and James Rodriguez were usually placed on either flank with Falcao and Teo Gutierrez up top. However, in the absence of their star man, Pekerman could tinker with his formation to suit the rest of his team. He could go with one man in attack in the lone striker role and five in midfield or could change to a 4-3-3, with Cuadrado, Rodriguez, or even Gutierrez out wide in a front three. Another option would be that James Rodriguez could play in the hole just behind the striker, a position I feel he is most effective. Here are a few names that could fill the void in attack:
Porto striker Jackson Martinez was another much sought after striker in the summer, with Arsenal and Borussia Dortmund, reportedly interested. The Colombian has been fantastic for Porto for the last few years, becoming a fan favourite, scoring 38 goals in 44 appearances. He has not been able to replicate those kind of figures thus far for his national side, partly due to substitute appearances and the fact that Falcao has been taking all the plaudits. However, the big Colombian could benefit greatly from Falcao’s absence and this could be his time to show the rest of the world that Falcao will not be as missed as much as expected.
Other than Martinez, Colombia also have a host of other options to fill the void in attack. Udinese youngster Luis Muriel had a fantastic first season in Serie A last year, scoring an excellent 11 goals in 22 matches, drawing comparisons to the great Brazilian Ronaldo. Muriel has not been able to replicate that form so far this season due to injuries and loss of form, but he is a fantastic talent and if he performs well for the rest of the season he will certainly be a viable option.
Another option for the Los Cafeteros is Sevilla striker Carlos Bacca. Bacca signed for Los Rojiblancos in the summer from Belgian side Club Brugge and has been an absolute revelation in his first few months in La Liga, scoring 10 goals so far this season. During his time in Belgian football he was regarded as one of the league’s top strikers and scored 28 goals in 45 appearances. He only has 8 caps for his national side but has 2 goals and certainly gives Colombian coach Jose Pekerman something to ponder.
Amongst other options are Cagliari’s Victor Ibarbo, who has been in good form in Serie A, still only 23 and more of a winger, he is also able to play as a striker. River Plate striker Teofilo Gutierrez, who featured regularly in the qualifiers is another option and he would be able to play as a lone striker if Pekerman is willing to change his formation or as part of a front two. Santos Laguna’s Carlos Darwin Quintero and Valencia’s Diego Pabon also provide more options in attack and are all perfectly capable of doing a job in the absence of Falcao.
Even with the great Falcao in attack I don’t feel that Colombia are serious contenders to lift the first World Cup, hosted in South America for the first time since 1978, but his absence will most definitely have a large effect on a team who have the talent to get to the latter stages. However, it certainly shouldn’t be all doom and gloom for the Colombian nation.