Billed as a battle between two Colombian soccer stars, Radamel Falcao and James Rodriguez, and Colombia’s top club team, the story line for Wednesday night’s match at Marlins Park between AS Monaco and Colombia’s Atletico Nacional has changed dramatically in the last few days.
Rodriguez dealt a blow to the narrative by leaving Monaco on Tuesday to sign a six-year deal with Real Madrid. Madrid reportedly paid Monaco $108 million for the World Cup Golden Boot winner.
“James is a very strong player, and we wanted him to stay with us — to stay with Monaco — but that’s football,” Yannick Ferreira Carrasco said. “He was a very important player.”
Falcao might not suit up, either. He is still recovering after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament this winter and missed the team’s last match Sunday.
“I want to come back 100 percent, so that decision will be made in conjunction with the medical and technical team as well as myself,” Falcao said Monday. “It can be any moment now.”
If the striker is unable to play, more of the spotlight will shine on the Portuguese duo of Joao Moutinho, who played every minute of Portugal’s three World Cup matches, and Ricardo Carvalho, who made 50 appearances for Real Madrid and 135 for Chelsea before joining Monaco last year.
Up top, Bulgaria’s all-time leading goalscorer, Dimitar Berbatov, has worked to replace Falcao’s production. The former Manchester United forward scored the only goal in a 1-0 win over Junior in Colombia on Sunday.
That matched kicked off the 2014 Copa EuroAmericana, a tournament that pits European teams against opponents from the Western Hemisphere. Fiorentina (Italy), Valencia (Spain) and Atletico Madrid (Spain) will also represent Europe against clubs from Argentina, Peru, Chile, Mexico, and Brazil as well as Major League Soccer’s San Jose Earthquakes.
“[This tournament] is a good opportunity to compete with the strongest continents in a worldwide level and be able to bring the big European teams to South America and the United States and for people in the U.S. to be able to enjoy a little bit of this great love for football,” Falcao said. “It’s a cultural exchange; it lets European players get to know South American figures. In every sense, it benefits everyone.”
Wednesday, Atletico Nacional will be led by captain Alex Mejia, a midfielder who helped the Colombian national team reach the World Cup quarterfinals. Atletico Nacional is tied for the lead in Colombia’s Categoria Primera A with 14 championships since being founded in 1948.
Last year, the team earned South America one of its two wins as Europe dominated the first Copa EuroAmericana 6-2.
All of those matches were held in South America. San Jose’s match against Madrid this year will be the only other one played in the United States.
“It's the second time this tournament is held, but the first time that this tournament takes place in a North American city and on North American soil and obviously it's something that the event organizers are proud of,” said Alfonso Noain, the director of tournament sponsor DIRECTV PanAmericana sports marketing. “[Miami] is a city that breathes and lives for soccer and will live for it even more from now on.”
South Florida previously hosted World Cup tune-up matches for England, Ecuador, and Honduras at Sun Life Stadium in June.
Sun Life Stadium will host soccer again August 4 when the championship game of the Guinness International Champions Cup comes to town.