Colombia are considered a dark horse for the 2014 FIFA World Cup™ in Brazil. If the South Americans are to go further than ever before they’ll need their big names to fire. Arguably the most high-profile player of them all is star striker Radamel Falcao, nicknamed El Tigre. The 28-year is currently settled with the French outfit, AS Monaco, on a five-year deal which is due to expire in 2018.
Although he risks not being 100% fit for the tournament due to a serious knee injury, El Tigre is set to assist the Colombian side with scoring —just as expected, as his goal-scoring record demonstrates his capabilities of booting goals to the net. The talismanic forward made his European move in 2009 to join the Portuguese giants, FC Porto where he stayed for two seasons. Falcao played a fundamental role assisting his side in winning their second Europa League in the 2010/11 campaign.
In July 2011, the Colombian received the Portuguese Golden Ball award —the first Colombian player to attain that achievement. He wrapped his first season with Porto with a superb return of 34 goals in all competitions. The 2011/12 season saw Falcao joining Spanish side Atletico Madrid, and his goal scoring exploits continued. A prolific debut season closed with 23 strikes.
His fire in front of goal raged on and he became the first player in the UEFA Europa League to take back-to-back top-scorer honours, bagging 12 goals and two in the final. The striker hit the net 36 times in 42 appearances for Atletico Madrid, breaking the club’s record to score more than anyone else during their first season. After pulling off an unbelievable 52 goals in 67 matches for the side, the Colombian international was a coveted goal-scoring machine in Europe.
Clubs were now queuing up in search of his signature, hoping to obtain his services. AS Monaco proved to be the successful club that lured El Tigre. The striker currently stands at 19 goals having made only 24 appearances for the French club during an injury-hit first season. Somewhat surprisingly, he has scored only 20 goals for his country in 51 appearances, comfortably below his strike rate in club football.
Falcao represented the under-17 national team and the under-20s during the FIFA Under-20 World Cup. He also formed part of the squad that won the 2005 edition of the South American Youth Championship. Despite his international goal scoring record, Falcao played a central role for his country as he aided Colombia in qualifying for the World Cup, finishing as the country’s top-scorer with nine.
Falcao has been described as one of the most “natural in-form goal scorers” in the world. The explanation evidently illustrates Falcao as one of the players to keep a look out for in the World Cup. His abilities to control the ball and his positioning skill —being able to score from different positions with various parts of his body – has led to nothing but goals and more goals wherever he has played. This is just what the Jose Pekerman will be hoping for come Brazil 2014. The 28-year old has also been labelled as a “poacher,” and plays a traditional ‘Number 9’ role.
The Monaco hitman is blessed with a strong weak foot (left) that is on par with his right foot, allowing him to be a flexible goal-scoring machine. In fact, describing his left as his weak foot borders on being insulting. Although he is of average height, it’s worth noting that the majority of his goals come from headers. His talents are noted by current and former footballers and most remarkably by the current Bayern Munich coach Pep Guardiola, who described him as “sensational” and one of the most talented in the world.
In January Falcao suffered anterior cruciate ligament damage in injury and was ruled out for the rest of the season. Immediately his participation in the World Cup was in doubt. However the Monaco forward has remained positive about his recovery process throughout and looks all set to take his place in Brazil. According to reports on his website, the striker believes that a South American team is more likely to win the title than their European counterparts. “Favourites are always in reference to who has won historically, but a team never taken into account always features. Because it’s played in South America, it might be less complicated for them than the Europeans. But Spain are one of the powers.”
Falcao and Colombia will face Greece, Ivory Coast and Japan in Group C before a potential Second Round clash against England, Italy or Uruguay – all former world champions.