Who will replace Falcao on the Columbia National Football Team?

Created on Jan. 28, 2014 2:41 AM EST

With Radamel Falcao out from an ACL injury, Columbia is likely pushing the panic button in regards to their World Cup aspirations. Even with doctors saying there is a 50-50 chance that he’ll be healthy before Columbia’s June 14th opener against Greece, we have to be honest; Falcao won’t be the same right away. Even if he is mobile by the time World Cup starts, there’s a good chance his left knee would still be in the rehabilitation process. What kind of Falcao will we see on the pitch on June 14th? A less-explosive, off-balanced, soft-shooting forward who will play like a decent option for a team like Australia, but not Columbia. In other words, la Tricolor won’t have the same guy who scored seven goals in their qualifying campaign.

Columbia should not give themselves false hopes on Falcao’s return and focus on who will be playing alongside Teofilo Gutierrez (five goals in World Cup Qualifying) up top.

1.       Jackson Martinez

FC Porto’s target man Jackson “Cha-cha-cha” Martinez is in the forefront as Falcao’s replacement in the starting 11. Jackson’s game is quite similar to Falcao’s, thus allowing head coach Jose Pekerman to maintain the same formation and game plan that has brought Columbia to the world stage.
Martinez has been the leading scorer in the Portuguese Liga, scoring 13 goals in 16 matches this season.

He has been sought out by Arsenal and Chelsea, but he snubbed both clubs and signed a new contract with FC Porto.  Don’t be alarmed. Martinez may have made the right move. The promising 27-year-old does have the talent to play in higher-level European leagues like La Liga and the EPL, but there is no guarantee that he would succeed immediately (a la Suarez). The worst case scenario of playing sparse minutes or not playing at all despite his talent is a legitimate possibility (Look at Shinji Kagawa in Manchester United). For the next five months, it’s important for Falcao’s backup to keep getting first team action in the Portuguese Liga and maintain his goal-scoring form so he can enter the June 14th group opener with a lot of confidence.

Carlos Bacca could spell trouble for Martinez in the battle for the starting spot. The FC Sevilla striker boasts a solid credential in the club level, having scored 25 goals in 35 matches for Club Brugge in the Belgian Pro League in 2012/2013 before entering his current club. This season he has scored nine goals in 20 appearances in La Liga. Bacca is proving to be decent scorer in a superior league than Martinez’s, but one crucial disadvantage is holding Bacca back from being the preferred replacement; international caps.

While Martinez has made 25 appearances in his country’s colors, Bacca is way behind by eight. While it is important to have talent on a World Cup roster, chemistry is the most defining quality a team must have in order to be competitive in the World Cup. The 27-year-old will certainly get called up for the national team once training camp starts. If he manages to find the net consistently in the remaining friendlies Columbia has left before the World Cup, you might see him on the starting 11 come June 14.

3.       Fredy Montero

Don’t laugh at this possible option. He may have spent the majority of his career in the MLS, but he is a real deal. Sporting Lisbon’s forward Fredy Montero, the former face of the Seattle Sounders, is making a name for himself in the Portuguese Liga, tying with his compatriot Jackson Martinez in the leading scorer list with 13 goals in 16 appearances. Yet, Montero is still a long shot from making the starting 11 due to his limited experience with the national team (only four appearances). It also didn’t help that during his six-month spell with Bogota’s Millonarios last year, he failed to score a single goal in the club’s return to the Copa Libertadores.

While Montero does have the talent to play on the national team, it seems as if he can only perform when his nation has their heads turned. Look for Montero to raise his level of performance for the next couple of weeks as he uses the next five months to capture Pekerman’s attention and fight for a spot on the 23-man roster. 
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