Thursday 24 January 2019

Colombia will give James every chance to prove fitness

Rodriguez's importance to Colombia cannot be overstated. Photo: REUTERS/John Sibley
Rodriguez's importance to Colombia cannot be overstated. Photo: REUTERS/John Sibley

Ben Rumsby

James Rodriguez has been given until the last possible moment to prove his fitness for Colombia's last-16 game against England tonight.

The Brazil 2014 Golden Boot winner, who has been nursing a calf injury since the tournament began, played no part in the opening 15 minutes of their training session at the Spartak Stadium yesterday, limiting himself to exercises on the touchline. The rest of the session was held behind closed doors.

Colombia manager Jose Pekerman said: "I will tell you who will be in the starting XI one hour before the game. That's when we'll know how everybody's feeling."

Rodriguez's importance to Colombia cannot be overstated. He rescued them from the threat of an early exit with two stunning assists in a 3-0 win over Poland in their second Group H game, having been deemed not fit enough to start their opening defeat against Japan.

The Real Madrid forward, who spent last season on loan at Bayern Munich, then limped out of last Thursday's victory over Senegal that sent them through to the knockout stages.


Should he not be passed fit today, even more will be expected of Radamel Falcao, who has recaptured the form that made him one of the most feared strikers on the planet.

The 32-year-old will have a point to prove to English football fans after flopping badly during year-long loan spells at Manchester United and Chelsea.

"I didn't shine as I wanted in England - that's true. But that's part of the past, you know," said Falcao, who is actually one-eighth English.

The striker's great-grandfather was from Yorkshire, and he could even have played for England had he not been denied a British passport aged 13 after his father applied for one to help secure his son a move to Europe.

Falcao, who said tonight's game was a match he "always dreamt to play", added: "I only can say that it's beautiful to be here, to be able to play against England."

Pekerman played down Colombia's reliance on Rodriguez and Falcao, saying: "Those two players are really important. But I think that Colombia has a lot of potential as a team. We can grow. We can develop. We have already developed. And we are a very strong opponent, as we have been over the last years.

"So, we have come to this World Cup hoping to do what we already did in Brazil: play a good tournament and show that we're at the same level of the favourite teams such as England." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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