Star striker Radamel Falcao has been ruled out of Colombia’s upcoming World Cup Qualifiers, according to doctors on staff with the Colombian national team.
After injuring himself Sunday in a game with his club team AS Monaco, Falcao was diagnosed with a first-degree ankle sprain by national team doctors in Barranquilla, where the Colombian side is preparing for its upcoming home match against Ecuador.
Doctors told reporters Tuesday that Falcao is experiencing pain and swelling in his right ankle, and will not be ready for intense exertion for at least the next two weeks, ruling him out for Friday’s match with Ecuador at the National Stadium in Barranquilla and Tuesday’s game in Montevideo against defending South American champions Uruguay.
The news will come as a blow to the Colombian side as they prepare for their crucial finish to what has been a highly successful qualifying campaign to date. Ecuador is one of Colombia’s toughest rivals historically, and at fifth place in the qualifying bracket, the Uruguayans will be desperate for a win at home. Two wins for Colombia, though, would practically assure a World Cup birth, and with help from other results, even one win or two ties could be enough to seal things for the ‘Tricolor’.
Fortunately for head coach Jose Nestor Pekerman, Colombia’s options off the bench at striker have never been more bountiful.
The team has said it will keep Falcao as an available option until just before the opening kickoff of Friday’s game, but Porto’s Jackson Martinez is the logical starter if ‘El Tigre’ is unable to go. As is, many have already been clamoring for the burgeoning superstar to get a chance to start up top, and with Falcao out, and three goals in as many games for Porto this season, Martinez seems almost a lock for the cap.
Who Pekerman will choose to lineup alongside him is less clear. Teofilo Gutierrez was expected to play Friday because of how his physical presence and defensive coverage complements Falcao’s typically high line. But Jackson Martinez provides target play already, so Pekerman may want to go with Carlos Bacca, who plays better coming out of the midfield than Gutierrez, and has experience starting with Martinez on the national team already.
Luis Muriel has been making a case for himself, too. With three goals so far for Udinese in the Italian Serie A, the big Colombian is displaying some of his best form to date.
Juan Fernando Quintero, on the other hand, would be a more creative option. Jackson Martinez likes to play more of a lone striker role for Porto, where he has been getting reps playing in front of his new teammate, Quintero. And given that James Rodriguez is settling into the attacking midfielder spot, using Quintero up top as an added playmaker would be a good way to insert him into the lineup, while still maintaining the fast-paced attack and defensive balance Pekerman has brought to the Colombian national side.
Falcao’s injury is a tough break for Colombian hopefuls, but Pekerman has done a good job spreading depth around the current squad. The Argentine ‘professor’ has a great chance to secure Colombia’s first trip to a World Cup since France 1998.
- Falcao no va con Colombia ante Ecuador (Antena 2)