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The Colombia coach lamented the absence through injury of his star striker, but says his squad are "a family" and backed others to step up, starting against Greece on Saturday

By Ben Hayward in Belo Horizonte

Colombia coach Jose Pekerman says any team at the World Cup would like to have Radamel Falcao as their centre-forward, but insists he is only thinking about the players at his disposal ahead of his side's opener against Greece on Saturday.

Falcao ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament while playing for Monaco in January and ultimately lost his battle to be fit for the summer showpiece in Brazil.

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Pekerman described the decision to leave the striker behind, along with defender Luis Perea and forward Luis Muriel, as the "saddest day" of his time as Colombia coach.

"We suffered a lot that day," he said at a press conference in Belo Horizonte on Friday. "We showed that and it's a positive thing - it comes from inside.

"Injuries are in the past now, though. We are focusing on the players that are here."

But he added, with a wry smile: "I won't lie to you: any team that's here at the World Cup would want to have Falcao as their centre-forward."

Despite the list of absentees though, Pekerman believes Colombia can be competitive - even without Falcao.

"We're looking ahead," he said. "We have a lot of quality in attack and we have a lot of confidence in [Carlos] Bacca and in Teo [Gutierrez], while Victor [Ibarbo] has given us variations and increased the competition for places."

"We are a family," he added. "And like any family, we face our problems together. Falcao, Perea and Muriel will be here to support us, they have never left.

"We have a competitive team, a united squad with a group of players who don't think individually but for the [benefit of the] collective and who play for the shirt. Our aim is to be protagonists in this World Cup and to go as far as we can in the competition.

"We have overcome a lot of obstacles and I think we are in good shape."

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