Ex-Colombia number 10 Carlos Valderrama has urged national coach Jose Pekerman to utilize the prize services of red-hot striker Falcao as Colombia go in search of valuable World Cup points on Friday.
Colombia have averaged just a goal a game in their opening five qualifiers and have slumped to sixth place in the South America standings, but “El Pibe” believes Atletico Madrid front-man Falcao holds the key to rejuvenating Los Cafeteros’ Brazil 2014 ambitions.
“With Falcao, we must take advantage of him. This is an important moment for him and, like they say in football, everything that he hits ends up in the back of the net,” Valderrama said.
El Tigre underlined his scoring pedigree last week with a hat-trick against European champions Chelsea in the European Super Cup, but, for Colombia, he has scored just once in the current qualifying campaign.
“Falcao has demonstrated he is a goalscorer and champion with River, with Porto and with Atletico Madrid. For this reason, we have to use him well as all these teams have,” El Pibe explained.
Crucial to prising the goals out of the 26-year-old striker considered one of the deadliest in the world, is injecting a creative supply line from the midfield.
In Colombia’s last two matches against Peru and Ecuador, Falcao cast a lonely figure, starved of supply and with few opportunities of goal.
For Friday’s game in Barranquilla, Jose Pekerman has taken remedial action. The Argentine coach, who turned 61 at the start of the week, drafted in playmakers Macnelly Torres and Giovanni Moreno to relieve some work-load from the young shoulders of James Rodriguez.
Dorlan Pabon, Jackson Martinez, Carlos Darwin Quintero and Barranquilla homeboy Teo Guttierez will all vie to play alongside Colombia’s celebrated number 9, Falcao. Offensively, Pekereman, at the very least, has options.
At the back, it’s a different story. Regular starters Mario Yepes and Aquivaldo Mosquero will miss Friday’s showdown with the 2010 World Cup semi-finalists due to suspension. Amaranto Perea and MLS defender Carlos Valdes are set to deputize.
Opponents Uruguay will also be a missing central figure. Liverpool striker Luis Suarez is suspended and so much responsibility will rest with the ageing Diego Forlan to find the goals.
Despite Uruguay’s heroic performances from the last few years – a Copa America crown to go alongside their third-place finish in South Africa – this is considered a side perhaps on the slide. Their shambolic showing at the London Olympics and June’s shaky 4-2 win against Peru and 1-1 home draw versus Venezuela, highlighted Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez’s worries. Replacing old talent with potential takes time.
Still, Uruguay are unbeaten in the CONMEBOL qualifiers and, even without Suarez, offer a stern test of Colombia’s World Cup hopes. They also have the added incentive of knowing that they will top the group should they win in Barranquilla
For Pekerman, a baying home crowd will no doubt demand three points. And if Colombia deliver, it could be a 61st birthday week to remember.