For the past decade, Colombia has been the underachiever of South America. But phenomenal striker Radamel Falcao has almost single-handedly (footedly?) turned the team around. It beat Uruguay 4-0 on Sept. 7 and Chile 3-1 on Tuesday.
Falcao, who plays for Atletico Madrid, scored in both games. Over his past four club and national team games, he has scored eight goals.
He had a hat trick against defending Champions League winner Chelsea, three goals in two La Liga games for Atletico Madrid and then scored against Uruguay and Chile. Colombian midfielders had struggled to deliver the ball to Falcao in the past, but now he is getting help from James Rodriguez, Aldo Ramirez and Macnelly Torres. Coach Jose Pekerman, formerly the coach of Argentina, also deserves much credit for finding the right players and style to best utilize Falcao.
Fabio Capello, who managed AC Milan, Real Madrid, Juventus and England, compared Falcao with Lionel Messi.
“Throughout my entire career, there has been only one player who impressed me as much as Messi when I first saw him against my Juventus at the Joan Gamper trophy, and that is Radamel Falcao,” Capello told La Gazzetta dello Sport. “He is a fantastic striker, without a doubt the best around at the moment.”
Falcao scored 72 goals in 87 games for Porto and 42 goals in 53 games so far for Atletico Madrid.
Not since the days of fluffy-haired Carlos “El Pibe” Valderrama has Colombian soccer been so exciting.
The new South American underperformer is Paraguay. After making four consecutive World Cups and reaching the quarterfinals in 2010 in South Africa, the aging Paraguayans sit in last place and tied with Bolivia with nine games to go. The top four teams advance to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, and the fifth place team enters a playoff against the fifth-place Asian team. Paraguay’s World Cup streak is in serious jeopardy.