Striker injured anterior cruciate ligament

icon break30 January ~ Colombian star Radamel Falcao suffered an knee injury last week that may keep him out of action for the next six months. As doctors say the chances of him being ready for the World Cup are very slim, it has been a massive blow for his country's hopes of making progress. Colombia returned to the finals for the first time in 16 years after finishing second in the South American qualifiers, only behind Argentina, but their status as favourites in Group C has suddenly faded.

It didn't look as bad when Falcao fell after a tackle during a Coupe de France clash between his team Monaco and third-tier Chasselay last week but the striker was evidently in pain and left the pitch immediately. Falcao then flew straight to Porto, where he used to be based, and examinations eventually confirmed the worst scenario: an anterior cruciate ligament injury in his left knee.

He had an operation in order to start the recovery as soon as possible, but even if his surgeon José Carlos Noronha said Falcao has a 50 per cent chance of being in the World Cup, most of his colleagues are not that optimistic. Six months is the usual period to start training with the ball: with the World Cup starting on June 12, the numbers simply don't add up. Even if the player recuperated well and took a risk, he would he short of full fitness on arriving in Brazil.

The Tiger, as Falcao is known, was wished a a speedy recovery by Colombian fans, players and media and even the country's president Juan Manuel Santos stopped off in Porto during his European tour to visit him. Colombia is not a one-man team, but the nine goals scored by Falcao during World Cup qualification, such as the one below, played a major part in the team reaching the top-three in FIFA ranking last July and to be seeded in the World Cup draw in December.

Colombia's coach José Pékerman likes to play with two strikers. It was Falcao with Teófilo Gutiérrez of River Plate during the qualifiers but now it could be Gutiérrez and either Jackson Martínez (Porto) or Carlos Bacca (Sevilla), both of whom have featured regularly in the national team. A new addition to the squad could be the young Víctor Ibarbo, who has impressed so far at Cagliari. Rather than placing their faith in the various alternatives to Falcao, however, it seems that many Colombian supporters would prefer to hope for a "miracle" recovery. Antonio Mateo

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