By Ben Hayward
The worst fears of Colombia fans were realised on Thursday. The South Americans' star striker Radamel Falcao was ruled out of the World Cup after tearing his ACL during Monaco's Coupe de France encounter against Chasselay on Wednesday.
Falcao, who scored the opening goal in his side's 3-0 win, turned skilfully and advanced into the area, only to be met by a clumsy challenge from defender Soner Ertek, who was nowhere near the ball. The striker stayed down and was clearly in pain as he was forced to wait for medical staff to come to his aid, eventually leaving the pitch on a stretcher.
Tests on Thursday revealed the news no Colombia, Monaco or football fan wanted to hear. The 27-year-old has been ruled out for six months leaving his dreams of starring at Brazil 2014 in pieces.
Monaco are already five points behind rivals Paris Saint-Germain in the title race and Falcao's injury will be a big blow to Claudio Ranieri's side in their attempt to win the championship on their first season back in the top flight, even though the forward has been below his brilliant best in recent weeks.
But Falcao's personal disappointment is likely to centre around the World Cup. For Colombia coach Jose Pekerman and the rest of the squad it is also a crushing blow.
But they rely heavily upon Falcao. The former Atletico Madrid and Porto striker has 20 goals in 51 appearances for his national team, with almost half of those (nine) coming in South American qualifying for the World Cup.
Although a good team without him, Falcao would have lifted Colombia into a World Cup contender.
His injury is also bad news for neutrals. Falcao is one of the world's finest footballers and one of the planet's most feared strikers. He has already featured in several high-profile commercials in the build-up to Brazil 2014 and is one of the players fans would have wanted to see on the game's greatest stage.
More worrying from his own point of view is the fact that this may have been his last chance to play at the global showpiece. At 27, Falcao has yet to feature in a World Cup and with Brazil back in the 10-team qualifying group ahead of the next competition, there is no guarantee Colombia will make it to Russia 2018.
With the World Cup now less than six months away, injuries to important players are already beginning to pile up. England winger Theo Walcott has been ruled out of the competition after rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament, while Germany's Sami Khedira is doubtful after suffering a similar injury in November and Italy striker Giuseppe Rossi faces a battle to be fit after potentially aggravating the same knee problem which saw him sidelined for 18 months after the initial injury in October 2011.
All big losses if they miss out, but Falcao's absence will be felt even greater. A World Cup lives off its star performers and participating teams need their best footballers. Falcao will be sorely missed.
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