Colombia goal machine Radamel Falcao’s World Cup dream is finally here

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The 32-year-old is set to star for his country in a tournament in which he will hope to demonstrate his world-class credentials on the grand stage

Colombia goal machine Radamel Falcao’s World Cup dream is finally here.

The 32-year-old has played for some of the biggest clubs in world football, yet perhaps the most surprising thing about him is that 2018 will see him play in his first World Cup after missing Brazil 2014, where Colombia reached the quarter-finals, through a heartbreaking anterior cruciate knee ligament injury.

Falcao’s career depicts a man who has gone from hero to zero in a short space of time, but he now goes into Colombia’s first World Cup match against Japan in Saransk on Tuesday looking to remind the world of the qualities which first earned him his ‘El Tigre’ (The Tiger) nickname.

An impressive 24 goals in 35 appearances for Monaco last season may have been overshadowed by the likes of Edinson Cavani and Neymar’s goalscoring sprees, but for a man who was written off after disastrous spells at Manchester United and Chelsea there can be no doubt that Falcao’s bouncebackability makes him the kind of competitor perfectly matched for a tournament on the biggest stage possible.

"Everything in life is a lesson and one can take advantage of this if they can find something in every situation,” said Falcao. “These types of adverse experiences teach you and I tried to learn; to assimilate as much as possible, and to put into practice as much as possible. For me, it was like this: I didn’t let that moment pass without gaining something for my life.”

Those failed loan spells in the Premier League can certainly be labelled as learning experiences, with many believing that the Colombian frontman was harshly treated by then-United boss Louis van Gaal. He scored just four goals for United and only managed to net one goal for Chelsea before returning to Monaco where he has revived what looked like a stalling career.

“It’s his [Falcao’s] first World Cup and people are loving this moment,” Luis Guillermo Montenegro, journalist at Colombian newspaper El Espectador , told Goal .

“All the people think it’s a beautiful chance to demonstrate that he’s one of the best strikers in the world. Maybe it’s a chance to show to the world that he’s coming back.

“It’s his last chance to show the world that he’s world class. I think in England he didn’t have the opportunities of confidence of his coaches. Leonardo Jardim has lots of confidence in him and this is very important now. In Colombia, [Jose] Pekerman believes in him and this is an important thing.

“He’s like a hero because of his story. He worked very hard to return to the team and people believe he’s an idol, he’s an example for many kids and the country. Falcao and James Rodriguez are the heroes of the team.” 

Falcao

Indeed, Colombia coach Jose Pekerman will be looking to Falcao to share the mantle alongside fellow talismanic attacker James Rodriguez, who is an injury doubt due to a minor calf problem, against Japan.

Those following Colombian circles closely remain confident that La Tricolor can progress to the latter stages of the tournament thanks to the experience of those players at elite clubs, including Falcao.

“I think that Colombia is better than the 2014 World Cup,” said Montenegro.

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“Players have more experience, many players are in first-class teams such as Yerry Mina at Barcelona, James at Bayern Munich, Falcao at Monaco, Juan Cuadrado at Juventus. Many players are better having had these experiences and the group Colombia have is easier than Brazil’s group. Maybe they have a chance to go to the quarter-finals or semi-finals at least."

Pekerman’s admission that his team are “much richer thanks to the skills” of his players is testament to the blend of experience and youth that the exciting Colombia side can boast.

Their first test is to come up against a technically astute Japan side who will look to cancel out the likes of James and Falcao at the brand new 45,000 seater Mordovia Arena – a grand stage which El Tigre certainly wants to get his paws all over.

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